by James Mulligan
Tabemo Dining Club’s mission is simple— to connect restaurants and customers. Restaurants offer real time discount coupons. Founders Kevin McAuliffe and Rajiv Trehan and manager David Song explain—over dinner, of course— why this new concept is “win-win” for everyone.
Tokyo Weekender: How did Tabemo come about?
Kevin McAuliffe: I perceived the need for a system where restaurants could offer real-time discounts during downtime. So if a restaurant manager has an empty table, he can send out a special offer and keep it on the site until the e is filled. No manager wants people using coupons when his restaurant is full.
TW: So what does (Rajiv) bring to the table?
Rajiv Trehan: My company is a technology partner. We have experience in the infrastructure required to run and manage internet and mobile internet sites. We have experience in e- (electronic) and m- (mobile) commerce and a good track record in applications development.
TW: What sort of discounts are on offer?
David Song: All sorts: 20 to 30 to 50 percent off. Or you can get ¥2,000 or ¥3,000 off your fiscal bill. There are lots of others as well — two-for-one drinks is another example.
KM: The most I have saved is about ¥8,000 on one restaurant visit, when I went to Fujimamas with seven others.
TW: How do you go about choosing somewhere to eat on Tabemo?
DS: When you enter the site you can search by area, type of restaurant, time of offer or simply discounts offered. A lot of people go straight for the discounts. It’s interesting to see how people use the service.
TW: How long does it all take?
DS: Ten to 20 seconds — depending on how fast your phone is—or five clicks on your phone—and you have grabbed a coupon. When you get to the restaurant, you show the coupon to the manager who then validates it.
(To prove the point, we challenge DS with a stopwatch. He docks in at 12 seconds.)
KM: Once you use it two or three times, you get hooked.
TW: What about when you run out of coupons?
DS: You can buy more with your credit card from our Web site. You can also buy coupons and e-mail them to your friends—it’s a pretty cool gift.
TW: Does your site do anything else?
DS: Our updated site is up and running from October. There will be lots of interaction between members and restaurants. The site is also completely bilingual. To get the discounts though, you need to become a member first. If you go onto the site-by phone or PC- it’s easy to join.
TW: Do you e-mail updates to members’ phones?
DS: We are sending biweekly reminders at the moment. It’s a delicate area; we don’t want to bombard people with e-mails.
RT: In the future, we’re looking for an opt-in feature, so you can choose when and how often you receive updates. The technology is there to allow people to specify what kind of e-mail prompts they want to receive-all restaurants in an area, for example, or any Indian restaurant. The possibilities go on forever.
TW: How big do you think Tabemo can get?
KM: We need a balance between the number of users and number of restaurants. Too many restaurants means people facing too many choices; not enough of users means the restaurants not seeing an increase in business.
RT: It doesn’t stop at Tabemo. The mobile internet provides users with a permanent connection to information. We are developing a class of real time applications to provide time-and-location-sensitive information for anyone with a phone. Tabemo’s restaurant capacity management was considered a good first example.
Thanks to Tomonori Honjo and Lunchan Bar & Grill, Alive Mitake, 1F, 1-2-5 Shibuya, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0002; tel. 5466-1398.