Jonathan Lim, founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Oddle, used to be an F&B owner.
He opened his restaurant The Lawn in 2011, and has over 13 years of experience in the food and beverage (F&B) and technology industry, including his year-long stint with the National University of Singapore Overseas College (NOC) Programme in Silicon Valley.
As an F&B owner, he found many gaps in the industry that cause challenges for him and other F&B owners. Though there are many digital platforms to work with to provide an easier, holistic experience for their customers, it can get overwhelming, and restaurant owners themselves don’t get much control or benefit over the services.
Facing similar problems such as an impossible six-figure quota in an attempt to build an online ordering site for his restaurant, Jonathan decided to be the change needed in this industry.
He then started Oddle in 2014, a one-stop platform that focuses on helping F&B owners digitise their business by enabling them to build a sustainable online ordering platform on their own, together with co-founders Alan Goh and Yong Xiang Pua.
[W]e quickly understood that the only sustainable business model is one where all parties benefit. When our F&B merchants win, we win together. Then, we went on to develop a holistic one-stop shop to serve all of our F&B partners’ digital needs, all of which have no set-up costs, including providing value-added professional services like marketing.
– Jonathan Lim, Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Oddle
By combining empathy with technology, Oddle fills the gap in the market by providing low-cost, highly accessible performance-driven solutions that help F&B owners maximise their operations through smart data and meaningful engagement.
Why is there a need to digitise?
Jonathan emphasises that it is paramount for restaurants to establish an online-to-offline (O2O) strategy in current times.
Using online services to solve their problems and re-engage with consumers “ensures the sustainability of restaurant businesses across changing consumer habits and mitigates the economic impact of the pandemic,” Jonathan highlights.
In order to remain relevant, Jonathan encourages F&B owners to grow and expand their businesses by not only looking at dine-in solutions, but also incorporating other revenue streams that are off-premises. By allowing customers access to valuable customer data and insights, they can be smarter and more effective in driving their business sustainably into the future.
“The biggest challenge faced by many F&B operators is discerning their top customer base due to fragmented data channels caused by numerous platforms”, he adds.
Oddle aims to solve these concerns, by empowering these business owners who may be apprehensive about going digital, and offering an easy-to-use platform for all their digitisation needs, from a comprehensive view of orders and payments to the availability of artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics for their marketing purposes.
Digitalisation services, made different
Oddle runs by a “Always Restaurant First” philosophy, which is what differentiates itself from its competitors.
“Unlike food marketplaces like Deliveroo or Foodpanda, Oddle offers solutions that give F&B merchants full control and transparency of their business and customer data, which ensures maximum yield at minimal costs”, Jonathan notes.
With a mission to empower restaurants to take charge of their own future, Oddle offers an omni-channel platform that helps restaurants deliver first-class experiences and engagements to their customers.
Its technological suite of solutions include an e-shop platform with managed delivery logistics, a reservations platform, QR ordering, and payment terminals. All these services are made easy to navigate and use, making it seamless for restaurant owners to have them incorporated into their businesses.
In addition, Oddle has three key services that supplement the system, such as managed marketing services, client success management, and Oddle Eats, their food discovery platform that extends the restaurant’s reach to food lovers across Asia by leveraging Oddle’s database of 2.3 million users.
Compared to other platforms that charge restaurant merchants an inflexible fixed rate, Oddle operates on a zero set-up cost model, providing reservations at no extra cost and taking a minimal percentage only on successful sales.
“We also actively help our merchants invest back into their business to drive profitability through our free-to-use data-driven marketing services”, Jonathan adds.
With Oddle’s resources, Jonathan highlights that restaurants can also benefit by having more control over their online operations as compared to other platforms offering such digitisation services.
[O]ur winning edge over other platforms is that our partners have full access to the data of their customers. This is of pivotal importance to all F&B operations, as nothing is more crucial for their business than KYC ([Knowing] Your Customer).
– Jonathan Lim, Founder and CEO of Oddle
By linking their own commercial success with their merchants’, Oddle stands firm on its principle of “Always Restaurants First”, providing affordable solutions in a transparent results-based format. This enables each F&B operator to earn maximum yield at minimal costs.
Struggles from shifting to a revenue-sharing model
Back in 2014, Oddle’s original business model was based on a subscription mechanic to assist the F&B industry to adopt digital solutions for their delivery and takeout business. Their brand logo was that of a mouse, symbolising how restaurants can make sales with just a click.
Although this contributed to their commercial success, Jonathan realised that their fixed-subscription model contributed to the problem where restaurant owners or F&B operators are often faced with complicated processes and fixed-costly subscription fees for incorporating services like deliveries, takeaways, e-shops, reservations and more into their business, not to mention the difficulties in having to manage multiple partners as well.
As such, Oddle pivoted towards a revenue-sharing model in 2019, while ensuring their own financial sustainability was closely tied to the success of their partners. This paramount shift helped break the mould while staying closer to their roots in the industry.
Choosing to give up our initial successful business model and pivoting to the current merchant-aligned one was one of the biggest challenges we had to face, as this meant we were giving up a secure and steady revenue stream, and it was something really difficult for a business to do.
But we felt it had to be done because a fixed subscription fee does not motivate us to put our efforts into ensuring that our partners can thrive, since they would be paying us the same amount regardless of how well, or badly, they do.
– Jonathan Lim, Founder and CEO of Oddle
During the pandemic in 2020, the new business model resulted in significant gains due to the spike in online deliveries from the pandemic, helping many restaurants turn their business around within 24 hours.
“[W]e leveraged the decline of the physical F&B landscape by ensuring that businesses are transitioning well into the online sphere”, Jonathan notes.
Despite the pandemic lasting for a few years, Oddle remained forward-looking, and sought to anticipate challenges in a post-pandemic economy by further developing its full suite of holistic online-to-offline solutions to future-proof the growth of their F&B partners in the region, which also served to ensure Oddle’s continued commercial viability.
Such solutions include having reservations in preparation for the return of the dine-in crowds, and providing payment terminals for the outlets underserved by traditional payment providers.
Experiencing exponential growth
To date, Oddle’s Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) has grown from S$30 million in 2019, to S$200 million in 2021. Their revenue has also increased over 10 times within the same period, and is now “capital-efficient”.
Jonathan highlights that these figures remained strong in the first half of 2022, even as COVID restrictions were in the midst of being lifted.
With the relaxation of pandemic measures and Oddle’s expansion of their dine-in repertoire of products, they experienced a surge in traction for their dine-in payment terminals, which helped to overcome the slight decline in delivery GMV.
In their journey of providing full-proof O2O solutions to F&B partners, Jonathan shares that the 430 merchants using Oddle’s reservations solutions are already achieving an impressive 150,000 covers, while 350 new merchants have taken up Oddle’s delivery and takeaway space.
One such success story is Pizza Express. It initially provided their customers with table ordering, in-store payments, reservations and delivery with multiple via fragmented and costly platforms.
“We recognised the opportunity to streamline these data touchpoints with our omnichannel services, boosting Pizza Express’s profitability to achieve higher delivery margins from optimised delivery settings”, Jonathan highlights.
With Oddle, Pizza Express was provided with an easy, comprehensive access to a more robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database with up-to-date delivery and dine-in data, resulting in a 23 per cent reduction of labour hours and a substantial annual savings of S$50,000.
Just last month, Oddle raised US$5 million in its Pre-Series B round, bringing its total funding to over US$12 million (S$16.78 million). With this latest round of funding, it plans to enhance product development and regional market expansion in Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
According to Jonathan, some aspects of Oddle — such as takeaway, QR ordering and reservations — are planned to penetrate new markets with a self-serve model.
“This year, we will continue to charge ahead with our “Always Restaurants First” philosophy and go deeper into providing more solutions to F&B merchants,” he adds.
Featured image credit: Oddle