The real difference between nightclubs is the experience and experience is often dictated by the manner in which you are treated by the staff. Losing your reservation and not keeping of track of your personal preferences is a problem that plagues the hospitality industry because of lack of a clear solution. Until SevenRooms – a Front of House CRM system, that keeps the hospitality industry on top of their customers while tracking data in the background. The platform enables restaurants, nightclubs, and hotels to make every customer that walks in feel special.
AlleyWatch chatted with CEO and cofounder Joel Montaniel about the startup and its future.
Tell us about the product or service.
Our mission is to make better service easier for the hospitality industry.
SevenRooms offers a technology platform for the dining, nightlife and hospitality industry, providing operators intelligent front-of-house capabilities, powerful CRM to track and capture guest data, point-of-sale integration, predictive analytics, and open API platform. The platform’s rich guest profiles enable operators to personalize on-site guest service, which drives customer loyalty and revenue. Additionally, SevenRooms provides a targeted marketing channel to attract new, high-value consumers to partner venues from within its expansive corporate and concierge networks.
Founded in New York in 2011, SevenRooms is present in over 100 cities serving premier dining, hotel and nightlife operators including LDV Hospitality, Morgans Hotel Group, sbe, Jumeirah, LiveNation, TAO/Strategic Group, Crafted Hospitality Group, Alain Ducasse, Zuma and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
How is it different?
There are a few things that make us different from other hospitality technologies out there. First, we don’t actually consider anyone to be a direct competitor. Our business approach and open API technology supports our philosophy to be a platform that works with every technology partner our operators find valuable. No one in the industry embraces third party technology like we do.
Second, while other technology companies are focused on building tools for both operators and consumers, our singular focus is on the operator. We’re happy letting other companies focus on consumers, as our platform is designed to partner with them. That means the operator platform constantly gets ALL of our love, focus, attention and resources.
Finally, our platform’s capabilities are unmatched and unique. No one in the industry tracks guest data and brings it to life like we do. The software efficiently manages reservations and seating, while tracking 50+ customer data points, including real-time spend, birthday/anniversary dates, favorite liquors and wines, food allergies and more.
What market are you attacking and how big is it?
Our target market is restaurants, nightclubs and hotels that have dining and nightlife concepts across the world. With $783+ billion in restaurant industry sales, and $710+ billion in food & drink sales in the U.S. alone, there is a huge market for us to tap into not only in the U.S., but throughout the world as well. Our market opportunities are endless, with an estimated 15 million restaurants worldwide.
What is the business model?
Restaurants, nightlife venues and hospitality groups pay a monthly software-licensing fee per location. SevenRooms is offered as ‘Software as a Service’ (SaaS), a cloud-based product enabling significant uptime, speed and scalability. Additionally, we’re always improving the platform, pushing new features and functionality every two to three weeks so the operator always has the most-up-to date features, and a system that is constantly getting better.
What inspired the business?
SevenRooms actually started as a very different product from the one we’ve built today. At the time, my co-founder, Allison Page, and I were analysts at Credit Suisse, consistently working 100+ hour weeks. On the occasional night we weren’t working late, we always had a list of hot restaurants and nightclubs we’d heard about and were eager to check out. Unfortunately, for nearly all of the places on this list, you either had to book months in advance or know someone to get a reservation.
Trying to solve this problem, Allison and I spent two years developing the first SevenRooms product aimed to help first-time customers get access and receive the same treatment a regular would get. We made every mistake that first time founders make, and the product failed miserably. However, as much as it hurt, we were lucky to fail fast, taking a major learning away from the experience. We discovered that we weren’t solving a problem for hospitality operators, giving them little to no reason to adopt our product.
The second time around, we made it our mission to solve the major pain points of operators, not consumers. Our initial focus was exclusively on the nightclub industry, where customer service is the only differentiator from one club to the next — as the champagne and music are identical from club to club. Over the next two years, we spent countless nights working side-by-side with operators to learn the business. We discovered that at the core of hospitality is the feeling of recognition that brought guests back time and time again. With this in mind, we set out to make highly personalized service easier by helping operators better track guest data across their properties, capturing and tracking richer data than ever before. The guest profile is available seamlessly to the operator from reservation booking to seating management and marketing so they can make every guest feel special, even if it’s someone’s first day on the job.
Over time, more and more of our clients started asking us to bring our CRM-driven platform into the restaurant space and, after much deliberation, we launched our dining product in 2015. Today we have built one of the industry’s most comprehensive platforms, with nightlife and restaurant clients throughout the world that rely on us to run their businesses. We believe we have the best technology platform in the hospitality industry for both dining and nightlife operators.
How do you manage the business given that it’s focused on an industry where there is a high failure rate?
We’re fortunate that our client base includes many of the world’s top hospitality and enterprise groups – sbe, BNG, TAO Strategic, Gerber Group, LDV Hospitality, Jumeirah, LiveNation and others – which are all established and well diversified. Ultimately, the product can be used by operators both big and small, as the underlying purpose of the SevenRooms is to make better service easier – something that every operator believes and wants for their business. Our goal is to help reduce the failure rate by giving operators a platform and technology partner that helps them grow and understand both their customer base and overall business.
What are the milestones that you plan to achieve within six months?
Specific milestones we’re planning to achieve in the next six months include:
- Signing up as many restaurants on our platform as possible!
- Continuing to gather feedback from our operators to improve the product
What is the one piece of startup advice that you never got?
The one piece of startup advice I never got, was that you need to build a product based on a constant loop of customer feedback. Talk to as many potential customers as possible before you build your product! When we launched our original product, Nightloop, in 2009, we didn’t build a product that hit on the pain points operators have within the dining and nightlife industry. We made the classic founders mistake, overbuilding the product with features that no one needed or wanted. We didn’t talk to enough of our potential customers and understand their world. We took a high-level consulting approach and assumed because we were “smart” we could build a product in an industry that was entirely foreign to us. Though the failure stung, it led us to spending time working the doors at nightclubs and host stands at restaurants around the city. During this time, we were able to get first-hand knowledge of what operators actually cared about. It was from those experiences that we were able to build SevenRooms and have constantly been iterating, adding new features and products since that time.
If you could be put in touch with anyone in the New York community who would it be and why?
Mayor Bloomberg. He built one of the most successful New York-based technology companies from the ground up and was then able to parlay that into running New York City and improving it. I’m sure he has great stories and advice for entrepreneurs.
Why did you launch in New York?
Starting my career in finance, New York was my first destination after graduating from college. I moved into the tech sector in 2009, as it was becoming more and more apparent that the NYC tech community was about to explode, and I wanted to be a part of it. We would never have seen the same success launching this product in San Francisco, as New York is the dining and nightlife capital of the world.
Where is your favorite bar in the city for an after work drink?
Horus Cafe. It’s a hookah bar in Alphabet City that I’ve been going to for over 10 years. There are two locations, but I recommend going to the one on 6th Street & Avenue B — and order the Chico Special hookah. I love visiting because they treat me like family, and have since my very first visit. Customer service really does pay off!