The food tech industry is at the peak of its evolution and most consumers are moving closer to the usage of tech-driven platforms. India has also seen many players extending their services to the food aggregation space. Drive on any road in an Indian metro, and the chances are that you’ll run into delivery personnel from at least one of the popular food aggregators like Zomato, Uber Eats or Swiggy.
To get a closer look at the food tech industry, we spoke to Ankit Mehrotra, the CEO and co-founder of Dineout. Speaking to us about the current where this industry is heading in India, Mehrotra says, “Dineout offers the most comprehensive suite of F&B tech products, both on the B2C and B2B front with InResto. Dineout is India’s largest dining out platform seating more than 40M diners at more than 40,000 restaurants in 17 cities and helps users save more than $100 million on their restaurant bills annually.”
Dineout’s journey began in 2012 with the aim to combat the challenges faced by diners. “From just a table reservation platform, I believe we have come a long way with continuous efforts to understand consumer insights, identifying demand-supply gaps and capitalizing on new trends within the F&B industry, on both the B2C and B2B front,” says Mehrotra.
“We launched Dineout with a website and mobile site approach. We started a call centre to connect with our diners, understand consumer insights and also gradually move them to a more online-first experience and it worked! We also forayed in B2B services by acquiring inResto in 2015 and further expanded our portfolio with the addition of Torqus, a Point Of Sale company in 2018 to provide an end-to-end solution to the daily challenges faced by restaurants,” he added.
Dineout raised a round of angel investment in the same year they started their operations and also got acquired by Times Internet in 2014. They started with only 3,000 diners per month, and today they’re seating over more than 40 million diners.
Tech Stack At Dineout
Dineout makes use of Solr and Spark ML to power Dineout’s recommendations. The recommendation engine takes into account the search terms as well as a user’s behaviour like the restaurants he’s been visiting, the payments he’s been making, his location etc.
They have also incorporated AI in Dineout’s latest offering Dine-in, a digital menu solution that supports variable and dynamic pricing utilizing data analytics and artificial intelligence. Dine-in is integrated with the POS system which enables restaurants to identify what consumers are ordering and offers food and drink recommendations to them accordingly in real-time. The digital menu reduces the table turnaround time, hence increasing efficiency, better service and more consumers for the restaurants.
“Apart from our recommendation engine, we are looking to use ML to create voice-based interactions and chatbots. We’re coming up with chatbots which will use Natural Language Processing to gauge a user’s intent and then accordingly provide him/her with the required information without the need of engaging a helpdesk person. The users will be able to search for the best offers in nearby restaurants through voice as well as text-based interactions,” added Mehrotra.
Tech Team At Dineout
Currently, Dineout’s engineering team is close to 50 people which is a mix of frontend, backend, Android, iOS and QA engineers working towards maintaining Dineout as India’s largest dining out and tech solutions platform.
Their strategy to maintaining a good and vibrant team is to hire a subject matter expert for each domain who then trains and mentors others in the team. “Regarding things to look for in candidates, for the experienced folks we look at the candidate’s previous assignments and what kind of impact he/she has made. We expect the senior folks to be very strong on system design and architecture skills. For others, we look at strong problem solving and algorithm skills. We expect every candidate to be hands-on and demonstrate customer obsession and bias for action,” Mehrotra explains.
Future Tech Plans at Dineout
Mehrotra takes the competition very seriously. “Today, the competition is so fierce that if you aren’t nimble or if you lack the capacity to respond quickly, you will lose your audience. As a product, we believe we have got a very strong & unique proposition, which not only helps the customers dine out but also helps restaurants grow their businesses in the way they want to,” he says.
Dineout is now focusing on its latest offering, Dine-In, where customers will be able to view digital menus with images directly on their phone and also be able to place the order right away with just a tap.
They also recently acquired Binge Digital, a food tech platform for restaurants that helps restaurants upsell and increase ticket size with the help of analytics and video menus. This will be integrated with Dine-in feature where consumers can easily access menu in video format.