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Malaysia SME: “Don’t take-out, go DiineOut”

Creating memorable dining experiences with DiineOut and helping the F&B industry to gain more exposure

It’s always nice to enjoy a good meal at a luxurious restaurant with friends, family or loved ones, but it might not be as economically friendly when you attempt it on a regular basis. Imagine if you could get a deal where you can go to your favourite restaurant at a temptingly affordable price and have fun while you’re at it?

More consumers today are opting for experiential dining compared to a normal night out or even a candlelight dinner. They’re not only looking out for good food, they’re also looking for experiences worth remembering and something to keep coming back for. However, the existing market players are not doing enough to fulfill consumers’ constantly evolving demands.

This is something that became a personal frustration to Lionel Lau, who has always been a big fan of experiential dining. Unfortunately, without a proper channel or platform where he can keep track of the upcoming dining events, Lau even had a few experiences of missing out on certain events that he was planning to attend. In some cases, it was due to the inefficiency of the traditional RSVP methods.

“I figured that there has to be a better way to find out about these food and beverage (F&B) events and RSVP to it, especially in this day and age. We’ve come to a point where we can even buy a car via online but we can’t even RSVP our attendance to F&B events,” states Lau.

Not only that, the dining establishments are also suffering. By allocating a certain number of seats and food prepared for an estimated number of people, without the proper marketing there will hardly ever be a 100% turnout. Even for the ones that have successfully managed to book their seats for the events, may not all turn up during the actual event. In turn, this will literally cost the restaurants in terms of the food wasted, the expenses that were invested in the event and wasting the space for people who could actually make it for the event.

According to Lau, among some of the challenges that restaurants are facing apart from wastage includes the inability to efficiently advertise their business and lacking a proper platform or channel to inform consumers regarding their events.

Since F&B events are still considered small, it has hindered the industry to innovate its methods, despite some events being well thought out. Whether it’s inviting special guest chefs, adopting seasonal menus, cocktail events, wine dinners, coffee and tea workshops and even ice cream events, experiential dining makes it interesting for everyone. Ultimately, this issue inspired Lau to create DiineOut, the country’s first online ticketing platform that is exclusively catered to F&B events that allow consumers to keep themselves up to date with any latest upcoming F&B happenings in Malaysia. The best part of DiineOut is the advantages that the platform offers to restaurant businesses.

Having a channel to promote their events, the restaurants could also start reaching out to new customers, instead of just those who are signed up for the mailing list. At the same time, DiineOut will be able to significantly eliminate any wastage for no-shows since the restaurants will only prepare for a certain number of participants who have pre-paid their seats via the platform.

Designed to be as user-friendly as possible, the DiineOut website features various activities, venues and food options to discover. Conveniently, the site is divided into several categories that allow for easy navigation. However, as with any other businesses, success doesn’t come easily.

According to Lau, the part of the process that he thought would be the easiest, turned out to be the hardest. While the technological part went on without a hitch, convincing the restaurants to join the platform and get their events listed on the site was another matter.

“In my point of view, it’s a no-brainer. We don’t charge the restaurants to list their events on the site. We even provide various marketing strategies for them to promote their events as part of the package. We will only charge a 10% fee for any ticket sold, and that would come from the consumers themselves, not the restaurants. But still, a lot of them are still reluctant to join DiineOut,” Lau explains.

It finally came to his attention that the problem actually stems from the players in the industry. “By nature, the people in this industry is very old school. They’re good at what they do, but they are still too attached in the old ways. They don’t realise that if they don’t digitise their methods, they will undoubtedly be outshined by other establishments,” Lau warns.

He also highlight his observations of some restaurants that are serving very good food, but are poorly marketed, causing their businesses to suffer. Lau believes that through DiineOut, these restaurants will finally get the coverage and exposure that they deserve.

“Reluctance has always been, and still is, the biggest challenge for us so far. As far as the consumers are concerned, they are positively fond of the idea. The same goes to dining establishments in hotels. The turnout is also very positive when it comes to hotels,” says Lau.

Currently, Lau notes that the DiineOut website has over 60% rate of returning visitors, proving that the site is useful enough for them to use repeatedly.

The thrills of experiential dining. Everyone has their own favourite restraurant to go to because they like a certain dish that is prepared in that establishment. Most consumers would prefer to order what they know, sticking to their routine and what is safe, to avoid any risks of them not liking the food that they’re paying for.

“One of the good things about experiential dining is that there is always that possibility of you being pleasantly surprised with the unknown. Who knows, maybe the chef would provide you with a special treat from the menu that you have never ordered before,” Lau opines.

Citing DiineOut’s tagline ‘It’s not just about eating. It’s about dining’, Lau continues by saying, “You can go anywhere at any time just to eat. Dining is about having a memorable experience. When you create an event revolving around food or drinks, that’s what makes the experience valuable, and I believe that is what people want. They just don’t know where to find it.”

On another note, Lau reveals that he is still in consideration whether or not to expand the platform into a mobile application. At the end of the day, it all depends on the demand, the advantages and disadvantages and so on. However, the main focus will remain in continuously modifying the current existing website to make it better, more convenient and feature more experiences for consumers.

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