As a foodie, Arrif Ziaudeen loves eating out. Yet, he became frustrated by the traditional method of calling a restaurant over the phone to book a table. “With a name like mine, calling a restaurant and leaving a reservation can be frustrating,” he told KrASIA.
Ziaudeen saw an opportunity to digitize the restaurant business, which led him to build a restaurant management platform, Chope. It launched in 2011. The app provides different online solutions for restaurant owners, such as booking management systems, client relationship management tools, business analytics, and marketing solutions. Consumers can use the Chope app to make restaurant reservations and take advantage of various deals provided by the platform.
Fast forward to 2021, Singapore-based Chope now lists over 5,000 restaurants on its platform, serving 3.7 million users in seven Asian cities—Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Phuket, Shanghai, Bali, and Jakarta.
The company recently received a USD 15 million investment in a Series E round from Ant Group, the operator of digital payments platform Alipay. The two companies announced a strategic partnership to accelerate the digitalization of food and beverage businesses across the region through mini apps.
Chope gained access to Alipay’s mini program software tool and know-how to integrate mini app functionality into its platform. A new feature, which is already available in Singapore and will be expanded to other cities soon, allow business partners to build and customize mini apps on the Chope app.
KrASIA recently spoke to Ziaudeen about Chope’s growth in 2021 and the company’s future plans.
KrASIA (Kr): Why is Chope developing mini programs? How will this new business direction benefit restaurants?
Arrif Ziaudeen (AZ): Food and beverage is a traditional industry, so we need many tech applications to digitize different aspects of restaurants, from orders to payments, supply chain, accounting system, and so forth. We don’t need to build them all at once, but we can provide a one-stop solution for restaurants with mini programs.
Alipay has been very good at creating mini program ecosystems in China, and I believe this model will work for us. Restaurants can build their own mini apps to customize their services and experience within the Chope ecosystem.
Kr: There’s concern over data privacy being compromised in mini programs. How does Chope safeguard users’ data?
AZ: We take data privacy very seriously, and we follow the data protection laws of the jurisdictions where we operate. We’re working closely with Alipay on this partnership, and they have advanced privacy cybersecurity tools. We are in the process of improving our infrastructure to implement a lot of these tools.
Kr: How has the pandemic affected Chope’s business? What kind of adjustments have you made to weather the crisis?
AZ: We were fortunate to have a strong and agile team. When the pandemic hit at the beginning of 2020, we quickly decided to build a delivery platform suitable for medium to high-end restaurants in Singapore and Indonesia. We set up this new feature within 72 hours. We offer affordable commissions for restaurants, and we use cars instead of motorbikes, which is important for rainy days.
In Singapore, we have a pool of drivers who work with us, and we also partner with third-party logistics companies. In Indonesia, restaurants are able to provide their own logistics, whereas we handle the technology part. I honestly don’t think delivery will replace the dine-in business, as people still want the experience [of dining in]. Yet, providing delivery services has been helpful during the pandemic, as it has created a new revenue source for us and our restaurant partners.
Kr: How is Chope’s business doing in 2021 compared to last year?
AZ: Our revenues grew 42%, and our margins have turned positive, growing by 14% in the first half of the year compared to the same period last year. We were worried that the pandemic would permanently change people’s behavior, and no one would eat at the restaurants anymore. Yet, we underestimated how important eating out is for many people. Without restaurants, your options to hang out with friends and loved ones are limited. So, when markets started to reopen, people started to dine out again responsibly.
Kr: What are your revenue sources? How much does Chope charge its restaurant partners?
AZ: We have two components of revenues—a monthly fee and a cover fee. The monthly subscription fee depends on the services chosen by merchants, and it is slightly different depending on the city. For Jakarta, the monthly fee for our software ranges from USD 60 to USD 120.
The second component is the cover fee, which represents the value we bring to restaurant partners. Roughly, we charge 1 dollar for every diner we bring to the restaurant, and we take a 5% to 10% commission for each deal we sell on our platform.
Kr: What’s next for Chope this year and beyond?
AZ: We’ve been having a strong year, and we hope to see more improvement in the second half of 2021. We’ll use the fresh funding to grow Chope’s business across the region, including adding more restaurants, creating new services, and potentially even entering a new market in the future. Millions of merchants across Southeast Asia accept Alipay as a payment method, so we hope to leverage this network to reach even more businesses. Chope as a platform may aggregate multiple payment methods including Alipay to serve Chinese consumers.