#Asia Food discovery battle heats up as Offpeak enters Singapore

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Singapore, Kampong Glam

Image credit: William Cho

Restaurant discovery and express booking app Offpeak has circled Singapore for a while now. Since its series A round in June, it has expanded into Thailand and Vietnam, and now it’s time to enter the city state too. The company announced late last week it has entered the Singapore market, where it has already partnered with around 60 restaurants.

Offpeak provides restaurant suggestion and discovery based on your location through a mobile app (or a mobile-friendly website). Users book a table at the restaurant of their choice and receive up to 50 percent discount on their check. As its name suggests, the app offers discounts and incentives for customers to visit restaurants on off-peak hours, when those places are less busy and more likely to have chairs to fill. At least that was the initial idea – the app can be used to find the right restaurant at any time of the day.

The company places a lot of value on face-to-face communication with the restaurants it gets on board. It takes care of marketing and promotional campaigns for a lot of its partner restaurants, particularly those small businesses that are owned by a single person or family, director Tan Ee Ern tells Tech in Asia. “With most of the single-outlet [places], the owner is usually the one behind the till. So they’ve got their work cut out for themselves, we don’t want to stress them more,” he says.

Offpeak's directors

Offpeak’s directors. Image credit: Offpeak

That’s why Offpeak doesn’t require any kind of backend integration to work, he explains. It doesn’t even touch the restaurant’s point-of-sale system – all the restaurant needs is the app to receive the booking, which can come as short-notice as 10 minutes before the customer shows up. Restaurant owners can decide what kind of discounts to offer and for its part, Offpeak can help drive customers to particular restaurants or types of restaurants through its social media and online advertising.

And the startup doesn’t even have to reach that many people, Ee Ern says. “Most of our restaurants say they’re busy, but about 30 percent [of their capacity] is usually empty tables. It’s this spare inventory that we want to help fill up. So it’s fine for us even if we don’t send thousands of people.”

Food knows no borders

The company has partnered with more than a thousand restaurants in its native Malaysia (it had about 600 back in June). In Thailand it has more than 250 partners signed up. Dedicated teams on the ground both in Thailand and Vietnam are busy signing up restaurants and handling the business’ day-to-day, while Singapore will be run from Kuala Lumpur for now.

“The idea for landing in Thailand and Vietnam specifically was because we wanted to shock the system,” Ee Ern says. The startup wanted to see if its platform needed to change at all for those countries to accommodate the local culture and demand. But it found it didn’t have to do much beyond localization. “As it turns out, food is quite universal,” Ee Ern says.

Offpeak isn’t the only company prowling these waters. Thailand-based Eatigo employs a very similar model and is already present in Thailand and Singapore, as well as looking for new markets to expand in. The startup raised its series A round just a week ago. Vietnam has local players like Foody, which isn’t quite in the same wheelhouse but does have a strong discovery element through its Yelp-like features. The startup raised both its series B and series C rounds of funding within weeks of each other in July.

Offpeak Singapore screenshot

Offpeak’s Singapore website.

Offpeak is not so much concerned about the competition as it is encouraged, Ee Ern says. “I think there’s still a lot of space to grow in the foodtech space, even with the bigger players like Foodpanda,” he says. “We love news like this. When we see our competitors or our equivalents raising funds, it just shows that the space is heating up. It also helps when approaching restaurateurs to sign them up.”

Offpeak doesn’t do exclusivity clauses, he adds. The startup is happy for a restaurant to use its app alongside others to bring in customers.

Going forward, there’s a lot of work to do, but also a lot of opportunity. “There are about 180,000 restaurants in Malaysia, about the same in Thailand,” Ee Ern says. Even with the startup’s 1,000 partners in Malaysia right now, it’s just scratching the surface. While it’s still not looking to monetize immediately, preferring to rack up users, Ee Ern says partners in Malaysia are starting to see the value Offpeak provides for them. But any monetization initiatives won’t take place until mid- to late-2016, he adds.

This post Food discovery battle heats up as Offpeak enters Singapore appeared first on Tech in Asia.

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