After online retail, food tech was for quite a while, the ‘in’ thing. Bengaluru-based food tech start-up Eveningflavors is one such venture but with a different business approach. The start-up not only connects a person to the restaurant of their choice but also helps manage booking, tech systems and other business processes for a restaurant or hotel. In other words, it tries to get a pie out of diners as well as restaurants, pubs and other entertainment businesses.
“We realised that just putting up listings on our app and getting a piece of the revenue will not help us stand out in a crowded marketplace,” says its founder Akash Shrivastava.
Shrivastava’s need for distinction is common in a business that is as crowded as a Mumbai local train. As per data from Tracxn, there are around 335 online ordering and food tech start-ups in the country. “Eveningflavors is the only platform that integrates food, nightlife, and getaways. We have new offers that unify the various services provided by different players,” he says.
While the market is crowded, investors seem to be enamoured by the current as well as future generation who will use an app as their guiding principle in life. From searching for hospitals to getting a Kung Fu teacher, everything can be done through an app.
Last year, according to reports, the food services industry was estimated to be a $50 billion market, growing at 16-20 per cent each year.
While this market is seeing players with unique ideas coming in, there is still room for the usual bread and butter services. So, for an average consumer, it’s important to be aware of the latest deals, while having access to updates about special events (such as DJ nights or musical performances) and promotions. With Eveningflavors, one can find the best deals in the culinary world and book event tickets at the same time. For payments, it has tied up with Paytm and PayU.
“Apart from getting information, people can reserve tables, get restaurant directions and in the future, even pay through our app,” explains Shrivastava. The app is currently available on the Google Playstore and soon, on iOS as well.
When it comes to restaurants or hotels, the app will monitor reservations or payments real time. “People will also be able to track transactions and manage the inventory,” says Shrivastava.
The effort has started showing some results; the venture has grown five times when compared to the previous year. However, Shrivastava does not disclose revenues; instead he mentions that they get online hitsof 1 lakh customers a month, across cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Pune, which are part of the 32 cities wherein it has its presence.
Further, Eveningflavors is currently serving around 500 restaurants in the above mentioned cities, making 40,000 reservations per month in 20-25 cities. It counts food chain restaurants like Barbeque Nation, JSM Corp, Speciality, Pan India food, Gold Finch as some of its clients.
This year it plans to reach half-a-million reservations per month, along with plans to cover all tier two cities in the country, says Shrivastava. The start-up also plans to add 200 employees and is in talks with more digital wallet companies. “We also aim to see ourselves as the single biggest creator and curator for restaurants and lounges in a city,” he adds.
This year, Eveningflavors has diversified its offerings, and launched a section for local getaways and day outings. This particularly focuses on resort packages and ready-to-grab restaurant deals with at least 30 per cent discount on offer. There are plans to analyse data of the last five years for demand forecasting as well as understanding customer requirements. “This will help us devise strategies and create differentiation,” says Shrivastava.
Even as ventures like Eveningflavors draw up plans to expand their business, the global food tech segment is witnessing a tough time. Last month, Kitchit, a start-up that brought chefs into your home, shut its operations, citing a lack of funds. It is not the only one. Kitchensurfing, Spoonrocket and Dinner Lab have also failed to get more investment. Even the poster boy of food tech start-ups, Zomato, has had to lay off people and others, like Tinyowl have resorted to similar measures.
This does not seem to daunt Shrivastava. “This period will give time for genuine players in the market to work out their plan as the ‘initial but now dying’ hype around giving discounts dries up. In the next two years, we will definitely see the Ubers of food tech coming from India,” he says.
Uber or not, interesting times are ahead for food tech ventures.