Reserve and Deliver: Waitr Acquires Restaurant Booking App Requested
Sacramento-based Requested, a restaurant booking app that launched in 2015, has announced that it has been acquired by Louisiana-based food delivery and restaurant management company Waitr. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Requested will keep its California office and its team will remain intact in the transfer.
Requested’s key innovation is a dynamic pricing system that allows restaurants to offer deals and negotiate directly with customers on slow days — and also potentially allow patrons to bid up the price of a reservation at hot restaurants during peak hours. The app then charges them directly on their phone, so they can dine and dash.
Waitr, meanwhile, is an app-centric restaurant management platform featuring a $6.99 flat rate for food delivery service. Developed in Lake Charles, Louisiana, the platform has raised $4.5 million in funding thus far, mostly from angel investors in the southwest part of the state. The platform has already been deployed at over 1000 restaurants in several cities in the South, and this week will also expand to Roseville, California.
Requested founder Sonny Mayugba, who gave a presentation at Street Fight Summit 2014 and will now take the role of CMO at Waitr, said that the pairing came up fairly naturally. While he was in Baton Rouge helping a new partner integrate Requested into their offerings, he kept hearing from restaurant customers about how much they liked Waitr.
“Everywhere I went, restaurant owners were like ‘This is cool; you guys do dine-in. You should partner with this app called Waitr — they do delivery and carry-out,'” said Mayugba. “There was this brand love I was seeing for it that was unbelievable. … And since they had devices with all of our customers, I thought ‘I wonder if they would be willing to let us put our merchant app on their iPad?'”
This led Mayugba to set up a meeting with Waitr founder and CEO, Chris Meaux, and the two hit it off. Both had owned and worked in restaurants and had an appreciation for the specific challenges that restaurant owners face.
Meaux said that Waitr had already been looking to add dine-in booking capabilities for a while, and that once he saw Requested’s technology it seemed very complimentary to what he already had built. They started talking about some kind of a combination and then eventually settled on the idea that it made the most sense for Waitr to make the acquisition.
“We felt there was a cultural fit and a product fit, as well as a functional fit,” said Meaux. “We’ve built out the app side of our business as well as the restaurant web platform that allows restaurants to publish and manage their menu; allows them to manage the order flow for carry-out, delivery, and, in the case of Requested, table bookings; allows them the flexibility to create marketing to reach their customers through the platform; and finally gives them access to customer data and the insights and analytics to run their business.”
LAUNCH festival and Inside.com CEO Jason Calacanis says the acquisition is a nice win for Requested, which participated in his LAUNCH incubator. He said the company “did really well in a very difficult category.”
Calacanis termed the deal a “silver medal,” for Requested, saying: “I would have loved to see [founder Sonny Mayugba] build a large, sustainable, independent company — but I’m also happy to see him join a large, sustainable, independent company.”
Calacanis praised Requested’s “unique behavioral hook” and said that in some ways, the app may have been ahead of its time as a standalone company: “Many times people create something innovative … and the audience isn’t ready for it yet.” That said, he sees a lot of synergy with Waitr and value in having the company be part of something bigger.
Mayugba said that when he and his co-founders first started developing Requested in 2012, he saw a wide-open space for what they were creating, but that the company had difficulty gaining traction as a standalone.
“When we started building the app, we immediately were like ‘We’re the next Airbnb,'” said Mayugba. “We had no inventory, we were creating a marketplace, and we started building out projections that looked huge. … As founders it’s helpful to have that bold vision, and it also helps to raise more money. And our goal was always to become massive and build a platform for the hospitality industry.”
But over time, the founders started to wonder if Requested’s technology was perhaps “a feature in something greater” rather than a basis for a company in and of itself.
Meaux says the pairing will really enhance what Waitr is able to offer its customers going forward.
“We’re very heavily focused on the supply side — we’re focused on being a partner of the restaurant,” he said. “Our whole platform is built for restaurants and it gives customers access to those restaurants. … It’s a very fragmented business — there are over one million restaurant locations in the U.S., and fully 70% of those are single unit operators — and we feel that by being a partner to the restaurants and starting regionally we’re able to focus on profitability.”
David Hirschman is a co-founder of Street Fight.