When Sociavore launches its new platform in January, it plans to have a product whose ease of use and strategic advantages will attract restaurateurs across North America.
Originally launched under the name MyLocal, Sociavore is a marketing and customer relationship management tool designed specifically for the restaurant industry. The goal, as the company’s tagline says, is to fill restaurant seats with happy customers.
“It helps to bridge the gap between offline and online and takes that restaurant experience that they spend so much money creating and puts it online,” said Founder and CEO Thusenth Dhavaloganathan said in an interview Monday at the Waterloo Accelerator Centre, where his team works.
Dhavaloganathan’s parents own a restaurant and he grew up surrounded by the restaurant trade. So he understands the business and the time constraints involved, and he has designed Sociavore to address the particular challenges of the industry.
He understand that owner-operators don’t have time or expertise to do make multiple social media posts and update their websites. So the site from the outset has let them just send out an email and the content automatically gets posted on Facebook, Twitter and the restaurant website.
The idea is that everything in the restaurant can easily be posted – the menus, the specials, photos of the food during preparation and once it’s ready to be served. And once the viewing public sees the posted, Sociavore allows them to book a reservation at the restaurant, as well as review it afterward.
Dhavaloganathan and two co-founders (who he eventually bought out) launched the initial product in 2013 with about 20 clients. The takeup was strong enough that Dhavaloganathan left his job with BlackBerry to work full time on his startup.
Today, the company has 120 to 130 clients, mainly in the Kitchener-Waterloo area. Revenues have doubled in the past year and the company (with a staff of three full-time and one part-time) pretty well breaks even. Sociavore has never raised capital, and the team will assess whether it needs funding based on the success of the new platform.
Dhavaloganathan plans to launch the new company website with the Sociavore name on Monday, and will then launch the new platform in the new year.
The rollout of the new platform will concentrate strongly on Toronto. When they make a sales call, Dhavaloganathan and his colleague try to have the several components of the restaurant’s website and social media posts already uploaded on the platform. It makes for a more impressive sales pitch. But the company also hopes to reduce its cost of customer acquisition with the new platform so the personal sales call won’t be needed.
“That’s what the new platform is all about,” said Dhavaloganathan. “It will auto-generate the whole thing and we don’t have to get involved.”
He added that the ease of use should allow the company to scale across the country.
“If we can crack Toronto, we should be able to crack New York and Los Angeles and Montreal and Vancouver.”