A no-reservations payment solution
EatClub is a mobile app set up to enable restaurants to offer short notice deals and discounts to diners. “I wanted to help restaurants improve profitability by filling all their tables at the last minute, using dynamic pricing,” said Pan Koutlakis, who co-founded EatClub in 2017 with a team including Michelin-starred chef Marco Pierre-White.
"A restaurant might open at 6pm and find it has one remaining table vacant at 7pm – just that one. Or maybe the weather changes and the restaurant thinks they might need more help generating footfall. Either way, the manager goes into the app and posts an offer, for example 25% off the bill, for a defined number of customers and time period,” Pan explained.
Meanwhile, app users – diners – use the EatClub app to search for restaurants offering deals. They can see the 25% off deal for as long as it’s valid – they can claim it, and head over to the restaurant.
EatClub launched in Australia where it is now available in all major cities, and in 2019 the team opened its first international location, New York City, US.
The need for a payments solution
"When we started out in Australia, we were just using a bank debit facility and it was a highly manual process. Different companies had different numbers of restaurants – we’d pretty much have to enter the amount we were going to charge to each company individually,” Pan said.
“Early on, we had 600-700 restaurants signed up, and we knew that as we scaled further this process would become impossible to keep up with,” he said.
The process took 2 days per month and if still using today this process would take 1 week per month. We needed a solution that allowed us to easily bill unique amounts from 1000s of different vendors."
There was an impact on the company’s finances, too. “There were so many transactions to schedule and manage, we couldn’t collect everything in one run. We had to batch process, so we often received payments later than they were due. And because reconciliation was also a manual process, there were further delays in checking that payments had been received – and therefore delays identifying missed payments.”
The EatClub team had big plans to grow the business so they needed a Direct Debit payments solution that would scale with them. Enter GoCardless.
The proof is in the pudding
EatClub was already using Xero for its accounting solution, and the GoCardless integration for Xero was quick and simple to implement.
We were up and running in about a week from talking to GoCardless, including some initial discussions, and we’ve never looked back. The move to GoCardless was completely invisible to our restaurant partners, too. They simply continued to be Direct Debited in the way they were before.”
There are three key areas of the GoCardless solution that stand out for Pan. He said:
1. Saving time through reducing workloads with automation
“The automation between GoCardless and Xero has reduced admin time right down. Invoices are uploaded to Xero – which we were already doing – and get automatically passed to GoCardless and automatically charged. It means the finance team can focus more of their time on more valuable or strategic tasks.” “If we were still running the old manual processes on our current customer base, it would take the same people a week to do. That’s a huge amount of time and money we’re saving by automating the process.”
2. Improving cash flow with better visibility
“We can now instantly charge all of our monthly Direct Debits at once, rather than having to do it over an extended period of time, so we receive our payments earlier.” “In addition, we get the portal and a lot more transparency for our finance team to go in and see what’s going on. If something does happen, the error messages are incredibly detailed. You can understand immediately what has happened, and what the fix is – you don’t need to investigate and spend time asking a lot of questions.”
3. A better end-customer experience with online sign-ups
“When we arrived in the US and started onboarding restaurants, we saw that the US had a legacy of cheques and bank-to-bank transfers, which are expensive and time-consuming to manage. With GoCardless, we already knew we had an online payments solution that worked, with an incredibly simple online sign-up process that would make it easy to get customers on board.”
Today, 100% of US customers’ payments go through GoCardless and 65% of EatClub’s payments globally. EatClub hopes to see this increase as the company continues to expand.
“We’ve seen incredible growth in the few years since we started. It took us less than nine months to scale across Australia, and we’re now operating internationally. Our solution incorporates a takeaway element, which we dialed up during the pandemic, but we’re excited about the possibilities as cities like New York start to open up again for dining,” Pan said.
"For us, it’s about having a reliable system that works seamlessly within our finance processes as we continue to scale, and we’ve got that with the GoCardless and Xero solution."