Californian startup Requested has launched a mobile app that enables restaurants to pull in diners at off-peak times by negotiating ‘smart’ discounts.

‘Requested’ app brings dynamic pricing to restaurants

Early March in San Francisco saw the eighth annual Launch Festival, a major meeting point for startups, which this year drew an audience of close to 10,000 people. Jason Calacanis, an angel investor known for his investments in Uber and Evernote, showcased the ‘Launch Incubator’, which he founded last year. The incubator – whose first 12-week programme kicked off in December – handholds startups that have already developed a viable product but are looking for seed funding. Several had the opportunity to present their products on stage at the Launch Festival. One of the incubated companies, which goes by the name of Requested, has developed a mobile app designed to change the customer experience at restaurants. Requested co-founder and CEO Sonny Mayugba explained that the fledgling company’s mission is to enable potential customers to ‟make an offer at the right time, and at the right price, for the restaurant.”

Adjusting prices to demand

The Requested app is the very first to apply the principle of dynamic pricing to the dining sector, following the example of airlines and rail companies, which routinely lower their prices when demand is slow. To use the Requested system, customers indicate a number of places where they might want to eat, choosing from among a list of partnering restaurants.  For each restaurant, they will then see the average restaurant bill amount and can make a reduced offer – typically around 15% – to a restaurant proprietor. The customer’s discount requests will be sent to all the selected restaurants, which then have 15 minutes to accept or decline. The first to accept the bid in this reverse ‘auction’ wins the customer, whose bank card will be automatically debited. “Customers can discover new restaurants while taking advantage of price reductions, and at the same time restaurant owners can still cater to their usual clientele,” pointed out Sonny Mayugba, adding: “this means they can increase turnover by pulling in customers at off-peak periods, for example slow Monday evenings rather than busy Friday evenings.”

Alternative marketing method for restaurants

Sonny Mayugba first got the idea for Requested a couple of years ago when he opened his own restaurant. After six months in business he noticed that while restaurants were keen to reward their customers, they also wanted to avoid cannibalising business during brisker hours. For example platforms such as Groupon that offer reductions to customers only work in one direction: customers most often choose to use their money-off coupons on weekend evenings, i.e. a time when restaurant business is already at its peak. “I found myself one afternoon sitting in my empty restaurant wondering how I could attract good customers. I looked at existing offers and saw that none of them was really effective, and that’s why I set up Requested,” explains the entrepreneur.  In addition, the Requested system also gives customers the option of making premium requests, such as freeing up a table at a restaurant which is already fully-booked by bidding a higher price to the restaurant. The startup takes 10% of the bill the customer actually pays. Today it employs five staff, and partners with 90 restaurants in three cities in California, which have been carefully selected by the team so as to promote independent restaurant owners. The app can be downloaded free of charge on iOS and Android devices.

By Eliane HONG