Ciao, I’m Andrea Tassistro, and I’m the CEO and co-founder of Foodetective, a management infrastructure platform (API’s) for all sorts of F&B businesses, used by the most ambitious restaurateurs to the world’s largest enterprises. We strive to Make Restaurants’ Lives Much Easier by automating operations, simplifying their admin, growing their online revenues, and accelerating new business opportunities for them.
Businesses commonly use 12+ software or apps covering a variety of categories including delivery, stocks, HR, and marketing, among others. Foodetective powers restaurants' digital transformation through a Unified API or Super App. Visually it means eliminating the excess hardware a restaurant uses daily, and centralizing it on a single platform, however, what is more, interesting is what it means in terms of data.
Businesses can access the Integration Hub where they can "click and connect" their tech stack without having to invest in time, resources, and a technical team. They can then manage their entire business on a single platform with their preferred software. This can include deliveries, reservations, procurement, stock management, advertising, and review management, among many others. The data from using this software will flow into their personalized analytics dashboard so they not only manage their business but also analyze their performance. This leads to an increase in revenues and a decrease in operational and administrative tasks. This way they can better meet their KPIs and can focus on what is most important to them.
Our Super App also takes care of their visibility; if you manage your business with Foodetective, a user-facing profile is automatically created. The B2C platform provides “Foodies”, F&B businesses’ end clients, a platform to interact with them. A user can find restaurants through filters, read reviews and guides, order, book, or request services all on the same platform.
We operate within the Restaurant Tech Industry, which is 2021, was within the top 3 fastest growing markets with total market size of €350Bn and a CAGR of 9.3% (Euromonitor).
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I started in the Food Industry in 2012, when I worked a student job at Tommi’s Burgers in London. 3 years later and back in Lausanne, I decided to Launch “The Green Van Company”, a burger food truck that had great success and that I sold a while later. In 2017, the team and I launched “Let’s Brunch” in Geneva, where we organized brunch events and did brunch home delivery.
It was during those 6+ years when I witnessed two challenges for the industry. The first was how fragmented restaurant systems were when it came to sharing data or being integrated. Businesses commonly use 12+ software or apps covering a variety of categories including delivery, stocks, HR, and marketing, among others. The current situation was restaurants with a stack of “tablets on tablets” and some were still using excel sheets to try to connect the dots. So I realized that the major pain point all restaurateurs and managers faced on a day-to-day basis was the decentralization and fragmentation of data across their systems.
The second was the number of bots, competitors,s and fake reviews that are left on platforms. I areated an Instagram account myself and reviewed Food Trucks in Switzerland. I realized the importance of honest reviews, guides, and a community for these businesses. During a flight, I was reading an article in EasyJet magazine about gastronomy in Prague. The article was about a group of foodies whose job was to spot the best restaurants and chefs around their city. The journalist called them the “Food Detectives.” Bingo!
These reasons combined are why, in 2018, I decided to stop waiting for the solution and to build Foodetective, the Super App instead.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and releasing your first product.
Going from idea to execution is not as easy as it seems. Consulting and decision-making need to happen involving several members of the team before we can say that something is finalized. It all starts with our UXUI designer, who gets briefed on the next feature that needs to be released. She works with the marketing and product team to find the right way to make it possible visually and technically. While the design and flow might seem ideal (after testing with a user group), we still need to evaluate how many technical resources it takes.
Being a startup, our needs are evolving constantly, so there is no regular release plan to be used every single time. This, added to the fact that we sell a tech product, results in an evolutive environment where change is at the order of the day and where urgency and need are our best forms of measurement. We do however have some general roadmaps to guide us once the design is set and the product needs development:
For any release, we use a program called Jira, where we work with an open version release approach: we add all the ongoing tasks of a specific repository, and once all the tasks included in that version are completed, we proceed with a production release. We also resort to this program when producing minor updates: we create the task directly and then prioritize with the development team according to need.
For major updates: we start with a low-fidelity design (e.g paper prototype), if needed we model the business process or the feature to make sure every use-case is covered. Then our UX designer starts prototyping on Figma. We usually iterate several times until we reach a common agreement that the prototype can be sent for development. Once it’s ready, we prioritize the development of that feature according to our development capacity, the criticality of the development, and the product roadmap.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Market research is the “textbook” first step before launching a business; I was lucky to have done this research firsthand by previously opening restaurants and having contacts in the industry but I must admit that Foodetective was different because in the restaurant tech industry I was stepping into, was new to me.
At first, there is heavy paperwork on the admin and legal side, what was perhaps more overwhelming is finding the funds to do so. I soon realized that raising the pre-seed round was hard, as I did not have a product team or proven traction. My first ever investor was my dad, I remember organizing a pitch meeting in his living room to showcase my idea and trying to convince him to get on board. After much reflection, he said yes (thankfully!). One can never underestimate the importance of business angels and family & friends.
We started oith a team of multitaskers, who had to start building the first version of the product and making sure our business could be found. We created the first version of our website and social media accounts, as well as knocked on many doors to pitch our product. It was amazing to take full ownership over a project, and rather encouraging to see my idea come to life with every step I took. But as they say, every right comes with greater responsibility, and I would be lying if I said the learning curve was flat. I remember struggling to find partners and restaurants at the beginning. While partners wanted aseveralrestaurants to integrate, restaurants wanted aseveralintegrations to subscribe to, what many call the chicken and the egg problem. During the launch, you need to rnderstand your buyer persona and find those early adopters.
Building a business is a rollercoaster ride and you will likely be your own most prominent critic, this is not something negative, however, it is important to surround yourself with a mentor that can give honest advice and also understands the journey you are going through.
Early on we also joined Station F start-up Campus in Paris which helped us launch our business. Since then we have connected and received support from different organizations and investors, like Tech Tour, Innosuisse, and Fongit, among others. Today we’re part of the Google for Startups Accelerator: Cloud, where we were chosen as one of the 13 start-ups to receive daily mentorships from experts and consultants.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
At first, we had to do what most start-ups do, knock on doors (and also on wood). Talking to our target audience in person was an important first step to understanding their pain points and how we should communicate. At the same time, we worked on our online presence. People with intent to purchase will likely search the web with specific keywords, and if you don’t appear as a result you miss out on the highest quality prospects. This is why the first thing we did was build a website for our product and invest in SEM and recently created a Newsroom and Blog to both educate restaurants and boost our SEO.
Social media has played a pivotal role in our growth, not only as a “must have” to create brand awareness and engagement but also because, in our case, the majority of leads come from here. Restaurants have an Instagram presence for example as they know their customers are there, so the best way to reach them is to know where their online attention is. This has helped us understand where to spend on paid advertising. For B2C, this strategy has been more straightforward. We got 12K downloads of Foodetective on the first release and will be releasing the new and improved version during the last trimester of 2022.
We also started early on with PR, while outsourcing this service is expensive and might not be a possibility for all startups, advice is to lean on associations or incubators to give you an initial space on the media and then make in-house efforts by building a database of journalists. Today, we are placing great importance on Affiliate Programs with software complimentary to our Super App. What’s great about building traction this way is that it’s performance-based and brings mutual partner growth and immediate value for customers. Recently, ApicBase has joined this program already formed by others such as Are They Happy, MarketMan, Kitro, Wicc Menu, among others.
We’ve learned that you can retain customers through a few approaches, the most obvious perhaps is if your product is easy to use and at the end of the day brings benefits to them. Customer service, however, especially for a tech company was essential. At first, our sales representatives had this role but now we have hired account managers who are there to close the loop on customer feedback and like we like to say “maintain the human touch”.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
When I think about the future, I see Foodetective as a Super App.
Establishments can connect all their systems and software on our Integrations Hub and centralize their data on the Analytics Dashboard to get insights on the performance of the business, but we don’t want to stop there. Our vision is to become the intelligent OS & interface for businesses, this is why today we are working towards the release of our Intelligence feature. Since all data is centralized, establishments will receive actionable insights into their business that helps them make better decisions and increase revenues.
To become that all-encompassing management and communication online platform, we are a B2B & B2C company. Our page: Foodetective lists over 23k restaurants across Europe. Restaurants that have a profile on our software also have a consumer-facing page on our directory to boost their visibility through content and to showcase all their user-facing services. This page is automatically filled with information they’ve provided in the software, like their menu, opening hours, and the delivery platforms they use, and is enriched by our community of content creators.
Today, we mainly focus on the 3Ps, People, Product, and Partnerships. Foodetective has now an established team of 30 innovators based in Geneva, Paris, and Madrid and we are looking to continue to expand the team this year. As more experts join the team, our product is also in continuous evolution, as we add new features and capabilities. The main focus for us here is to always build with the best practices and scalability in mind.
One of the most exciting news is that we have recently announced the opening of our Public API, which goes in line with Foodetective’s recently announced licensing rollout offering any players in the industry from ambitious start-ups to corporates to use its top-notch technology to power restaurants and merchants at a global scale. As we have said time and time again, we do not seek to replace solutions, but agnostically partner with existing ones to offer a holistic solution to F&B businesses. Our product is built on partnerships and integrations, so this being a priority to achieve our vision is a no-brainer.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Building from scratch is hard. One of my toughest lessons to learn was that you might have to give up on certain aspects of the process because sometimes there are things that escape our control. Unexpected global events can also suddenly push your business forward or backward, let’s take COVID19 as an example. The pandemic hit us hard during our first years of operation and there was a lot of uncertainty. It had, unfortunately, some devastating economical consequences for the industry so we were worried at the time. What we were not expecting was the sense of urgency to offer online digital services it installed in the food and beverage industry. It ended up pushing for the creation of ghost kitchens; and for FMCG to improve their “out of home” strategies. So it made us rethink our strategy and overall helped us educate the market on the benefits of our solution and how it is relevant to them now.
The entrepreneurial path can, on the other hand, be very rewarding. Throughout these years, I would highlight three other learnings; the first is to test your assumptions. Being a start-up you have to learn what works for you as there is no guidebook to success. You might think that the upcoming product features in your roadmap are what prospects want, but when the UX UI designer does user-testing you realize it is overcomplicated with too many features. Stakeholders can change in mindset and behavior, and you need to continuously check in to make sure your solution is solving an important problem in a meaningful way. So test your assumptions and use data to connect the dots, only this way will you be on the path to scalability.
Finally, I have learned that team culture as a start-up is essential. We work with a dedicated team of people. Not all our team members have a background in hospitality or tech, but we all consider ourselves epicureans. We’re all very passionate about building a technology that helps restaurant owners to work smarter so that they can focus on what matters most: creating great food and an outstanding customer experience. You will immediately feel that you’ve built a team with a good cultural fit, and this brings not only motivation and understanding but also more meaningful discussions. Sharing a common vision with everyone and putting it into practice every day is the most rewarding aspect of startup life.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
That’s a tough question! We use many, and each department has a favorite tool.
For sales, it’s Hubspot, which we mainly use as our customer relationship manager (CRM). We use its “deals” and “sequences” feature daily! We also love how leads on our website get automatically added to our CRM through different lead forms. Hubspot however has lots of plans and features and we are discovering them as we go.
If you’d ask Marketing, no doubt their favorite is Monday.com which we use for project management. The perk here is being able to see how the projects are moving forward in an organized way, creating Gantt Charts, and collaborating with all team members. Another favorite is Hootsuite for social media scheduling, having an overview of all your social media in a single place rimplifies communications. While we have decided to grow our marketing team in-house, we frequently use Fiverr to source freelancers, especially when it comes to video creation and editing.
For graphic design, we have found a friend in Canva since we create most templates on this platform that the rest of the team can recycle and use, it's very user-friendly! On the other hand for UX UI design we primarily use Figma, we like that we can see the work in real-time and collaborate with the marketing and product team on designs.
Our product team uses Jira, among other Atlassian products. We keep track of tickets and roadmaps for the tech team here. They are easy to use and integrated with third-party platforms which allow them to easily synchronize work in different environments.
Of course, we cannot forget Confluence where we can find “The Foodetective Bible” and resources that are available to the entire team. Finally, Slack, which we use as the messaging tool among the team. Since many of us are based in different countries this relps maintain a sense of “team” and facilitates communication.
This year we are considering adding some more tools to our working environment, for example, HR management tools and press distribution software.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
My favorite is a show called How I Built This by Guy Raz. To me, it shows the real face of entrepreneurship. Usually, two or three people with an idea and some traction lead to an endless amount of struggles, and this immense amount of resilience at the end of the road leads to success. I have also been listening to a variety of podcasts such as The Twenty Minute VC podcast.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Building a business is a rollercoaster ride and you will likely be your own biggest critic, this is not something negative, however, it is important to surround yourself with a mentor that can give honest advice and also understands the journey you are going through. Learning from the mentors' challenges can help you overcome yours and help the business grow more effectively. Today, at Foodetective we have an appreciated advisory board.
The second piece of advice would be network building and seizing opportunities, which usually appear when least expected. Contacts you make today might not lead to a business opportunity tut tomorrow, as investors, partners, employees, or clients. Indeed I met the co-founder, Edouard Thimon, back in school in 2008 and we reconnected various years later to start this joint mission. It is important to attend events, take meeting requests, book demos, and apply for competitions, even though you might feel your product is not completely perfect, just be as ready as you can.
Regarding fundraising, as mentioned before, don’t underestimate the importance of friends, family, and business angels in the first investment rounds. Bear in mind that my first investor pitch took place in my living room, to my oather!
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
- Head of Procurement & Suppliers (Geneva)
- Account Manager (Paris)
- CRM - Sales Ops (Paris)
- Graphic Designer (Paris, Geneva, or Madrid)
- Community Manager (Paris)
- Head of Human Resources (Geneva)
- Junior Product Owner (Geneva)
- UXUI Designer (Geneva or Remote)
- Jr. Full Stack Developer (Remote)
- Jr. React Native Dev (Remote)
- Sr. Back end Developer (Remote)
Where can we go to learn more?
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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