Cooked up to help restaurateurs maintain their online presence, Nook is a one-stop system that simplifies updates.
This article is provided by the Deloitte Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
As more and more small enterprises jostle for position on the internet, maintaining visibility is always an issue. How can businesses reach the most customers with the least hassle? Keeping online profiles updated and managing transactions through all the different channels is complicated, time-consuming and often too expensive. But Luciana Custodio, founder of Nook, has a solution.
Take restaurants, for example. “It is increasingly important for restaurants to have an online presence,” says Custodio. “They know customers expect to be able to book a table or order food online. But it is very complicated for restaurants to keep their online profiles updated, whether that’s their own restaurant website or a booking or ordering site.”
A restaurant often has a presence on many different booking websites, plus its own website. When it wants to change information about its services – it may have a table available at late notice, or a special offer running on a weekend – that becomes difficult and time consuming. “If a restaurant sells with five different sites it has to go to five different places and update its inventory of tables,” says Custodio. “If it has 20 tables it can’t leave 20 tables on every site, because it might get overbooked, and it doesn’t have time to be controlling inventory everywhere.” This leaves restaurants limiting how many websites they work with, and limiting their visibility to prospective diners.
It is not just a problem for restaurants. The booking websites have the challenge of dealing with all the restaurants. It can be costly signing up restaurants, managing their information, and providing them with customer service.
Nook positions itself neatly in the middle of this relationship between the restaurants and the high traffic sites. It provides a software service for the restaurants that takes the hassle out of maintaining their online presence. “We put everything in one interface for them, so they only have to update menus, prices, promotions and table availability etc. in one place, and we distribute it automatically for all of the channels that they want sell with,” says Custodio.
And Nook covers the entire transaction, including menus, food and dining room photos, waiting lists, reservations and takeaway orders, all via the same system.
The technology is not over-complex, says Custodio, who has a long track record in the internet industry. It is relatively normal now for airlines or hotels to be using these kinds of systems, for example. Perhaps the greatest challenge is packaging the technology in a way that can be sold to small businesses.
“It has to be easy to manage,” she says. “These small restaurants may only have a few people working there. So they have to be able to manage it on their own. We give the restaurateur a tool that they put on the back end of their website, it doesn’t need IT support, special machines or printers. They can use their cell phone, tablet, computer – they all work. The interface is very easy to interact with – they can configure it themselves and be online in half an hour.”
It is no surprise Custodio chose restaurants as her first target for Nook. “I know the travel industry, and I worked with restaurants in my previous company,” she says. “And I like working with small businesses. When you sell to owners of small businesses you really have to add value or you won’t matter to them.”
Having refined her idea over several years, Custodio had a clear picture of what she wanted do when she finally took the opportunity to start her own business. With Hernán Kleiman, a developer she had worked with at her previous job, on board, it wasn’t long before a pilot site was up and running.
“Having a pilot gives you something to show people, to see if it really works in practice and get that initial feedback,” says Custodio. “Now we are close to getting a more robust version of the system, we are negotiating contacts with high traffic websites, and we have a number of restaurants ready to go.” Custodio has big plans for Nook. “We want to empower small business owners and give them access to the latest technology in a simple and affordable way,” she says. “That’s what motivates us to get up in the morning and work hard.