Quandoo was born in Germany and set out to ‘disrupt’ the restaurant reservations space since competitors like Open Table were charging a fortune for the service. That’s what they told us when we signed up shortly after they launched in the UK.
Having recently read Blue Ocean Shift I now understand what it truly means to be a disruptor versus developing new business ideas to (Blue Ocean) Shift the business into a completely different dimension. ‘Disruptor’ is, sadly, an overused word meaning “doing the same as other people with a small twist”.
Quandoo’s angle was to charge differently. You had a smaller monthly license fee plus the standard cover charge for reservations made through their own website. Quandoo’s ‘disruption’ was that they would use their smaller revenue to direct customers to your website so you would save money since bookings made through your own website were free. And in the beginning this was true and we saved about 50% of our Open Table costs.
The corporate buy-out
In 2015 Japan’s Recruit bought Quandoo as part of its “long-term vision to become the number one group in global matching”. Nothing really changed in 2015, and no announcement was forthcoming from Quandoo to us as a partner restaurant. As 2016 rolled along, the monthly charges jumped and it was clear that something had changed at Quandoo, although no clarification was given. Quandoo had a make-over and started to look and feel like many of the other players in the space, from companies like Hardens to Bookatable and beyond. No explanation was forthcoming as to why the costs were going up, but it was clear more covers were being sold through Quandoo directly (you can see this today in search results as Quandoo appears at the top sending clicks to their website for their partner restaurants). This meant the marketing had shifted back to the traditional model. Given our discovery (as of late 2017) of Recruit’s acquisition, this made perfect sense.
Back to the Red Ocean
However, it is not how the service was sold to us and left a bad taste in the mouth as there was no interest in addressing this discrepancy. We’re now paying about the same as we were with OpenTable, but with a whole new world of pain points …
Recruit had their own ideas about how the platform should operate and introduced a succession of changes and new services without advising, consulting, training, or – so it appeared – even testing the technology. It was back to the Red Ocean (a term from the Blue Ocean Shift book which describes the market in which the majority of players compete with similar business models for the same customers).
Here’s a short list of key failures:
One day we started to get emails from Quandoo with ‘customer voicemails’ attached. These were few and far between and had a zero second sound file attached with no contact details or other information identifying who the customer might be. We have no idea to this day if the customer actually left a voicemail (via Quandoo’s own bespoke number for our restaurant) or was expecting a call-back as we literally had nothing to go on. We’re also not on email 24/7 so sometimes did not see the email until the next day. We asked for the service to be stopped, but it seemed to keep going. A couple of guests commented on this service and were not impressed. At least when we had real missed calls or voicemails, we could call the guest back but not so with this system.
Quandoo ‘Cinema-style’ Booking
Meejana is a higher-end restaurant. We’re not a chain or fast-food joint and personal service is important to our guests. Many are regulars and like to talk to us, especially as we have a rapport with them and understand their needs. But, Quandoo introduced (again, without any notice or ability to disable) an automated system of ‘press 1 to book, type in the time, type in the date, type in the number of guests,’ etc, etc. It usually didn’t work and several guests commented that they tried a few times to book, taking up to 30 minutes in one case, before giving up. The regulars then called directly, But I am sure many others just went elsewhere. Our guests were not happy that Meejana had introduced this, and we were quick to point out that we were, unfortunately, just as infuriated since Quandoo had introduced it without consultation or even testing (apparently). We think we managed to get it stopped, but can’t quantify how many potential bookings we lost as a result – booking numbers reduced after Quandoo started introduced these new ‘features’ yet costs still significantly increased.
Quandoo SMS Confirmation
Another genius booking idea was that, after you managed to complete the tortuous telephone endurance, Quandoo sends the guest an SMS to confirm the booking. Well, in one sentence it says ‘confirmed’ but also includes a special link you actually have to click to confirm the booking. And this link usually fails over UK mobile networks (as demonstrated by a guest). We had two occasions where a guest arrived with a booking (and showed us the message) but there was no booking in the reservation system because of this failure. On one occasion, the guests were ‘booked’ on a Saturday night. Full restaurant. No space. And a 4-top turns up with a ‘booking’ that Quandoo has messed up. We managed to juggle tables and add them in, but they were unhappy with our restaurant as we get the blame for situations like this. We haven’t seen them since.
Quandoo called and wanted to have a meeting to discuss our account. I thought this was to sort out these issues, but the guy arrived and tried to sell us an integrated EPOS system. This is when we found out that Recruit had bought Quandoo and was now integrating other products and upselling all customers on their adoption. He got ‘both barrels’ about the problems and left with no sale.
Here we went again. I had an email one day that said we could set up ‘specials’ via Quandoo. There was very little to go on and trying to follow the steps to enable it failed. There was also nothing in their support knowledgebase. After a couple of months, I found out that you could run a special offer (a promotion) to try to fill tables when you were usually quiet via a pre-paid set menu. Instead of calling this by its name, they called it ‘smart offers’ to make it sound special and unique and there were all sorts of terms and conditions (and commissions) associated with it. I declined the offer as this isn’t how we do business. We didn’t want to bathe in that Red Ocean, thank you!
Our Blue Ocean Shift
We started discussing our needs with other suppliers and found a suitable company that had been doing what they said they would do for many years. After some discussion, we decided to go ahead, and a quick search on Quandoo suggested our contract was on 30 days notice. We gave notice and then discovered that our contract was actually on a special term which required a minimum of 3 months notice before the end of the annual term, or the term would automatically renew for another 12 months. I’m sure there was a conversation about ‘not tieing you in’ when we signed up since Quandoo was sure you would be happy and not want to go elsewhere. In our case, this meant giving notice before the start of October (it was then December). So much for being a ‘disruptor’ other than to disrupt the customers’ actual booking experience and our business as a result. Caveat Emptor. Another year rolled by,
So, when our contract finally terminated at the end of 2018, we said goodbye from us. The only disruption they seemed to create was one that annoyed our guests and lost us bookings. I’ll leave you with a goodbye from them …