Linechop is an online wait-listing service. It brings the experience people have waiting at restaurants to the web.
Today, we had the opportunity to gain more knowledge and insight into the entrepreneurial world and we have really enjoyed interviewing the brilliant young entrepreneur; Mr. ‘Michael Price‘; Co-Founder of the US (Chicago)-based start-up “LineChop” about his very interesting Company that we do believe has lots of potential to grow and flourish.
“LineChop” is an online wait-listing service that offers a better, more powerful and more accessible way to manage restaurants wait-lists.
Below is the full interview that we have conducted with Mr. ‘Price’ regarding his Company “Linechop LLC”;
1. What is it exactly that you do and what “LineChop” is all about?
Linechop is an online wait-listing service. It brings the experience people have waiting at restaurants to the web.
Basically as a restaurant goer you can check restaurant wait times online and have one click access to the waitlist.
It’s almost as if you were standing at the restaurant but now the information is just a click away.
For restaurants it’s a powerful management tool that is designed to improve efficiency and the overall experience a guest has at the restaurant.
2. When has “LineChop” been founded? And what stage is “LineChop” currently at?
Linechop LLC was officially founded on the 29th of May 2012 but the idea had been floating around before then.
Right now we are currently in the marketing phase, specifically looking for restaurants to partner up with to beta our service.
Our product is already built and is gaining a lot of interest.
We don’t have a launch date yet as we are currently working out the logistics, but we hope to bring our services to several restaurants in Chicago sometime in August.
3. What is “LineChop”’s business model and how does it work?
We currently run on a subscription based model for restaurants at three different price points that cater to what features the specific restaurant wants or needs.
For restaurant goers, the service is free. As for how the service works, there are two ends, the restaurant side and the user side.
Restaurants will set up the system at the host/hostess table and from there they will be able to manage the wait list as well as push other information such as the current wait time.
Users can then search that restaurant and see all of this information as well as menu items, contact information, directions, attractions and deals around the restaurant, and much more.
When they’ve decided on that restaurant they can then add themselves to the waitlist anywhere at anytime. They will receive a confirmation message via text or app and notifications throughout the entire waiting process.
With location services we can calculate how long of a drive or walk it is to the restaurant if the user is not already familiar with the area, they can then use this information to know when to leave dependent on what their waiting status is.
If they are already nearby they can look at menu items while they wait so they have their mind made when their table is ready as well as check out local deals and attractions.
4. How did your team meet? And who in your team does what?
Right now there are three of us. I (Michael Price) and Nishanth Samala are the co-founders of Linechop and have known each other since high school.
We started working on projects together in a computer science class.
The idea actually came about while I was waiting for a table at a restaurant, and ever since, every time I went out to eat the idea would pop into my head again.
We collaborated over the idea and decided that it was a service that needed to be made.
Nishanth has been working on developing the product while I work mostly on the user experience, design the interactions.
We’ve worked together on forming the business model and a marketing strategy.
We brought in Paul after seeing some of the work Paul had done in the IPRO program at IIT to head our marketing/media creation.
5. What, exactly, makes you different from existing options, what will make your product and/or service stand out in the marketplace? In other words what’s unique about you and what’s new about what you make?
There is nothing out there quite like Linechop. We strictly deal on the experience a guest has waiting at a restaurant, and offer a low cost solution.
A lot of restaurants are using outdated software, we develop with the latest technologies and are constantly updating our service to provide the best management experience possible.
We do not bind restaurants to a contract or specific hardware and allow them to use the service in their own way.
Our solution is modern and is easily accessible unlike many solutions out there.
We know technology, we have experience developing software ourselves and this allows us to control development with our visions in mind.
6. What is your growth like? And what milestones has “LineChop” achieved so far?
We are currently in the process of creating a community base of restaurant goers which is growing by the day.
We expect growth to increase rapidly as we get closer to launch in the next few months.
As for milestones, we’ve built out an MVP, which is a huge stepping stone for us and had a lot of success exhibiting at TechWeek Launch in Chicago recently.
7. Who are your competitors? And what is “LineChop”’s competitive advantage over them?
We took a lot of time looking at our competitors and their solutions before we even stepped into the project and we found a lot of limitations.
One of the most popular solutions are restaurant pagers, the problem is they can be quite expensive and have distance limitations.
Most restaurants suggest that you stay in the restaurant for the pagers to work, which can crowd lobbies and can be a turnoff for restaurant guests.
There has also been an uprising of wait-list management apps, mostly developed for iOS, this means they are hardware specific to the platform the app was built for and also lack a lot of features such as data analytics.
Another popular service in this space is OpenTable, they deal with reservations which isn’t quite what we are hitting on but again they require restaurants to buy their hardware and can get really expensive.
None of these solutions allow for two way communication between restaurants and their customer and don’t extend the experience past the restaurant.
Linechop overcomes a lot of these limitations, our service is cross platform and can work on existing solutions if needed, it also allows for two way communication between the customer and the restaurants through the web or via text/app.
Our service is low cost, easily accessible and can be set up in an instance. Not to mention our extension into the social realm which helps restaurants get promoted by their customers.
8. What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
Time and inexperience would top the list. We’re college students and are trying to balance schoolwork, social lives and working on Linechop.
We’re trying to get better at setting aside time and diligently working on the project.
We’ve also got basic business development skills. We have been able to overcome these obstacles with the help of experts and ultimately working as hard as we can.
We believe in our product and that’s how we stay focused and on task.
9. What are the key things about your field that outsiders don’t understand?
A lot of people don’t understand that this technology is already available, a lot of concerns we got at TechWeek was how and what technology we would be using to build this service when we already had it built.
On the other hand the gap between restaurants and technology has been growing over time, restaurants think technology like this gets really expensive, when in reality we have created a solution that is less expensive than most services out there already.
10. Why are you going to succeed?
We’re at the correct age for a tool like this. We’re part of the internet addicted, short attention span generation. We’ve lived it.
We know how to get their attention. We understand our customer’s customer.
We know how to develop the latest technologies ourselves and understand its limitless possibilities. That’s what will set us apart from the competition.
11. If “LineChop” succeeds, what additional areas might you be able to expand into?
At the heart of it all, it’s a glorified management/notification system. It can be adapted to hospital operating rooms, daycare centers, concerts, and any event that involves waiting on the part of the customer.
Think of it as adapting the amusement park express line model to fit other industries. There are lots of potential markets this can be expanded to.
12. Why did you choose this idea and concept to build “LineChop” based on?
We’re young and that means we’re hungry. All the time. We snack on everything imaginable and prefer instant gratification to waiting out for the good stuff.
The idea was built with us in mind. How would we want to experience the initial encounter with a restaurant. That’s what drove us to build this application.
13. What have you learned so far from launching your idea?
So far we’ve learnt that there is already a lot of technology fighting for space in this market.
The problem with all the competition is that it makes it that much harder to reach out to restaurants.
In some ways it seems like restaurants are holding back from new technologies, which leaves them with outdated software.
Another thing we learnt is the beating of being young entrepreneurs, although we have the fight and qualifications to build a service like this and make it successful, a lot of people look at us as just college students and nothing more. This gives us more of a boost to prove ourselves.
14. Six months from now, what’s going to be your biggest problem?
Moving into different markets and expanding will probably be our biggest problem six months from now.
Moving into other markets means dealing with new competition and having to develop different strategies.
As for expansion, right now there are only three of us running this company but as we expand we are going to need a larger work force.
15. What’s the benefit for the customer/user?
There are several benefits for both restaurants and customers. Restaurants get a powerful management tool at a low cost that’s able to extend past the restaurant itself, in return giving the customers a seamless waiting experience.
Going into more detail, restaurants that sign up gain access to our dashboard where they can manage their waitlist, post current wait times, send out real time notifications via text/app, view data analytics and much more.
The waitlist supports recognition for returning customers and VIP’s and everything is updated in real time. Restaurants also get featured on our site as well as get promoted through their guests which is made possible with our social integration.
16. How did customers/users find out about you?
We advertise through social sites such as Facebook and Twitter to generate a community of restaurant goers.
Restaurants find out about us through personal contact or through their own customers.
We also try to get our name out there through exhibitions, interviews and sites like this. We are also developing promotional content that can be seen on our site as well as youtube and other video sharing sites.
17. Who are your current customers/users? Who are your target customers/users?
We cater our services to both restaurants and their guests. For restaurants we offer a managing tool that not only allows them to manage their waitlist using new technologies but also lets them reach out to more customers through social integration and promotional content.
As for restaurant guests, we offer a complete restaurant waiting experience.
Again, they can check wait-times of their favorite restaurants online and have one click access to the wait-list, allowing them to continue whatever it is they were doing knowing that they have a spot in line.
18. Where do new customers/users come from and what makes new customers/users try you?
Right now we are trying to reach out to restaurant goers through the means of social marketing. We understand the best way to reach a crowd is through social sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Once you have a person hooked on the service, through the means of social activity and sharing you can also acquire their friends.
We also have a system in place that counts search requests and clicks of unregistered restaurants. If a restaurant isn’t registered with us and their customers are searching for them through our service, we tally up those numbers and bring them to the restaurant.
The main objective of a restaurant is to cater to their customers so we believe this system will be quite effective when approaching new restaurants.
19. What do your customers/users say about your product and/or service?
Restaurant goers love the idea of a seamless experience and have given us a lot of good feedback on the service.
Our first public showing was actually at TechWeek Launch in Chicago where we talked to several people about the service and how they could use it personally.
People love the idea of bringing waitlists to the web, we got a lot of responses from different types of people and it really helped us mend our product together.
On the restaurant side, we have personally gone around to restaurants and have talked to managers/owners about the idea, they showed a lot of interest and gave us a lot of good responses.
20. How are you going to scale?
We plan to market down the midwest initially, specifically Chicago first, and then expand across the the states.
The amount of restaurants added per month will be controlled so that we can effectively handle the load and make changes when needed.
We have taken into account what is needed in order to expand and are prepared for that moment. From a technical standpoint our solution is designed to handle growth.
21. What’s the biggest missing feature? The one thing customers/users keep asking for?
A question that has been coming up is “How do we get accurate wait times?”, well there really is no way to get the exact wait for a table but our system is controlled by the host/hostess at the specific restaurant which makes the estimate as accurate as possible as it is always updated, either automatically or manually.
One feature that will be of great use to restaurants is our smart wait system, the more a restaurant uses our service the more data we will have to accurately calculate the current wait time in automatic mode.
This system works by utilizing the data we collect for the restaurant as part of our data analytics feature, it looks at patterns in the wait, requests, and party size and returns a more accurate wait.
22. Are you going to internationalize? And if yes how are you planning to expand your start-up’s operations accordingly?
Eventually we do plan to internationalize as our system can work anywhere and is easily accessible.
In reality, as soon as our service is launched any restaurant around the world can simply go online, search for their restaurant in our database, sign up, get verified, and start using our service immediately.
This is possible because we have a cross platform solution that does not require any additional hardware as well as simple how to guides that make set up easy.
We want to control our expansion to make sure there is enough technical support and space available, so we plan to do this in steps when we are ready.
23. How big do you think you can get? Why? And how you are planning to achieve your goals?
I believe Linechop has the potential to become very big. It’s a given that people are more and more reliant on technology to make their lives easier and by providing a service that allows people to have a seamless waiting experience can go a long way.
We also know that people love to share and we have found a way to utilize this attribute to both benefit the restaurant and their customers.
Because of this we believe after acquiring our initial amount of restaurants we will be able to prove ourselves to other restaurants and will then welcome expansion.
Also, because we are able to expand our service into other markets as I mentioned earlier the possibilities are endless.
For now we are taking things step by step to eventually achieve these goals.
24. Are you looking to hire a new workforce? And if yes, what job vacancies do you currently offer and where can potential applicants contact you at?
Right now we aren’t looking to hiring more employees. Eventually we will need to employ staff to expand, we’ll need people to help acquire restaurants, provide tech support, and creative people to push our product even further.
When this time comes we will have information on our website with contact information available.
25. Are you looking for partnership opportunities or funding from Venture Capitals (VC) or other funding sources? Or your business is self-sustainable? And if the first option applies where can potential partners / investors contact you at?
Our solution has a very low infrastructure cost, which has allowed us to get as far as we have without any funding.
Because we are not manufacturing hardware we are only looking at the cost of running the service, which eventually can easily be sustained.
Marketing, on the other hand, is a big worry for us. Restaurants are particularly averse to new startups because of the number of new startups pitching their ideas to them.
Even established companies like OpenTable spend $.85 of every marketing dollar to acquire a new restaurant. Potential investors can take a look at our company on AngelList.
26. What advice do you have for fresh entrepreneurs?
If you have an idea you are passionate about, explore its possibilities and get as far as you can with it.
At the very least you will gain a lot of experience throughout the journey that will help you greatly in not only future ventures but any other work you find yourself in.