KtchUp - The central platform solving the problem of "where shall we eat?"
“Where shall we eat?” The familiar recurring question that haunts every group conversation on your mobile phone when your friends and yourself are trying to organise a catch-up dinner in London.
Londoners who dine out with their friends regularly face many frustrations: endless group conversations on one mobile app, search for restaurant suggestions on another, and attempt to book a table on, once again, another app.
Dubbed by early adopters as the “Tinder for restaurants” app, the idea of KtchUp, a central platform for eating out, came to ex-quant trader I-Ding Wu who wanted to solve the dilemmas born from trying to organise catching up with her friends over a meal. KtchUp is a single one-stop app to create a group chat, view restaurant recommendations or suggest your own, swipe to vote, decide, and book a table.
1. The idea behind the name KtchUp
Ketchup or Catch-up? Catching up with your friends over tasty food? KtchUp was an obvious catchy name!
2. The background: The trend of "casual dining"
a / It’s social
Eating out in London is no longer a luxury experience for connoisseurs. London’s millennials have appropriated the definition of “foodie” and widened it to include anyone who snaps photos of their dish, from sampling the best food trucks or burger joints in town, to dining at Michelin-starred restaurants. Everyone has henceforth become an auto-proclaimed foodie, and eating out has become the number one activity to gather and socialise with friends (1), while also seeking and enjoying the best taste experience.
b/ It’s affordable
Most of the new restaurants opening in London in the last few years are small and affordable. There are still many fancy luxury restaurants with Michelin stars, celebrity chefs, and grand interiors. However, many more restaurants are now serving meals of authentic food in modest but trendy and hip interiors for under £20. Eating out has become more affordable, while also becoming an essential activity for young professionals in London. Indeed, single young professionals aged 25-34 dine out more than once a week (2).
c/ It’s about experience
The great choice of restaurants in London makes it difficult to stick to the old habit of dining at the same places. The variety on offer also encourages foodies and frequent diners to eat out more often than ever before. Trying out new restaurants has become a thrill-seeking experience. We regularly scroll through our friends’ food photos on Instagram, remember what restaurant they went to, seek what food bloggers recommend on social media, and fear missing out.
3. The problem
“How do you organise dining out with your friends? Raise your hand if you start with a group conversation on WhatsApp!” No surprise if the room looks like a rave party with everyone’s hand up in the air.
Then comes the killer question that you’ve probably typed so many times yourself: “Where shall we eat?”
And the trek starts here. Use another app or platform to search for restaurant options, and come back to the group chat to suggest them. Discover that the conversation has been flooded with suggestions? And many irrelevant messages? No escaping from that.
Make the mistake of checking your messages at the end of a busy day? Now you must scroll tediously to find out what restaurants have been suggested, and argue about them. Or find out there is the usual long silence after someone suggested an uninteresting restaurant, but no one has a better option? End up agreeing to meet for a meal at the same place as last time? All of this happens too often.
It is indeed a frustrating experience to use a group conversation to attempt organising eating out with a group of friends. There must be a better way…
4. The app
Why chat with your friends on one app, search for restaurants on another, and book a table using one additional app? With KtchUp, get an enhanced experience of each of these steps, all within one single app.
When you initiate on KtchUp an eating-out plan with your friends, you create a group conversation around a specific event, such as “Catch-up Dinner on Friday”. You can invite anyone from your phone’s contact list to join the conversation, even if they are not yet on KtchUp. Indeed, the recipients of the invitation see the event as soon as they sign up to KtchUp.
From among a continuously growing list of over 1500 restaurants in Central London carefully curated by the KtchUp team, the app suggests restaurants to the group, based on the area and price range set up by the event host. These restaurants are presented as “swiping cards” with multiple photos and hashtags, similar to Tinder profiles. Swipe left for no, swipe right for yes, in order to vote for restaurants you’d like to eat at… The fastest and simplest way to have your say!
Should you have a specific place in mind, you can suggest any restaurant and the group will be able to vote on it. You can even voice your preference by swiping for restaurants without typing a single sentence in the group conversation.
The gathering time, the votes, and the final restaurant choice are always visible to the group. You do not have to dig through hundreds of messages to find out where you are eating at, what time you are meeting, and who is joining. You need directions and a peek at the menu? Tap on the restaurant’s card for all this information. You would like to make a table reservation? Do it with one tap on the booking link.
Not a big fan of public reviews and public ratings of restaurants? KtchUp shows you restaurants that your friends “like”. Indeed that is usually a decisive element in your choice, rather than the comments of people you don’t know, on large online platforms.
5. The KtchUp advantage
Existing social apps and platforms such as WhatsApp or Facebook make it easy to have group conversations, but do not suggest any restaurants nor help the user to organise eating out. On the other hand, existing restaurant platforms such as TripAdvisor, OpenTable, or Bookatable, might provide restaurant information, but do not properly help the user in interacting with a group of friends nor voting and making a decision. KtchUp provides all these features in one single app.
It is easy to guess that the more KtchUp grows, the more its learning algorithm improves based on the large amount of informative data collected in a short span, thanks to the simplicity of swiping. User experience is hence improved as KtchUp uses this data to suggest restaurants based on the user’s interests.
6. How will KtchUp generate revenue?
a/ Subscription from restaurants
Restaurants will be able to take control of their account on KtchUp and target users based on their preferences. A group is always voting for Thai restaurants in the West End? Well, here is a special offer from the newly opened joint in Soho!
Facebook and Instagram might be good places to promote your restaurant business, but how about targeting potential customers when they are in the process of deciding where to eat at with their friends, rather than when they are simply browsing social media by themselves?
Affiliation and partnerships with existing booking platforms will constitute another important revenue stream as booking traffic from KtchUp grows.
The holy grail for advertisers! KtchUp collects a large amount of behavioural user data: dining out frequency, geography, budget, friends, restaurants, promotions response, cuisine preferences..., etc. This data can also be easily extrapolated into user trends… For instance KtchUp could predict if you are more likely to acquire a Vauxhall or a Bentley.
7. International expansion
Who said London was the limit? KtchUp launched its platform in Lisbon before Web Summit early November. The KtchUp concept will be launched in all big cities where friends eat out together: New York, Paris, Singapore, Shanghai…
Development of the KtchUp app and all operating costs have been self-funded by the founders since the KtchUp idea was born in the summer of 2016. With a small budget and the help of an external agency, the first MVP was released on both the App Store and Play Store in May 2017, and the official launch took place in August. Regular updates are released ever since.
KtchUp has now secured substantial external funding from angel investors and will be quickly scaling up development, marketing, user acquisition, and operations.
9. The team
a/ I-Ding Wu: Founder & CTO
I-Ding is a technology geek and a passionate foodie. Her worship of data has shaped both her academic and professional careers. She enjoys mining and analysing data to solve real life issues, as well as automating processes. She came up with the idea of KtchUp after personally experiencing daily frustration to organise eating out with her friends in London. She left Finance to launch the KtchUp venture.
b/ Farid Khoury: Co-Founder & COO
Farid has extensive experience in launching successful start-ups and developing businesses, from a French dotcom in 1998 to Asia operations of a software company, and his own ventures in the UK in the last 8 years. Farid is also a foodie and has been involved in the KtchUp project since its start.
The culture of casual dining, in the UK at least, has been long embedded in Central London on the back of both a constant stream of affluent white-collar workers aged 25-34 with few family commitments, and a thriving tourism economy.
In 2015, 60% of people aged 18-24 ate out at least weekly; 5% more than 25-34s, twice the frequency of people over-60, and ahead of the GB average (44%).
Casual diners, in particular those under the age of 34, are particularly quick in becoming aware of new restaurant brands and are keen to share their experiences
The government social trends survey shows that 72% of 45-64s eat out; the highest share of any age bracket, but one that is skewed towards pubs and traditional restaurants.
“There is a limit to the amount of stuff people can accumulate. People are spending money on experiences – holidays, seeing new exotic places, going to music festivals, eating out – rather than accumulating more things.” Jacob Kenedy, the chef and restaurateur behind London Bocca di Lupo, Vico, and Gelupo in central London, said eating out was becoming a way of life in Britain. “We have one of the best restaurant scenes in London and that is helping to drive our cuisine nationally. Eating out is becoming part of life, it’s not just for special occasions. If we are able to invest more of our income into living well – whether that be living more healthily or enjoying life more – then it’s a good thing.”