Imagine this, you walk into a restaurant pull out your smartphone, browse the menu, click and your food gets delivered to you. No more waiting for a waiter to come give you the menu and take your order. Also you get to see the menu in an interactive form and also might come across some special offers with recommendations from friends.
Interactive menus are not something new. There are already a number of restaurants with digital menus either as touch screen tables or an iPad, like Bangalore based restaurant Touche Diner and also there are restaurants that have waiters taking orders with iPods and smartphones.
But what MeDine, a service by Bangalore-based Touchpoint is trying to do is slightly different. They are tying up with a number of restaurants to create digital menus for them and incorporate it into a single app which can be downloaded by iOS and Android users.
The company was started in October 2012, and the beta app for iOS and Android were released on December 14 and December 21, respectively.
So how exactly does this work? First the customer downloads the app if he/she does not have it yet, locates a restaurant and browses the menu which has pictures as well as a description of the dishes. In case a Facebook friend as left a review it will be displayed. (Facebook login is needed for this).
A dish can then be ordered with a single click, which goes to the restaurant’s MeDine back-end system and the kitchen gets to know the exact order including comments, special instructions etc. A waiter will come to the table to recheck the order and the food is then delivered when ready.
At first the company tried out a few experiments to test market sensitivity. Firstly, they got restaurants to sign up for a 6 month trial, and managed to get about 50 restaurants in Pune and Bangalore within a month (even before they launched). They even had 2 restaurants each in Mumbai and Chennai.
They also tried a subscription model, where they were able to sign up 8-10 restaurants per month in Bangalore and Pune.
The experiment showed that though customers download the app, adoption was not great. Orders were not placed but the app was used to browse menus. Using the learnings they modified the process and are now focused on getting 15 more restaurants to sign up by the end of May in Bangalore.
They approach restaurants to provide them with their recommended dishes and any complimentary offers they would to provide the customers with order value crossing a threshold. They take 7 working days to get the restaurant’s digital menu up and running.
As of now, the sign-up fee for the next 100 restaurants is free. They will be working with restaurants on a revenue sharing basis.
So far, consumers seem to have taken a liking to the service with MeDine seeing a repeat user engagement rate of 97%.
Restaurant owners say that this is a great medium to facilitate dish discovery while customers seems to like the convenience of ordering through an interactive menu.
When we tried the app, we found the app extremely quick and easy to use and have to say the experience is much better than looking at a static menu. The items seem to be well categorized and seeing the picture of the dish along with the description, definitely made ordering easier.
MeDine was started by Satish and Mathangi, who each have 9 years experience in data sciences. The idea for MeDine came up when they visited restaurants across the world but never found a restaurant that understood the customer’s preference and serves the food.
The team also consists of Sachin who helps with the Pune market. Raj is the head of the engineering team,and has a 2 member team reporting to him. Usha manages the operations team.
The company is currently self funded and a source of revenue will be revenue-sharing with restaurants, which is currently limited due to the small scale.
In the near future, MeDine plans to add certain features to the app like notifications for reminding the users to get freebies and discounts once they reach MeDine restaurants, highlighting discounts on certain dishes and also easy navigation and auto detection of restaurants using GPS.
Another thing we would like to see with this app is the choice of home delivery or dine in.
Earlier we had covered similar services such as inCrowd which brings check-in and reward points to retail stores using tablets, Café Coffee Day plans to introduce interactive touchscreen tablets in 500 cafes across the country and Bombil Menu which was a digital menu app that allowed customers to view food menus, check pictures & details of any food item they wish to order and place orders from the tablet itself.