New Business Idea: Twitch for Restaurants

twitch_restaurants.jpg

Business idea created by Ryan Pijai

Background:

Twitch is a service that allows gamers to live stream their video game play for others to watch online. Anyone can create their own digital tv channel and users can tune in to it. It shares similarities with YouTube, but unlike YouTube, Twitch supports and encourages realtime back and forth communication between its content providers (the streamers) and its users (the viewers).

Twitch services an unmet need for forming personal connections between video game players and people who like to watch games. As a result, Twitch became so successful that Amazon bought the company in 2014 for nearly a billion dollars.

What if we could mimic what Twitch does for gamers and their viewers, but instead apply it to restaurants and their patrons?

The Future of Restaurants:

Imagine being able to choose any restaurant in the world and having its “story” told digitally to you firsthand by the people who work there.

You can tune in to a restaurant’s online digital tv channel and ask the head chef what her favorite dish to cook is. She could tell you on the restaurant’s webcam, and then even show you a short video segment of her and her kitchen staff cooking it.

You can ask a waiter to share anecdotes of funny things that happened with customers that week. Afterwards he could randomly decide to show you and the other viewers in the channel a video clip of some of the delectable dishes and desserts he is currently serving.

You can ask the maitre d’ what makes this restaurant different from any other of its type. She could then take your reservation right there in live chat.

Restaurant owners can talk about changes they have in mind for the future. They can poll viewers to get opinions on those changes. Owners can even talk about why they chose a particular location for a restaurant, and what some of the biggest day-to-day challenges with running the business are. It would be like having an ongoing mini-documentary series you can access and influence at any time from your computer or mobile phone!

So much has advanced in technology, but the restaurant industry as a whole has not changed significantly in a long time. This new business idea aims to disrupt traditional advertising methods of restaurants by bringing them “online” in a highly social and interactive way that has not been done before.

Appealing to Millennials:

Good food is important, but is it enough anymore? It seems like nearly every restaurant receives a 3.5 or 4 star rating on Yelp. How do restaurants differentiate in such a competitive market? I believe the answer is a personal touch. If your restaurant not only has good food, but also has an interesting story, a compelling mission statement, or a funny and likable staff, I am going to choose your restaurant. If I see an employee of yours on the internet answering my questions in video chat and then I see that person when I go to your restaurant, I am going to feel starstruck.

Traditional advertising is dying. Today’s consumer, especially millennials, are looking for honest, unscripted, digital delivery of information. They don’t want to hear marketing speak. They want to be able to ask questions and they want to hear regular people giving answers to them. They want to learn something unique or personal about a company and its employees so that they feel a personal connection.

Business Focus:

The startup I have in mind will focus on 3 things to start:

  1. Platform Technology: Building the technology platform to support digital tv channels for restaurants.
  2. B2B Marketing and Servicing: Focusing on one local area like Boston/Cambridge and signing up mom and pop restaurants. We will equip them with webcams, go pros, and the software needed to begin live streaming, and we will do it for free.
  3. B2C Marketing: Marketing to millennials so that they try our service and share it. We will offer promotions such as restaurant discounts for engaging with restaurants on the digital tv channels and for telling their friends.

How will the business make money?

After proving our service works, we will make money by charging restaurants subscription fees for premium services. We will convince restaurants that their marketing dollars are better spent on our service rather than on traditional advertising methods. We will provide detailed analytics and insights, and we will help them manage and improve their streams.

We will also make money from targeted ads based on anonymized data of the eating habits of our users. Advertisers will pay a premium for our services because we provide them with unique opportunities for making use of highly-localized, hyper-targeted, time-relevant ad slots.

Biggest Hurdles:

A Two-Sided Marketplace: In order for our service to be useful, we need restaurants and patrons on the platform. Restaurants will not want to join unless there are potential customers on it. Customers will not want to join unless there are restaurants. This concern can be addressed by targeting providers first. We will help them set up streaming and let them borrow our equipment for free. Once we have enough providers onboard, we will market to consumers.

Higher Initial Funding Requirements: In the early phases, our company will be operating at a loss. We will be signing on restaurants one-by-one and giving them free equipment and consulting services to help them operate high quality digital tv channels. Unlike pure software solutions, our business approach may require a higher amount of initial capital to get started.

Engaging Content: Probably the biggest risk is whether or not we can get local restaurants to provide entertaining enough live streaming content to keep their viewers engaged and coming back. We will be heavily user-testing this. We plan on spending a lot of time with our early restaurants helping them do their streams and giving them pre-user tested content ideas.

Legal: There are legal concerns with what can be recorded and streamed. We should be able to navigate around some of these concerns by blurring out customer faces. I am sure there are many other concerns as well, so we will need to have lawyers look into it.

Not Enough Bandwidth From Restaurant Staff: Restaurant staff may not have the bandwidth to actively engage with online viewers, especially during busy hours. This will be a tough hurdle to overcome. One approach we could take is to identify restaurants that do have the bandwidth and create success stories around them. We can then use those positive results to convince other restaurants that engaging with virtual viewers is a worthwhile part of their business. Alternatively, we may not need to do anything at all during busy times. It is possible that virtual viewers won’t mind when the restaurant staff are inattentive to them during busy hours, since they can see clearly on the streaming cams that everyone has their hands full. This is an issue we will need to pay special attention to during our pilots.

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