Guess Who's Coming to Beirut? Quandoo, That's Who
Quandoo is a Berlin-based online reservation system used by over 6,000 restaurants in 13 countries across Europe, South Africa, Singapore, and now, Lebanon. Founded in 2012, the company poses as a major European rival to OpenTable and claims to be particularly effective in Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Turkey and Poland.
Here’s how the site works. Customers can log on to book a table at a specified date and time for a restaurant of their choosing, granted it’s subscribed to Quandoo, of course.
The restaurant, when it purchases space on Quandoo, optimizes its profile with meaningful content, such as a description, high resolution pictures, a map and an excerpt from the menu. “Qualified reviews,” not quite sure who’s supplying those, allow the restaurant to exhibit its “expertise and excellence.” There's also a rating based out of five stars and likely amalgamated from said reviews.
In return, Quandoo offers restaurateurs a modular commerce platform, including a reservation management system, a yield management tool and an integrated cashier that enables them to market to local consumers. Supposedly, restaurateurs can drive utilization in low-traffic times and generate additional business on-demand.
There are already reviews up for the 128 restaurants listed in Beirut. However, only the reviewer’s first name and initial of her last name is noted (e.g., Hanine E. or Micheline A.) with nothing else—no profile, no photo, no nothing. That will probably get fleshed out before Quandoo’s official launching in Lebanon.
If you’re a consumer, you can refine your restaurant search by cuisine (e.g., Burger & American, Coffee & Cake, Gourmet, Bars & Pubs, Latin American, etc.); district (the majority are in Hamra, Mar Mikhael, Gemmayze and Downtown); price range (between $ and $$$$$); and meal type (e.g., lunch, cocktails, dessert).
You can also specify Accompaniment (very strange wording—surely the copywriter is German), or rather companion(s): friends, a group, a date, family, a dog, a baby, children, a business partner, or—my favorite—“to impress someone.”
Atmosphere is straightforward enough: relaxed, cosy, simple, vintage, rustic, and so on. I love that Quandoo lets you know what facilities the restaurant offers, including Wi-Fi, parking availability, and payment type (whether and which cards are accepted).
The one thing that frazzles me is what a restaurant partnered with Quandoo were to do if its rating declined? Would Quandoo boot the restaurant, refusing to feature an unpopular venue that didn't bide well with diners? Or would the restaurant itself discontinue its profile on the site, as it would certainly be harmful to business and keep potential customers at bay?
In Lebanon, there are two competitors I’m aware of. There’s ReserveOut, which is unique to the Arab cities of Amman, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Manama, Doha, Jeddah, and Beirut. In Beirut, ReserveOut has 31 restaurants on its slate. There’s also serVme, which tallies 32 partner venues in Lebanon. And yes, I've already noticed that a restaurant can sign up with more than one platform—I guess there’s no competitors’ clause.
I’m very interested to see how Quandoo will fare in Beirut, whether it will take off or fall flat on its face. By default, Lebanese love to book by phone, requesting a specific table or seat arrangement. Mature diners don't typically require other customers’ feedback about their favorite joints, and thus the use of such a tool would prove superfluous. It’s the restaurateur, ultimately, who has to decide whether the means justify the ends, and whether the tool really delivers on its bottom line with the analytics it promises.
If ReserveOut and serVme are any gauges of the mainstream, I personally don’t see Quandoo shaking up the Lebanese dining scene and becoming indispensable. Lebanon is too small a scale for this tool to be powerful.