Free Business Idea #1: DineTogether

I just had a really lovely dinner with friends at the Piedmont Tavern at Piedmont Park here in Atlanta. This park is one of my favorite spots, and these friends brought great conversation to the meal.

This is an exception rather than a rule for most of my meals dining out. Frequently I’m only eating out when I’m working and not willing to cook or traveling and not able to cook. Still, I think there’s a lot of value to spending your meals trading knowledge and building new connections with other people.

Enter “dinesharing,” in this first of my free business idea posts.

None of this is real, but I’d love to see someone make it so. These blogs are just an exercise in my own creativity and my own insights into how someone might execute on random ideas I have.

What am I proposing?

With mobile restaurant table-sharing app DineTogether, solo or group diners at any restaurant in the country can join other solo diners or diner groups during the course of their meal.

With diners paired on compatible interests and backgrounds, DineTogether creates real networking opportunities for young professionals who often eat alone.

How does it work?

DineTogether is a smartphone application which functions like a marketplace, pairing up solo restaurant diners who want to eat with other interesting and creative and influential people.

DineTogether users create profiles which detail their professional and personal interests, accomplishments, and current pursuits. Users are also geotracked. When they activate the app, they’re immediately paired with a local nearby diner who meets basic criteria for a good match (criteria TBD).

Diners are rated on a five-star system similar to Uber or Lyft, and diners see each others’ profiles in advance of seating, meaning that they can approach each other with little fear.

In this first iteration, DineTogether is entirely invisible to the restaurant. Users simply explain that they are meeting a seated customer and join the table of the first of the pair or group to arrive.

Who is the target user?

The initial customer persona is the solo male young professional diner in his mid-20s to mid-30s. His business/work is the primary focus, and he often eats alone due to high work demands at the office or because he is traveling for work.

Why would the target user want to use it?

Young professionals have limited time. They want to use their time valuably. That’s why they’re dining alone – they just don’t choose to use their time to organize get-togethers with friends.

Young professionals also need to build networks. Again, they rarely have time to set aside, and when they do, they’ll go to stale “networking events,” that lack the shared context a meal provides.

DineTogether makes it possible to network and form interesting connections in the course of a 30-minute lunch anywhere you go. You might never know when the hiring manager or investor or journalist who could give you your big break is at the next table over. With its database of user profiles, DineTogether does – and it can put you in a position to connect with the people who can move the needle for your career.

How does this make money?

DineTogether’s main revenue source is native advertising for local restaurants and affiliate marketing for restaurant groups. It would also be possible to charge for the app on a plan subscription model per month ($15 per month gets you unlimited DineTogether meetings) or per-use (A gratuity of $1 per DineTogether meetings for each user).

If in future, more complex implementations of the app, DineTogether partnered directly with restaurants (to allow for restaurant profiles, etc), revenue could be sourced directly as a percentage of the ticket cost Since meal payments would be processed automatically via PayPal accounts or credit cards linked in the app, payments would seamless for the customer and get settled to the merchant without any need for a physical check. A side effect is that this would decrease the amount of time needed to process a given table and increase turnover (or at least keep it steady).

What’s promising about this idea’s implementation?

DineTogether requires no training. A restaurant visitor can download the app for free, set up a basic profile, and use the app to get a shared table within a restaurant’s five-minute wait time for a table.

DineTogether’s initial version can also go live without any need for integration with restaurant business or training of restaurant staff. The ball is only in the court of the user, so making it a priority to improve their experience will be straightforward.

What will be the challenges of implementation?

A big challenge to app adoption is network effect. If other diners in a restaurant or a high-density zone for restaurants are not using the app, DineTogether users may not get a match.

Another challenge is implementing good matching within a limited adoption range/demographic, some of whom might know each other (tech is a small word) and some of who might hate each other (tech is a small world).

Still, a sufficiently skilled team with a few pinpointed restaurants could quickly confirm a strong use case for the idea behind the app.

Think you’re the right person to do this? Be my guest. This idea is free, all.

James Walpole

James Walpole is a writer, startup marketer, and perpetual apprentice. You're reading his blog right now, and he really appreciates it. Don't let it go to his head, though.

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