Din­ing Ad­ven­ture Starts with New App Fan­dine

CAIFU - - Con­tents - By Millie Lou

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’s Fu­ture

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.”

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