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.