Feedmyguest brings caterers and users together on one platform
By Anushia Kandasivam March 28, 2017
- Slow and steady expansion is the way to go
- Balancing cash-flow and costs essential for sustainability
AT A time where online marketplaces are quite common, the people behind Feedmyguest.com, a Malaysia-based marketplace for caterers, have hit upon an idea that seems obvious, except that nobody thought about it before they did.
Co-founder Janet Tan says perhaps the reason behind this is that for most people, the need for a caterer only arises a few times a year, at which time they go looking online or get recommendations from friends and family.
The idea came to Tan and co-founder John Lim when they realised they had a common problem in finding a caterer that matched their needs for house parties and office functions. “Even if you get recommendations from people, you need to call the caterers one by one to ask about their menus, pricing and what they can do. It becomes time-consuming and tedious.”
Feedmyguest, which was launched in March 2015, provides a one-stop place where people can go to find caterers that match their criteria of budget, cuisine, occasion and size of event. Tan explains by using AirBnB and Booking.com as examples – people are able to search through a list to find the caterer that matches their needs perfectly.
Though other service marketplaces such as Kaodim, RecomN and ServisHero do also list caterers among other services, Feedmyguest is the only one in Malaysia that solely focuses on the catering vertical. According to Tan, though it is reasonable to expect customers to try out the other platforms while searching for a caterer, Feedmyguest has not yet found significant competition with them.
A year after launch, Feedmyguest has 211 caterers on board, which translates to 3,559 menus for customers to choose from. Feedmyguest chooses caterers for the platform based on recommendations by friends or customers. Potential caterers are researched and the Feedmyguest team makes sure they have had good reviews from their existing customers.
“We go through their menus and talk to them about anything of concern. Once they’re on board, we check on their performance after every event they cater for by gathering customer feedback and then discussing the feedback with the caterer,” says Tan.
This is the standard procedure for every caterer on the platform. Tan says that though a few caterers have received a bad review due to a one-time mistake, none have been consistently bad, which would engender Feedmyguest taking action.
The startup is not focusing on increasing the number of caterers at the moment but rather concentrating on making more of them preferred partners, which are caterers that Feedmyguest gives priority to for customer enquiries.
The website has 40 preferred partners at the moment. In exchange for being given priority by Feedmyguest, these caterers have to comply with stringent criteria, including delivering and meeting the demands of customers efficiently and effectively, responding to customer enquiries within a specific time, and ensuring their pricings and menus are comprehensive enough to meet a range of customer needs.
“It is difficult to keep an eye on all 211 caterers and know what all their services are. We give priority to our preferred partners, so we understand exactly what they have to offer – their services, menus, price packages, so on.
“In this way, we can recommend them as options to customers also. That’s one way to add value for both parties,” says Tan.
Tan reveals that the startup wants to increase the number of preferred partners to 100 by the end of the year and that the focus on growing these numbers instead of increasing the number of caterers on the platform is to better customer experience.
Feedmyguest gets between 30 and 50 enquiries from customers – people looking for caterers – per month and is “aiming for much higher”. The aim is tied to Feedmyguest’s revenue; it is targeting a three-digit growth on its year-to-year revenue.
Tan says the startup is on track to reach this target by the end of the year, stopping short of revealing any number. “It is a significant milestone for us [as a year-old startup]. But we will do it.”
Though Tan uses AirBnB to explain how Feedmyguest works, the startup has no current plans to scale to the former’s size; instead, the founders are taking things slow and as they come.
The platform currently only serves Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, but there are plans to expand to other cities in Malaysia – Penang, Seremban and Johor – though there is no specific timeline in mind. “It depends on our growth rate. We are excited for expansion because if we can do that, it means we have a reached another significant milestone,” says Tan
There are no current plans to expand overseas, but when pressed, Tan says that “anything is possible” in the future.
Being the first online catering marketplace in Malaysia, Feedmyguest is also the largest, but public awareness of the platform is not where the team wants it to be as yet. The startup does use social media and Google ads to increase awareness with the aim of capturing more market share.
“Obviously the amount of marketing we do depends on the funds we have. We are still bootstrapping so we make sure that we manage our cash flow well,” says Tan.
In terms of funding, Feedmyguest is looking for a strategic partner instead of just an injection of cash. “We want somebody to help us grow our business and bring us to the next level, not just give us money. A strategic partnership will be more beneficial to us.” Again, there is no specific timeline for when this step will be completed.
The Feedmyguest team keeps the business in a fine balance. Tan reveals that Feedmyguest is breaking even at this point, and though she does not disclose specific figures, she says the team is quite conscious of balancing the cash flow, revenue and costs. “Additional funding would definitely help.”
The Feedmyguest team consists of four people, and everything is done in-house, including building and maintaining the website. Tan herself is the developer who built the website from scratch. “Being a developer, I find it so much faster and easier to build things myself rather than configuring an existing website to work the way I want it to.”
“Developers are usually like this,” she quips.
The website has gone through numerous revisions since inception, with updates and improvements being made based on customer feedback and behaviour to enhance user experience.
While Lim is more of the ‘business’ mind of the team, Tan, who started out as an enterprise resource planning developer, says she always wanted to get into business and ‘do something on my own.” The change was challenging and running a business that seeks to balance two other parties – the caterers and the customers – was difficult as first, with a lot of trial and error.
Tan says that the biggest investment into the business is the time and effort to follow up closely with customers and understand their needs, as well as understanding in detail what Feedmyguests’ preferred partners have to offer.
As an entrepreneur, the biggest lesson Tan has learnt in the year since starting the business is perseverance. “Having the idea is one thing, starting to execute the idea is another thing. Persevering to see it through is a whole different ball game. That’s the tough part.”
“It takes a lot of perseverance to see an idea through to the end.”