First Table serves up international success
A Queenstown web developer who swapped coding for dining has turned his passion for food into an international business.
Four years ago, entrepreneur Mat Weir started up First Table, which provides half-price meals for the first table of the night.
Beginning with 12 Queenstown restaurants, he now has more than 660 restaurants throughout Australia, New Zealand and England, with a launch of 27 restaurants in London last week.
The initiative was launched in Invercargill in October and includes The Grille, Suzie Q, First in Windsor and Glasines Cafe and Bar.
The idea was developed from a French restaurant that had one table by the window that was discounted for the first diners of the night.
‘‘If these guys are doing it, perhaps there’s potential to get a lot of restaurants to do it,’’ Weir thought.
‘‘The opportunity was to build something that could be a platform for restaurants to get people early and attract new diners.’’
With the business idea and a rental camper van, Weir travelled from Christchurch to Auckland pitching to restaurants along the way.
‘‘It was a good challenge because I hadn’t done sales before, and when you are an entrepreneur you need to know how to bloody do everything,’’ he said.
‘‘You have to concentrate, give it a go and push really hard.’’
Starting First Table in a ‘‘small town with a big-city feel’’ and dozens of quality food joints had helped.
‘‘In Queenstown, word got around really quickly and in Auckland it would have taken so long to grow.’’
After the launch, he was on the road fulltime for a year and a half signing up more restaurants.
Queenstown friends living in Sydney and Bristol also helped take the business overseas.
‘‘It’s been picked up positively and a lot quicker in England.’’
Dining out could be ‘‘risky’’ for those who often ordered the same food from the same place, Weir said. With all items on the menu being discounted, the customer was likely to try more than a main.
‘‘It’s really good for the restaurant industry, as it’s stimulating people to turn into foodies,’’ he said.
First Table founder Mat Weir started the business with 12 Queenstown restaurants and now has 660 restaurants throughout Australia, New Zealand and England.