“Time is our most valuable resource” –with this in mind, five individuals from Georgia with diverse educational backgrounds and wide-ranging professional achievements made their way into the field of innovative food tech. DineSpace is an app that allows customers to have a smoother and more enjoyable dining experience. Company CFO, Ioane Chikovani, and CTO, Giorgi Tskhovrebadze, talked about the company’s achievements and future plans with Forbes Georgia.
When, where, and how was the initial idea born? How did you get from the idea to the actual concept that DineSpace represents today?
Ioane Chikovani: We were inspired by what Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber, said: “If you can give people their time back, you are providing some kind of magic to your customers.” That is what DineSpace is all about.
Michael, our CEO, initially came up with preordering a meal at a restaurant, sparked by the frustration that people today experience waiting endlessly before food is ordered and served. Building on this, we wanted to solve the problem of how painful it is to arrange group meals – finding a place, choosing the food, and splitting the bill. Our shared desire to make the dining-out experience seamless was what led to us founding DineSpace.
What consumer needs did you identify before creating the app?
Ioane Chikovani: DineSpace is a fast-growing food tech startup; our app enables individuals and groups of people to pre-order and pre-pay for meals while dining out. This helps people save time by eliminating the wait of ordering food, being served, and getting the bill. Meanwhile, restaurants benefit from increased table turnover, simpler inventory management, and receive more traffic through additional exposure on our platform.
How does DineSpace differ from other tech startups in this space? What’s DineSpace’s competitive advantage?
Ioane Chikovani: Right now, the European market is divided into three different segments: delivery/pickup, reservations, and pre-order. We will create a strategic advantage by combining the reservation and pre-order functions into one app. We are combining all these different segments into one, thus creating cost-saving synergies for restaurants and customers.
I imagine that one of the key challenges is determining current trends of consumer behavior for your target group? What can you tell us about your strategy regarding changing and adjusting customer behavior?
Ioane Chikovani: DineSpace is technically for anyone and everyone who does not want to waste time waiting for their meal and the bill. With this in mind, we identified busy diners – such as corporate employees – as our key customer segment, given their tight schedule. Most professionals in the city waste up to 30-40% of their dining time waiting for their food and then paying for it, leaving much room for optimization. We want to save that valuable time and fill it with our customers’ preferred activity.
Additionally, we are offering an entirely new feature: Group Dining. This is currently nonexistent in the market and solves a major customer pain point – to organize group meals collectively and efficiently. The added social element in arranging group meals, pre-ordering, and bill splitting is important for another key target segment of ours – students. Our user experience enables us to simplify the customer journey when choosing the restaurant and provides businesses with a platform to promote their venues further.
Your management team consists of individuals with diverse educational backgrounds and wide-ranging professional achievements. In what ways have your personal experiences helped shape the company?
Giorgi Tskhovrebadze: We have five core founding members. Our CEO, Michael, is a University of Exeter Finance Major who previously co-founded a business process outsourcing company with Ioane. Ioane is the CFO and a University of Sussex Finance Major who serves as a Deputy Director at Schirnhofer Georgia Supermarket chain. Tengiz, our CPO, graduated from the University of Cambridge, worked at McKinsey London, and founded a startup that had a valuation of over $300,000. I am the CTO, and I am a University of Toronto undergraduate and participant in the Rockstart Accelerator in the Netherlands, which raised $100,000 and was featured in the Ecole Polytechnique Annual report. Christopher, our COO, is majoring in Economics at the University of Bocconi in Milan. He co-founded the largest international student-led research organization, a global partner network of over thirty-five universities. He also has work experience at UniCredit in Munich. We are growing the team rapidly. Our team of thirteen is currently focused on three directions: product development, expanding our partner network, and fundraising. We are growing rapidly. Last week, three new members joined our B2B sales team to help us with outreach to restaurant partners.
Have you identified some areas of corporate social responsibility that DineSpace might want to resolve?
Giorgi Tskhovrebadze: Let me tell you some shocking numbers. 600,000 tonnes of food is wasted each year in the UK. For every meal eaten in a UK restaurant, nearly half a kilo is wasted. This costs UK restaurants around Ј682m per year.
Our app helps restaurants massively with inventory management, and so we are helping to tackle this problem. The other issue we are accounting for is that busy diners have one thing in common: their plans can change in an instant, making a pre-ordered dinner redundant. We try to tackle this issue by offering our customers reasonable cancelation times. However, for those reservations where the restaurant has already started food preparation, we will implement a system, which will enable the restaurants to redistribute this food within the community and not let it go to waste.
Our priority is to avoid food being thrown away, especially when poverty is still a problem globally. It will be up to the restaurants to sell the food at a discount or give it away for free.
We really hope that restaurants will join this wonderful initiative because it is a straightforward way to build a sustainable business and give back to the local community.
Furthermore, we plan to dedicate a separate category for restaurants offering sustainable and organic food from nearby sources to promote local farming and healthy eating habits.
There is approximately two months left till you launch the app. What have you already achieved? What is the most important feature of the app that you are currently working on?
Giorgi Tskhovrebadze: We already won the European Fund for Southeast Europe (EFSE) & BTU pre-accelerator with a 10,000 GEL cash prize, and more recently gained Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA) 15,000 GEL grant. Consequently, the University of Sussex and the University of Exeter will be celebrating us and will feature us in their newsletter and on their social media platforms, which will greatly boost our traffic within the regions of Sussex, Brighton, and Exeter.
We have already brought 60+ restaurants onboard pre-launch, which is due in a month or two as soon as UK cities relax their COVID-19 measures. Initially, we will be launching in London, Exeter, and Brighton.
Our focus is on expanding our development team to flesh out the DineSpace web and mobile app.
How will you raise the necessary funds for your company’s development? Do you have a vision of where you want to be, let’s say, in five years?
Ioane Chikovani: We are actively fundraising to help fuel our rapid expansion, talking to investors in the UK, Germany, Estonia, and Georgia. They have shown interest in the massive upside potential that will come from disrupting this huge market.
We have a strategic roadmap in place to raise $200,000 to $500,000 through a variety of grants, accelerators, and investments in the coming year. These include accelerators in Germany and the UK and will capitalize on the excellent startup incentives in place from GITA.
We think the work being done by the likes of Enterprise Georgia, GITA, and the Bank of Georgia (in bringing the accelerator 500 Startups to Georgia) has had a profound and lasting impact on Georgian startups’ ability to thrive. We look forward to making the most of the new, exciting, and dynamic scene being created here.
The app will initially launch in the UK. Do you plan to expand into other countries, for instance, Georgia?
Giorgi Tskovrebadze: After establishing ourselves in the UK market, we are planning to expand into Europe. As of 2017, the eating out market in Europe was Ј279.5bn, growing at a CAGR of 5.1%.
Notably, we see huge potential in Germany. One of our co-founders Christopher has lived in Germany for most of his life, so he understands the culture and can clearly see how DineSpace would improve people’s lives in Germany. We are not planning to enter the Georgian market in the immediate future, but it is definitely on the horizon.