How We Developed A $36K/Year Tool To Help Restaurants Sell More Online
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello, I’m Aaron, the GM of Maynuu. I’m 43 years old and live in sunny Singapore. I ran a restaurant for 13 years and a bakery for 7 years. I sold them both in 2019 to learn how to code and pursue my first love - web development.
& I’m Wafiq, the CEO of Maynuu. I’m 35 and originally from Malaysia, currently living everywhere as a digital nomad. I was a software developer and tech lead for 10 years, now I work on Maynuu full-time.
(Fun fact: we have been working together since the pandemic broke out and have never met! We finally met for the first time this month, September 2022, when Wafiq visited Aaron in Singapore.)
Maynuu helps small restaurant owners make more money online.
Food shops can use our system to digitalize their menu and streamline their entire online ordering process. This includes everything from delivery and takeaway orders, to reservations, as well as QR code ordering for in-house customers.
We built this to help our restaurateur friends who were struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic lockdowns, your friendly neighborhood diner, and the Mom & Pops shops of the world. People who are what I (Aaron) used to be.
Last month we made about $4,300 with average monthly revenue of $3,050 in the last 12 months. Growing about 200% in the last year. This may sound like very little in USD, however, when you convert it to MYR (Malaysian Ringgit), we’re making enough to support at least 3 full-time Malaysian team members at present.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’m (Aaron) an ex-restaurateur of 13 years turned self-taught web developer.
I’ve always been interested in computer programming but never had the resources to dive into it properly. After I sold my businesses in 2019, I grabbed the opportunity to become a student again and put together my curriculum to learn how to code.
I launched my startup because I was pissed off with how the big food delivery platforms are gouging small restaurants with exorbitant fees. It was born out of frustration and personal experience. To this day, I still get fired up every time I talk about it.
Maynuu is the tool I wish I had as a restaurateur all those years ago. My viral Twitter thread says it all.
At the height of the pandemic, strict lockdowns meant many restaurants could only offer takeout & delivery services. Dining in was not allowed. This affected the livelihoods of many indie restaurants, one of whom was my good friend who runs their family restaurant.
My idea was to build a very simple website where their customers could easily place orders online. Then, each order is simply forwarded to the restaurant via one channel - WhatsApp (very widely used here in Southeast Asia). In its first iteration, I named it Jam Pony Delivery, after the Jam Pony X-Press bicycle courier service seen in the early 2000’s sci-fi series ‘Dark Angel’.
The B2B sales process can be a long one, so we hired a sales consultant during the early onboarding days. We paid them out of pocket as we are self-funded.
Similarly, I (Wafiq) wanted to help my brother’s café business. He had 3 outlets when the pandemic broke out and business was badly affected by lockdown regulations. Food delivery platforms charged an exorbitant 30-40% commission on each transaction. This is unaffordable for small eateries. I felt I could build him a better solution. I named it Maynuu because it was launched in May, and it’s an online me'nu' system.
We were developing our ideas independently, unaware of each other. One day, I (Aaron) saw a tweet about this online ordering system made by this dude in Malaysia (Wafiq). I LOVED what he was building - because we both came from the same place of wanting to help the people we care about. I had been stuck on a coding issue, and on a whim decided to reach out to Wafiq for help. He was very kind and generous with his time and gave me pointers on how to solve the issue.
The “aha” moment came when other restaurants asked if they could have the same website we were building for our friends & family. This is when we decided to turn it into a SaaS, where businesses can sign up and create their menus independently. At the time Wafiq was still working full-time as a corporate tech lead, and Aaron was doing freelance F&B consulting and web development for SMBs.
Long story short, as time went on, we got to know each other and decided to merge both our projects into what is now known as Maynuu (despite never having met IRL!). A modern-day startup story!
We knew this was the right idea to work on because
- It felt good - we were helping the Mom & Pops shops, backbones of our communities
- Restaurants & other small businesses saw the value immediately
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
I like to sketch with pencil & paper, then quickly cobble something together using frameworks and technologies that I know.
This is the earliest version of what was then still a glint in my mind’s eye. As pre-MVPs go, this is as crude and hacky as it gets!
Early ordering page prototype
Over time this evolved into something more elegant.
Maynuu present-day ordering page
We made the interface Excel-like because Excel is something most people are familiar with, bearing in mind that our target market may not always be the most tech-savvy.
It’s possible to build something like this on your own using a no-code platform or site builder.
However, the difficulty lies in having to register for several different accounts just to get it up and running. For example, you’ll need to set up and pay for: web hosting, a CMS, payment processors, courier services, etc., and the list goes on. For every additional integration or tool you need, there are myriad plugins to choose from - no self-respecting restaurant owner has time for this!! All of this adds up: time, energy, and money-wise.
With Maynuu, you only need 'one login' and everything is readily integrated for you:
- QR Code Table Ordering
- Online Ordering
- Automated Delivery
- Courier services
- Payment methods & payment processors
All you have to do is upload your menu!
As we grow, what has been working well so far is proving unsustainable. They are time and energy-consuming, and not scalable. We are starting to put systems in place to create a sales & marketing engine. We are still learning and experimenting.
Describe the process of launching the business.
We started by onboarding friends’ and family’s businesses. Mostly people that we knew, whom we could work closely with to get early feedback to iterate and improve the product.
When we felt ready, we opened it to the public. The B2B sales process can be a long one, so we hired a sales consultant during the early onboarding days. We paid them out of pocket as we are self-funded.
We started seeing a lot of signups almost immediately, as word of mouth spread steadily. To be honest, we didn’t have much of a strategy at first. We had planned to take it slow, but we got “lucky” because we filled a gap in the market.
We launched at the right time - it was at the height of the pandemic and many small businesses needed a solution that wasn’t fleecing them of their rightful revenues.
Unlike most tech startups, we never launched on Product Hunt because our B2B SaaS was specific to Malaysia and Singapore. We were also not sure how many restaurant owners spend time browsing PH.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
What has not worked:
- Twitter and Reddit (restaurant owners in Malaysia & Singapore don’t hang out there)
- Hiring sales agents (hard to motivate, and we are not good people managers)
What has worked:
- Trade shows
- Word-of-mouth referrals
- Cold outreach via Instagram DM
Here’s a real example of one of the early DMs we sent to restaurants on Instagram (back then we were only focusing on the delivery feature. We’ve since added more features like Reservations and QR Table Ordering).
IMHO the DM is nothing special, but our reply rate was 25% and the signup rate was 10%. I just get straight to the point. I think somewhere in there it does adhere to the AIDA formula.
As we grow, what has been working well so far is proving unsustainable. They are time and energy-consuming, and not scalable. As of September 2022, we are starting to put systems in place to create a sales & marketing engine. We are still learning and experimenting, but this is what it’s going to look like:
- Convert website into a 24x7 salesperson for our SaaS
- Host and/or participate in webinars
- Strategic partnerships
- LinkedIn prospecting
- Content marketing
- Facebook ads
- Demo videos
- SEO content
My only advice, about building features and marketing, is to ship early and ship often. This is the only way you’ll learn what is and isn’t working.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Maynuu has been profitable almost from the get-go due to a well-thought-out, logical business model (in contrast to this). As of September 2021, we have been comfortably supporting core team members with full-time salaries.
Today our team remains small, as we prefer to keep it lean and nimble.
We have many plans for the future. In the pipeline are a consumer app, marketing tools, full customization features, POS integration, Southeast Asian expansion, and global distribution.
Global distribution is one of the projects I’m most excited about. We are announcing it publicly for the first time here on Starter Story!
So what is it? Maynuu’s software does not only empower restaurants - but we also empower entrepreneurs and digital agencies. For example, if you’ve always wanted to launch your UberEats for a niche audience, we have the plug & play solution for you, with essential integrations ready to go. All you have to do is focus on sales and marketing; we take care of all the tech for you.
You could say we are evolving into a platform for platforms - a meta platform so to speak.
This is something that no one else is offering. Most other platforms out there are fuelled by ego and want their branding and logo splashed everywhere. They thrive on capitalism and fight for market dominance. Whereas, we are happy to work behind the scenes as a white-label solution partner.
We already have several entrepreneurs running their agencies and platforms in Malaysia and Singapore, and are currently in talks with potential partners across the globe from the Americas to Eastern Europe.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
While this is not my (Aaron’s) first time starting a business, it is my first SaaS. Building and marketing a B2B service is a whole other ball game altogether, it’s been quite the ride!
I’ve learned that often you’re too close to your product to realize that the market doesn’t think about it the way you do. Not everyone will see eye-to-eye with you (and that’s okay!)
Some will try and put you down or take advantage of you despite your best intentions. Others are willing to pay the big platforms’ high fees because they provide the “reach”. Fair enough! Maynuu is not for everyone – and we prefer to keep it that way.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We are both Ruby developers, so naturally, Maynuu is built with Ruby on Rails, jQuery, and Slim, hosted on DigitalOcean. Our tech stack may sound dated to some, however, experience has taught us to use battle-tested technologies and of industrial strength.
We are proudly part of the Twitter indie-maker community, so we use many indie-made productivity tools throughout the day. To name a few:
- Llama Life by Marie Ng
- Otto by Joel Benjamin
- ThreadStart by Felix Scholz
- Xnapper by Tony Dinh
- Peeks by Rik Nieu
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Podcast: I find most podcasts very boring but this one isn’t.
Books: These were my early guides to keeping customers happy, starting a business, and how to run it like a well-oiled machine. Applicable to both brick & mortar and SaaS businesses.
- Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
- Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson
- The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
These are helping me to think about Maynuu differently and smartly:
And this is because anything by Derek is pure delight and awesomeness.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
If you’re just starting out:
- Validate, validate, validate!
- Don’t even build an MVP. Build a ‘clickable prototype’ and get at least 3 paying customers.
- Take the money first. If things don’t work out, you can always refund them later.
Learn as much as you can, but never copy what others do verbatim.
Always add your unique personality and flavor, and don’t be afraid to pivot, adjust, and iterate many times along the way.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
No, we’re not currently hiring. However!~ If you are a;
- social media management agency
- the web development studio
- marketing agency
And! Your clientele comprises restaurants and other retail businesses…
And! You want to offer or integrate a simple online ordering system into their website…
Or! You are an entrepreneur with an idea to launch your platform or niche marketplace…
…let’s talk at [email protected]. I will be happy to show you a demo of what’s possible and your limitless earning potential.
Where can we go to learn more?
Thank you for reading this far - you are a rare and special kind of creature in our modern-day attention-deficit world! Eternally grateful if you wish to support or learn more about Maynuu via:
All the best in your entrepreneurship journey - it’s one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. We’re always happy to make new friends, too. Get in touch with us on our personal Twitter accounts if you have further questions or would like to just share memes.
Sending you calmness and strength ✨
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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