Because of social distancing, a lot of local restaurants are in financial distress (they need an injection of lump sum of cash).
To help support them, I started out by ordering takeouts daily from a local restaurant
But then I realized, it would make more sense to help them raise money in the form of gift cards. The money can provide them a cushion now and they will have time to pay it off when the world is safe again for business.
But this has to be a collective effort to have meaningful impact but at the same time, I think it will be a challenge to get many people to participate if there is no incentive.
So to create a win-win situation, I thought of adding discounts on top of the gift cards. The system is set up so early action taker are rewarded with the the highest discount rate at 30% (first week of promotion). Then every proceeding week, the discount will decrease by 5% (i.e. 25% the next week, 20% after) with a 10% floor. The decrement is so the campaign can sustain over a meaningful period.
What it does
My platform helps local restaurants raise capital from fans in times of financial crisis by issuing discounted gift cards.
How I built it
The web platform was built with VueJS (Nuxt), Bulma CSS, JS, CSS, HTML, and hosted on Netlify.
Challenges I ran into
Time was precious because I had a late start. I began conceptualizing the idea on Friday evening. Builded the platform on Saturday. And iterated on Sunday from the feedbacks I gathered.
At Microsoft, I write software to interface different hardwares. So while I am familiar with coding, web development is an area outside of my expertise.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
The amount of progress I was able to make over one weekend.
From coming up with the idea, to building the web platform, then designing and creating presentation material, and finally tapping into my network to get feedback on it.
What I learned
A lot can be accomplished in a weekend. If you have a strategy and a line of sight to reach it, you can move pretty fast because you don’t fall into the analysis paralysis trap. A tight deadline is how you make the most out of your time because you prioritizes are aligned.
There is a time where you want to follow proper coding practices but sometimes doing things that are not optimal can be ideal if you want to move fast.
When getting feedbacks, you want to draw from a diverse group of people . Some of the best feedbacks that I got were from those who work outside of tech. Another note about getting feedbacks: one thing I've discovered is that many people are very welcoming when it comes to providing advices. So definitely take advantage of it.
Overall, I think I’ve learn a lot about becoming a better problem solver from this project.
What's next for Hungry Restaurants
So many things! At it stands, it is a chicken and an egg problem. The challenge is getting both participants and restaurants to be on the platform. Since a lot of companies are already sending daily emails to cover COVID19, it would a quick solution to get the words out to the participants if Hungry Restaurants is featured. It would be a big if the companies sponsoring this event (ie. Microsoft, FB, etc.) are collaborating and setting the first examples.
The rest of my next steps of solving this challenge can be found here: link
Updates (March 31, 2020)
While submission for this hackathon is over, I am continuing with the project to see whether it can be feasible.
Firstly, I made cold calls a few local restaurants and I've learned a few things. A lot of them seem to be experimenting with new ideas (i.e. go on Grubhub) are looking for new way to generate revenue for their restaurants. They seem receptive to my idea. Although I could should lower the discount rate from 30% to 20%.
Secondly, I found that a lot of restaurants are already offering gift cards which now makes it even easier to get them on board. It's a matter of getting the word out to them and having them agree to participate in the promotion campaign. There's so many restaurants to still reach out so I am pushing the promotion period back 1 week.
Thirdly, I've found that cold calling is not be the best channel to reach them because I am interfering with their business line. So instead, I am testing email + FB messaging now.
Lastly, to approach this chicken/egg problem, I will build the restaurant list first. And drive traffic to the website through social media outlet (news, blogs, etc). It's rather interesting how much this idea might need to be iterated now that I am interfacing with people I am serving through this platform. It shows that you can speculate all day on an idea but you won't really know until you test it out. Live.
Updates (April 1, 2020)
Happy April fools and the beginning of Q2 2020. Today I took on a different spin to get this working. I sent over 20 emails to restaurants in the Seattle Area. My response rate was very poor despite the brevity of my email (I asked if they would like to be listed on the platform).
I have a feeling it's because these restaurants are in panic mode making them hesitant to explore new ideas that are "unproven". Luckily, I got in touched with Seattle Met and we're in the discussion of driving this idea through their content. If this goes through, this will greatly add "credibility" and instill confidence in the restaurants.
Lastly, I took a step backward and realized, it would be much easier to just list the restaurants on my platform. And then approach them with my proposition. If they agree, I will leave them on the site. If they disagree, I can remove them. This will greatly lower the inertia of collaborating with them.
Updates (April 3, 2020)
What a weird turn of events. While I was scrolling through my linkedin feed, I found a similar project that was getting traction in the Toronto/Boston region. And more interestingly enough, the founder of the project was someone from my alma mater. We connected over the phone and I'm moving forward by joining their team on expanding it to the Seattle region. They've got a pretty robust system set up which would really help in hitting the grounds faster. Hungry Restaurants was a great learning experience for me and I look forward to taking my learnings to GiftForward link
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