Earlier today, Ablar Company announced the launch of its new restaurant reservation service Poing. While there are definitely other competitors with similar services in the market, Poing boasts a whopping 27,900 restaurants nationwide to choose from. While similar companies usually have to make contracts with each individual restaurant, Ablar Company came up with a different approach after finding this method too taxing on staff and resources. Poing’s marketing manager Boram Hyun talked about the challenges that they faced.
“Restaurant owners were interested in Poing but it was difficult to make contracts with each venue and to have a system set up for each of them. This is when we began to think how we could make it work without restaurants themselves having to do anything different.”
The company came up with an automated dialing system which acted as a proxy for users wanting to make a reservation. After finding the restaurant that you want to make a reservation at, all you simply have to do is select your time and the number of people. The Poing system then calls the restaurant and reads back the details of the booking to the restaurant staff. The restaurant then selects via their keypad as to whether they can confirm the reservation or not, and a corresponding text alert is sent back to the user. Hyun says that the calling system was tested extensively before the launch.
“We must have made around 2000 calls. Restaurants can be extremely busy and noisy places, so when testing the system we tried using different types of voices and scripts to see which worked best for people working in these environments. For some restaurants that refused bookings, we found out that they in fact only take large groups and so in those cases we have set a minimum number of people in the app.”
If the call is not answered or the line is engaged, the system will automatically call back after 3 minutes. If the user makes a booking past the restaurant’s closing time, the call will be made the following morning. For peace of mind, the user can monitor the status of the calls that Poing makes to the restaurant. Hyun says that they are ready for any problems that may arise.
“With such a huge number of restaurants, there is a high possibility that some will go out of business or phone numbers will change. If the service encounters three consecutive unsuccessful calls, then a member of the Poing team will directly call the venue to confirm the problem, and then update any information if needed.”
The service also offers Poing Cash to users which they can use to buy “gifticons” – digital coupons that can be traded for products such as drink and food at convenience stores. New users are automatically given 500 cash on signing up, and cash is earned not only by making reservations but also confirming your location at the restaurant once you are there.
The search interface is very user-friendly and a restaurant can be found by location, price, type of food or even by the type of mood desired, such as a romantic or casual environment. Once a user is logged in, there is no need to input their information again. Eventually Ablar Company wants to take the service overseas, and the startup currently has a team in New York.
“Users can make a reservation in as little as 15 seconds. We think such services will be even more useful in western countries where making reservations is more common.”
To make ordering even more efficient, Poing Store is a web platform from Poing that directly connects to restaurants so orders can be placed straight to the kitchen or register. The service is already in place in 50 restaurants on Seoul’s popular Garosugil and the company is still deciding whether to expand the platform further.
Though currently only available on iOS, an Android version is expected to be released in September.