First Ta­ble serves up in­ter­na­tional suc­cess

The Southland Times - - NEWS - DASHA KUPRIENKO

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.

DASHA KUPRIENKO/ STUFF

First Ta­ble founder Mat Weir started the busi­ness with 12 Queen­stown restau­rants and now has 660 restau­rants through­out Aus­tralia, New Zealand and Eng­land.

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