Indonesians don’t like to reserve restaurants but that fact didn’t stop Steven Kim, Adrian Li and Sean Liao from starting Qraved.com, a restaurant review site that specializes in online reservations. Started last August, the startup connects restaurants and eaters, which now has more than 150 restaurants as partners, and has booked a total of more than 30,000 diners through the system. “Our bookings have been growing 25% monthly, so we’re seeing significant amount of growth and repeats,” says Steven, 34, co-founder and chief executive. Co-founder Adrian, 35, is equally optimistic: “When we looked at the market here we saw that the restaurant and food discovery aspect was almost empty, especially in doing a restaurant reservation platform. We are very excited since the potential market in Indonesia is gigantic.”
The trio established PT Eatiki, the formal name of the firm, and in just over a month has grown from a small office in Menteng to a bigger office in the Sudirman area with 24 employees. Despite online restaurant reservations being a new trend in Indonesia, Adrian is optimistic that their business has a good long-run potential. “We believe that when you say that now is the right time, you are already too late,” Adrian says. He uses the example of OpenTable in the U.S., which pioneered the business in the late 90s and was acquired by U.S. site Priceline in July for $2.6 billion. “They started out at a time when it was clearly too early for the market, but by the time the market tipped and everyone was doing it, they were already very established. So we believe in going in early and taking a risk to build the future,” Adrian adds.
The trio has some experience and education to back up their optimism. The three all worked for the Germany-based Rocket Internet and had roles in fashion site Zalora Singapore, office supply site OfficeFab and Airbnb clone Wimdu. In addition, they all have blue-chip degrees, which means they could have taken high-paying jobs in established companies but felt an Internet venture provided more opportunity. Adrian graduated from Cambridge University with a BA and MA in economics, and got his MBA from Stanford. Steven graduated from Yonsei University in South Korea in applied statistics and got his MBA from INSEAD Singapore, while Sean attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, studying computer science and electrical engineering.
While there are many food review sites in Indonesia, Qraved differs by offering an online reservation system. The site makes money by charging the restaurants with an average monthly subscription fee of Rp 500,000, plus only Rp 10,000 per reservation booked through the site. The pricing can be adjusted as volume grows, making it cheaper for more popular restaurants. In comparison, OpenTable’s subscription fee is $199 a month, about four times Qraved’s charge.
For diners, they get advantages as well, such as discounts if they book during non-peak hours. For example, Cazbar in the Mega Kuningan area of Jakarta will offer a 50% discount—if you can eat there on a Saturday morning before noon. As with many other food sites, Qraved also offers users a chance to post food pictures and reviews on the site. The site also helps diners by grouping restaurants by category, such as those offering weekend brunches or romantic dining. Being able to book online also saves users the hassle of calling the restaurant.