How some startups are providing insights to restaurants to make business sustainable

Till helps restaurants figure out how to increase sales, why were sales down on a particular day and even manage inventory for a future date.
How some startups are providing insights to restaurants to make business sustainable
How some startups are providing insights to restaurants to make business sustainable
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Kings Drive-In in Hyderabad is a busy place. Open from midnight until 5am every day, Kings a 200-metre long space with around 15 restaurants operating out of it.

But business is seamless. The Drive-In is able to manage demand and orders even on the busiest of days.

At one point though, they realised that on weekdays, between 2 and 5am, there wasn’t much revenue being made as against the costs they were putting in. So they decided to close by 2am on weekdays, saving a lot of money.

So how does Kings Drive-In manage to keep the flow of business seamless? How were they able to get insights into their business and figure out when it made sense to open or close the restaurant each day?

That’s where Till comes in.

Till is a cloud-based Point of Sale (POS) platform that helps restaurants manage orders, track inventory and back-end operations.

Founded by Snehith Velma, Sai Basanth Perala, Satadru Raha, and Advathiya Arrabollu, Till is an Australia-Hyderabad-based POS platform, which was first built to help Snehith’s mother manage her fish and takeaway business in Hobart in Australia.

Given the fact that Snehith’s mother was able to adapt to this technology easily, they decided to test it out with a few other places in Melbourne. After validating their idea in about 15-20 restaurants in Melbourne in 2016, Basanth decided to test it out in India.

The team of Till

Adapting to India

“The market is huge in India given that there are nearly 1.5 million restaurants. But when I came to India, I realised that restaurants are run a lot differently in India than in Australia. So we decided to start with smaller quick service restaurants (QSRs),” says Basanth.

Snehith and his team built a point of sales platform that is suitable to all types of restaurants right from a café, a pizzeria to a QSR and a Fine Dine restaurant.

For example, it can help cafes manage long lines during peak hours with ease by providing rapid service. It helps pizzerias add/remove toppings quickly, assign drivers to delivery orders and start typing a delivery address to let auto-complete fill in the rest and rack all in-store and delivery orders to serve on time.

Any merchant that comes on board will get a dashboard once they sign up. They can then customize the platform based on their needs, upload their products, menus and start operations. Till’s POS platform can be accessed from any device. It is like a plug and play model where the restaurant can customize based on their requirements.

A step ahead of the competition?

And this seamless integration and onboarding is what Basanth says sets them apart from the local traditional players.

But there are several cloud-based POS startups within India such as POSist, Ginesys and Shoptree.

Delhi-based POSist, one of the first players in the cloud-based POS software space has a suite of restaurant billing and management solutions.

POSist too helps restaurants address problems related to order taking, table booking, stock and inventory, menu and recipes, customers, restaurant staff, preparation, dispatch and delivery, payments and many more.

Similarly, Ginesys caters to the retail sector, helping companies sell through all channels like distributors, franchisees, shop-in-shops and online marketplaces. It helps companies manage policies, promotions, discounts, coupons and more, on a single platform.

So while there are other established startups in the market and a number of traditional POS systems, how is Till going to stand out?

Basanth says that Till never wanted to be a full-fledged POS player. What Till intends to do is use POS system to capture over 3000 data points, and help make businesses sustainable.

He adds that very often restaurants may have questions that are left unanswered like how do I increase my pizza sales? Why were sales down last Thursday? How much inventory will I need this coming Monday?

Till wants to collect data from every transaction and make sense out of the data to answer these questions. The idea is to capture data from the POS, combine it with a bunch of external data sets to come up with an analysis.

Turning competitors into clients

The idea is to provide businesses with four different types of analytics – descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive. Descriptive is the what part of the data, diagnostic is understanding why something happens or where the issue is. Predictive is combining the data with machine learning algorithms to understand what is going to happen and make preparations accordingly. Finally, prescriptive is the part where depending on all the other analytics, Till helps restaurants make operational changes and better their business.

Having started just a year ago, Till has only launched descriptive analytics so far and will be launching the others by the end of this year.

These analytics can be an add-on to any cloud-based POS system. This gives them the advantage of turning their competitors into their clients.

First step to analytics

But the problem Basanth faced when he came to India was that most restaurants still use archaic POS systems that do not interact with other systems. There wasn’t any data flowing in from these systems.

So to be able to understand what kind of insights work for businesses in India, they first launched a POS platform and started business with that. And since it has been generating decent revenues for Till, it will continue to sell its POS platform along with the insights service.

“To understand what kind of POS works, we couldn’t find the right kind in the market, which actually collects data points so we created our own. And we started making money on that so we are pushing that as a business vertical as well,” Basanth adds.

Till has also built a bot that restaurant owners can chat with on a range of messaging services like WhatsApp, Facebook  Messenger, Hangouts, Skype and more. Restaurant owners can ask questions like ‘How are my sales like today? What promotion should I add to boost my Chicken Pizza sales? Have I performed better than last week?’ And a lot more.

Till currently has 120 clients across six cities in India and managed to reach operational break-even within months of starting operations.

Till works on a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, which is subscription based. Depending on the store type, and the number of devices used, it charges anywhere between Rs 1,999 to Rs 20,000 a month.

It has clients like Eagle Boys Pizza, Drunken Monkey and Makers of Milkshakes and even provides POS systems to seven out of the 11 Drive-Ins in Hyderabad.

Scalability, an issue?

While Till believes that its insights service will set it apart from all POS players in the market, Dhananjay Satarkar, Partner at Clearview Consulting Partners says that the time, effort and money required to provide restaurants these insights will be a challenge.

“To come to a stage to put across effective insights to people who have been in the business for long will take some time. Scalability and the differentiating factor here is something that is suspect. Also, there might be resistance from restaurant owners who have been in the business for over 10 years,” he adds.

There are business intelligence software providers who are also trying to do the same thing. So while there may be reception from a few 100s, being able to scale and replicate these insights across restaurants and geographies will be a challenge, according to Dhananjay.

But Till is very confident that the solution it is looking to provide is scalable. Basanth says that the POS has been built in such a way that it can easily be adapted by different types of businesses.

In fact, by February 2018, it plans to expand to retail outlets as well and even work with salons.

“In the case of salons, POS is already there. We just need to integrate an appointment sheet and it will be ready for use,” says Basanth.

Currently, Till’s focus is on building the new version of its POS as it is generating significant revenue for the company.

With its improved and feature-added POS version, it hopes to reach 500 customers by the end of this year.

This article has been produced with inputs from T-Hub as a part of a partner program.

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