From QA to Culinary School: My Journey to SevenRooms
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2018 was a truly transformative year for SevenRooms. This past year we celebrated our 7-year anniversary and achieved milestones that seemed simply unimaginable when we started. These included:
In this letter, I’m excited to share more about our journey, what we accomplished this year and where we’re going in 2019. One thing is certain, none of this would have been possible without you -- our clients -- who are our dear partners and friends.
From the beginning, your success has always been our success
From Day 1, we decided to focus solely on building technology for you, the operator. That meant a conscious decision to not build a dedicated consumer-facing platform.
It was an unconventional bet, and in the early days -- and even at times today -- operators and investors wondered why we didn’t build a consumer booking portal. In our minds it was simple: having a consumer portal would ultimately divide our resources (e.g. should we build a new feature for the operator or the consumer?) and misalign our interests with our operator partners (e.g. should we direct the guest back to the consumer platform or the operator?). We knew with certainty that if we were competing to own those guest relationships, instead of helping to build them, it wouldn’t be in the best interest of our operators.
The answer was always crystal clear to us: we would focus 100% of our resources and attention on building the best system in the world for operators. This meant focusing on delivering a platform that gave operators access to more guest data through direct reservations, versus owning those channels ourselves. After all, there were already several great consumer-facing booking channels out there. Did consumers really need (or want) another discovery and booking portal? We believed that empowering operators with technology was the best way we could enable them to build direct relationships and create amazing experiences for guests. In doing so, we would always be 100% aligned with our clients – a true partner. Your success would be our success.
Seven years of obsession with our customers
When we started, our vision was to give operators the tools they needed to deliver exceptional experiences at scale. As we met with operators in the early days, we noticed they were often frustrated with their technology providers -- who consistently over-promised and under-delivered on key features and customer support. Moreover, they were skeptical of our intentions and even more jaded about our promises to deliver operator-first technology -- a concept that was unheard of at the time. Undeterred, we entered every conversation with eyes and ears wide open, with a “yes, I don’t see why not” mentality as our default. We had no baggage, no rigid institutional frameworks to hold us back. We always said yes when others said no.
One of my proudest moments was hearing Angela Stowell, former CEO of Ethan Stowell Restaurants, tell me: “You know SevenRooms isn’t like all the other companies that pitch us. You don’t talk about what everyone else is doing. You don’t talk about how your system compares. You just talk about what you’re doing and how it helps us.”
Our sincere willingness to listen and learn in true partnership with the operator is the reason why we have been able to bring real innovation to the industry. In fact, much of what the industry considers to be standard in 2019, we introduced years ago. Looking back, we are so proud of all the ‘firsts’ we accomplished together since launching seven years ago:
Seven years later, the impact of our decision to focus exclusively on the operator has been profound.
Call us biased, but SevenRooms has the most advanced feature set for front of house operations on the market today. Our reservation, seating and guest management system can be found in over 250 cities, from New York and London to Dubai and Hong Kong and everywhere in between. Stack our capabilities up against any other system – we like our chances.
And the numbers don’t lie. In 2018, we saw over 300% growth in our customer base, and had 92% of restaurant groups who trialed our product expand their rollouts group-wide. Most importantly, it’s validated by our happy clients, with a more than 99% client retention rate across all markets.
This is where we win time and time again: when operators get their hands on our software and see the impact it has on their operations and the guest experience.
Moving forward with a continued commitment to you
Entering 2019, we are at the forefront, happily pushing forward innovation in an industry that has been yearning for it. Together with you, we have created a new blueprint for success.
As we look forward, the road ahead will certainly be challenging, with many capable competitors trying to catch up. We haven’t always been in this position, and we won’t stay here long without a continued willingness to listen and learn and an unwavering commitment and alignment with you.
2019 will perhaps be the most challenging year ever for the restaurant industry -- with minimum wage increases, new regulation, and rising rents, to name a few. Through this, we remain as committed as ever to serving you. Our partnership and true alignment will be more important than ever before.
In our continued spirit of innovation, we are releasing a new product in 2019 that we believe will change the game for restaurant operators, helping to boost revenue and mitigate the impact of the changing industry tides. We can’t wait to share what we have in store.
At your service, so you can be at theirs,
Joel and the SevenRooms team
P.S. You made it this far… so check out pictures of all the fun we had this year!