Word Starts to Spread
Putting a focus on growing your startup
Note: This is Part 4 of 6. You can go to Part 1 of the story here.
After we launched onehundredtables.com in February 2013, we set out to build the business and grow the site each month afterwards.
Remember that entering into an online space like this is little bit like a David and Goliath story. With brands and platforms like Yelp, OpenTable, Urban Spoon (at the time) out there, it takes a much better or cooler idea to appeal to the users (Foodies) and the customers (Restaurants).
We heard from many restaurant owners who loved the One Hundred Tables idea because they told us they had had it with Yelp. They explained to us that didn’t like Yelp’s sales tactics nor the cost to advertise which could run into the hundreds of dollars per month or more.
Our approach was (and is) no reviews. One Hundred Tables is not a “review” platform. It is a restaurant showcase of restaurants already generally known to deliver a great overall dining experience.
If thousands of people have been to your restaurant and loved it, we’re not so worried about that one guy who didn’t like his meal one day. We figured, if every restaurant on the site is already known to be great, who really needs reviews?
More to the point, who really wants to have to filter through the reviews to sort out the bad ones anyway?
One Hundred Tables cuts to the chase in two ways:
- Each city is capped at 100 restaurants (I mean how many do you need to choose from anyway?)
- Each restaurant is pre-vetted by the wisdom of the crowd to be a good fit.
We next decided on a couple of ways to spread the word about what we were doing to increase overall awareness of the platform.
One of the ideas was to also create a highly curated group of Local Experts around the world who really know their stuff when it comes to their own local dining scene. We identified a core group of the first 6–10 people who we thought we’d like to promote by providing them their own profile on One Hundred Tables along with their top 3 local city restaurant recommendation (whether they were on the site or not) and provide links back to each Local Experts social media channels.
Wide and Deep
The idea was (and is) to create a super unique global group of people who really know their stuff when it comes to dining out. Each local expert has a very deep audience (a single city focus) whereas One Hundred Tables a very wide audience (100 cities).
We help them gain a more national/international audience, and they help us gain more exposure in their unique local markets. This group of local experts continues to grow and eventually there will be at least 100 (1 for each city on the site).
Note: If you know somebody would love to be promoted by us on One Hundred Tables as a Local Expert in their city, tell them they can go here to apply. It’s totally free, 100% positive, but they have be be really good.
The word started to spread:
Foodtailing in Sept 2013:
The Boston Globe in Sept 2013:
Atlanta Magazine in Oct 2013:
With a little effort and focus you can grow the awareness:
Then something interesting happened in January 2014. The story got picked up by a writer for a small entry in that month’s American Airlines in-flight magazine. This opened up exposure to every passenger flying American Airlines that month. This sent our sales much higher because surely many restaurant owners also learned about One Hundred Tables for the first time.
Then we won a $1,000 contest on Twitter to spend on Twitter. The challenge was to explain your business in a single tweet. This was ours:
Then even Sandra Bernhard picked up on what we were doing….
Then Atlanta Tech Blogs caught wind….
And on and on it went through 2014 and into 2015.
Throughout 2014 the site continued to grow. We opened additional cities and new restaurants from around the world continued to join.
Again, to put a wrapper on this story, think about this from the restaurant owner’s point of view. The spend is $100/year. This is 27 cents a day for a gorgeous restaurant profile on a website that promotes their restaurant 24/7 online, generates relevant links back to their own websites, where each restaurant is included in a very unique collection of 100 top places in their city, and all they need is pretty much 1 decent table for two to come in for dinner and they broke even on their $100 spend. The rest is gravy.
There’s no risk and all upside.
By the time we had hit 2015 we had opened 50 of the the 100 cities and over 1,000 restaurants we’re now showcased on the site.
Up next, Part 5, Learning What Works and What Doesn’t.