I like FineSeat because its a nice name and the restaurant customers like it very much. Perhaps FineSeat appeared just at the right time in Thailand, a country of food lovers. Thailand is probably the food heaven in Asia too.
There aren’t too many here that offer this type of service. But I still wonder about its potential to attract foodies while there are lots of restaurants in town they could walk into. Why should they book online? I asked Khun Keng, Founder/CEO of FineSeat.com, to find out why.
How did you come up with the idea of an online restaurant booking website?
I am familiar with the service and I have seen the successful story of www.toptable.com. Applied the same idea to my business. This idea was made it possible for the the number of customers for my partner restaurant increase.
[quote]Also, while I worked as a restaurant manager in London. I realised this was a very good business model. It truly increased the number of customers for the restaurants onsite. So, I thought of bringing this business model to Thailand.[/quote]
What did you do in London while staying there for 6 years? How did this period make an impact on your start-up life?
I went there to develop my language in order to return to work in a global company in Thailand. [quote]I already had the opportunity to work in the restaurant business since I was working as a dishwasher staff, a waiter, a bartender and a restaurant manager so I knew I liked a job in the hospitality industry.[/quote] Then I thought of finding a way to take what I liked doing in business.
[quote]When I saw the business model of toptable.com, so I think this is the future of Thailand in the next 3-5 years.[/quote]
I started to try and do it up since being in London.
Can you share something about your team? How did you build your team?
[quote]The most important thing for our team is that everything starts from action—that and willingness.[/quote] From the start, we always wanted everyone who worked with us to do what they like—what they are best at—because they will work happily. Thus, the team’s motivation to work is quite high. So although the team is small, it packs a lot of power.
Thailand has a lot of delicious restaurants. So why should diners book via FineSeat instead of just going there or making a call?
Nowadays, Thailand does not have a culture that believes in reserving tables at restaurants, at least not as strong as it is in Europe and America. We need to build this culture and make it uniquely Thai, which may take time, but we believe that Bangkok—as a city—has the potential to be at the center of the action. We do this to support the growth of the population and the economy that is going to happen in the next 3-5 years, so we have to be here and be the first. As for why people will book with Fineseat, here are a few reasons:
- Fineseat is a dining hub. [quote]We offer information customers need and discounts they can take advantage. There are also good promotional offers from many restaurants for customers who book online. [/quote]For members, our service is free.
- We are always ready to serve our customers. Just book with us and we will handle everything. They do not even have to pay phone charges because they do not need to call, waste time talking to staff, wait for a table to open at a restaurant or for a call to have their reservations confirmed.
- We have points every time customers use our services. Book with us 3 times and they get reward points they can use to get gift vouchers.
How are you different from your competitors?
Well, we are the first to offer this service in Thailand. [quote]What also makes us different from the rest of the competition is that we understand and have access to ideas and viewpoints of many restaurant owners in Thailand.[/quote] We are also the first company to offer restaurant staff members a way to receive bookings from diners directly.
What was the most difficult part of the business when you started? What is it now?
[quote]The most difficult thing was—still is—how to make restaurant owners understand what we do and how it could help their business. And also how to make customers understand that they get offers and discounts and plenty of other benefits when they use Fineseat.[/quote]
What changed since you started in 2011? How many bookings per day do you get now?
[quote]We currently have more than 100 partner-restaurants and more than 2,000 registered members. We have an average of 5-10 bookings per day.[/quote]
After receiving The Winner of Angel in the City of SIPA, did it lead to anything positive?
Yes. Our credibility rating from restaurant owners and organisations improved.
Who are your typical customers? How will they find your website?
[quote]Our main diners are mostly corporate employees, families, couples, and friends. [/quote] We promote ourselves through various media channels and through our different media partners. Our customers can find us online through our social pages and partner restos.
How do they pay?
One reason they book tables with Fineseat is that it’s more convenient than calling or buying a coupon because you don’t have to pay right away.
How much do you get from restaurants?
[quote]We charge them only 25 Baht for every person who books a table at their restaurant through FineSeat.[/quote]
Do you want to expand to other countries in Southeast Asia?
Yes, we would like to expand and offer this service to Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Lao.
What is your plan for the year 2014?
[quote]We’ll focus on reserving more customers: offer them karaoke packages, VIP rooms, and more.[/quote]
Finally, how can you use your weekend?
I work everyday. My weekends, I spend dining in partner restaurants.
- SIPA – Software Industry Promotion Agency (a Public Organization)
- Behind the scenes: FineSeat is invested in by an angel investor who owns about 30 restaurants and hotels in Thailand.