Table for one? It’s a dreaded phrase for many, with dining solo among top peeves cited by business travellers.
Ciaran Haughey spends about one-third of his working life on the road and while he enjoys meeting people and visiting new places, dining on his own is one aspect of business travels he dislikes. The businessman has turned his discomfort with sitting alone in restaurants into a company.
The idea for Table4one came to him a couple of years ago during a business trip in Manchester. He was eating out, and looking around the restaurant, he observed 10 others sitting at tables alone, looking at their phones to pass the time.
Having searched unsuccessfully for an app that addressed the problem, he realised there was a gap in the market for a digital solution.
Mr Haughey, who has 20 years’ experience with multinational companies, including Dell and Barclays, and more recently in health and wellness, says apart from business travellers wanting a dinner companion to fill a social need, they are also missing out on opportunities to connect and build their professional networks.
“It’s wasted time when we’re travelling and sitting on our own, looking at our phones, when we could be getting more productive use of our time.”
Table4one is one way for business travellers to make the most of their trip. The app, which Mr Haughey stresses is “not a dating app — that market is saturated”, is free to download from Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store.
Users can sign up with LinkedIn and pull across their information. They fill out their profile, entering details such as industry, professional objectives, and other interests “such as sports or the theatre”.
When the user is planning a business trip, they enter the information into the app and receive suggestions based on other users who will be in the same location at the same time. Other users can respond and initiate a meet-up.
An algorithm matches users according to industry, interests, and objectives, displaying the best matches first, which are people from the same sector with corresponding goals.
“If you’ve got somebody from the same industry, you’re looking to buy something, and they’re looking to sell something, then that’s an obvious match,” said Mr Haughey.
Table4one earns revenue by restaurants paying a subscription to be at the top of a list of local recommended eateries.
“The benefit for the restaurant is that it changes a table for one into a table for two or three. It changes a glass of wine into a bottle of wine, changes one course into three courses.”
The added bonus is that the diners are business travellers who have “typically a higher spend with an expense account”, said Mr Haughey.
Other monetisation channels are in the pipeline. These include a commission charged on restaurant bookings made through the app and in-app advertising.
While the app is free at the moment, a premium version with richer functionality is planned when users reach “a critical mass”.
“The more users there are, the better the experience will be,” he said.
Table4one launched at Web Summit in November 2018.
Mr Haughey showcased the app at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this month. His decision to exhibit at the global tradeshow was based on the “perfect target market” — 150,000 attendees —“most of whom travel on business and most of whom are tech-savvy”.
The team, consisting of Mr Haughey, his brother Ronan who has a background in sales, and his wife Caroline who has experience in HR, is planning to build out the user experience and add features to allow people the option to meet people in their home city and make plans based on recurring or extended periods of travel.
Downloads have already surpassed 30,000 in over 90 countries.
Having self-funded so far, Mr Haughey says the next step for Table4one is to seek angel investment or seed funding to develop the business further.