Dining Adventure Starts with New App Fandine
FandineTechnologies Ltd. is a Vancouver- based food tech company with an appetite for innovation and a product that it hopes will disrupt the increasingly overcrowded industry. There are already major players offering a combination of services such as online ordering and delivery (Ele, Meituan-dianping), meal kit delivery (Blue Apron, Plated), reviews and reservations ( Yelp, Opentable). In Fandine’s downtown Vancouver corner office, which overlooks the Vancouver Harbour, I sat down with Fandine CEO Harry Wang to discuss how his company is setting itself apart in a progressively competitive landscape.
Fandine: Problem-solver for Diners and Restaurant Owners
In short, Fandine is an online food ordering app. There are two main customers that Fandine aims to please: 1) diners on the go and and 2) dine- in customers. While many
food tech companies are trying to solve the food delivery problem, Wang’s company is trying to make life easier for someone who simply wants speedy take- out. Mr. Wang singled out students and working professionals as groups who can benefit from Fandine’s app. A typical student and working professional have limited time to eat before rushing off to the next class or meeting. Through Fandine, orders can be easily placed and paid for with a few clicks. The customer simply picks up the pre- placed order at the restaurant, foregoing line- ups and skipping the time it takes to settle the bill. This type of service is particularly suitable for food courts. For dine-in customers, the app does more than just take reservations; it can take orders in advance as well, which is particularly helpful for menu items like some Chinese soups that require three days to stew.
“Essentially, we are helping restaurants lower their cost because we are gifting our software to restaurants; in terms of hardware, they just need to invest in an ipad.”
Individual menu items are paired with photographs so customers know exactly what they are ordering. If the language barrier is a problem for Chinese users -- something that Wang has personally experienced -- the app translates between English and Mandarin. While reviews are common in food tech companies like Yelp and Zomato, Wang expressed that these reviews are not persuasive enough. He believes popular review websites reflect an overall experience, but as a result customers might miss out on a restaurant’s signature dishes; Fandine’s app offers the option of reviewing a restaurant’s individual menu items. Social media is another function built-into the app so the user can easily see a personal friends’ reviews.
A loyalty program also incentivizes users to use the app and spread the word. For example, if friends of the user ordered at a restaurant that the user reviewed, the user actually earns Fandine credits that can eventually be converted to cash. The user can also earn credits by recommending a restaurant to join the food tech platform.
In addition to diners, restaurants are the other main type of business which benefits from Fandine. Wang explained Fandine can significantly lower a restaurant’s operations cost. Currently, traditional point-of-sale (POS) systems that most restaurants use cost $ 10,000 USD for its initial purchase plus monthly service fees that can add up to thousands annually. The traditional POS companies are content with the status quo so there is no motivation for them to improve the product, even though there are cloud POS systems now. Wang concluded, “Essentially, we are helping restaurants lower their cost because we are gifting our software to restaurants; in terms of hardware, they just need to invest in an ipad.”
Fandine Operations to Date
Fandine was founded in late 2014 and headquartered in Vancouver. Wang added, “All research and development took place in Vancouver and it is home to most senior executives.” In 2015, Fandine was first launched in Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou and Jinan. Compared to North America, China’s population is more dense and Chinese users are more accustomed to the e-commerce lifestyle.
In January 2016, Fandine launched in Vancouver. Currently, there are about 300 local restaurants partnered with Fandine and the food tech company is hard at work managing its two quick- service restaurant pilot programs at the University of Simon Fraser ( targeting students) and Metrotown (targeting working professionals). For the dine- in pilot program, Fandine partners with a few high-end Chinese restaurants around town. Wang explained, “Vancouver is home to so many types of cuisines around the world. We feel if we can succeed in Vancouver, we can succeed anywhere in North America because Vancouver is such a complex environment.”
Wang said that Fandine had to adapt the app to the Western market even though it had already launched and was operating in China: “North American culture and spending habits are completely different than Chinese. More Chinese prioritize saving money. Here, saving money is only one aspect of many in a person’s decision to dine out. Here, long-term discounts like groupons that never expire may actually depreciate a restaurant’s brand.”
Once customizations were implemented, Fandine ran into some technical difficulties. Wang shared that in the beginning when Fandine integrated with restaurants, sometimes restaurants did not receive the orders. The product was unstable, a common problem among all app
Currently, there are about 300 local restaurants partnered with fandine.
companies. For two weeks, the Fandine team worked overtime to solve the problem. Everyone personally tested the program at the ground level. Wang said, “Firstly, I had no doubt we would solve the problem because I have a strong technology background. However, I was moved by the dedication and the spirit of the team.”
The Talent Behind Fandine
The leaders driving the Fandine team are Wang and Fandine’s Chairman Susie Su. Wang stressed that finding the right business partner was integral to the success of a start-up. For this duo, Wang is the information technology guru. He said: “My background is relatively simple. I have worked in IT since graduation.” Prior to food tech, he gained extensive experience in industries such as telecommunication, online education and online security. While still in China, he and a few partners founded a mobile value- added service company. In 2005, a year after he earned a Masters in Software from Beijing’s prestigious Tsinghua University, his company won a contract with the Japanese telecommunications giant Softbank Group. The contract was worth $ 31.5 million USD, which at the time was the country’s second largest software investment. After he immigrated to Canada, his Tsinghua alumni network helped him land a senior role at Fortinet Inc., a publicly traded online security company. Also through his Tsinghua network, he met Su, an EMBA alumnus who recruited him to head up Fandine.
Su is one of the original founders of Fandine and a successful entrepreneur in the field of medical equipment in China. In addition to being Fandine’s Chairman, she is also the General Manager of Shandong Dongmei Trading Co. Ltd. and the Vice President of Shanghai Kedu Healthcare Equipment. Su’s strong business acumen and business development skills complement Wang’s technical expertise and team building ability. Together, Fandine is in good hands.
Fandine is set to expand in North America. Wang revealed Fandine will launch in Toronto, New York and Los Angeles in 2017. He added, “Fandine will see more market demand in cities with denser populations.”
“Fandine will see more market demand in cities with denser populations.”