Barna Hub: Have lunch without waiting. A chat with Mr. Noow CEO Alejandro Fresneda
One-hour lunch breaks do not account for having to stand in line at a crowded restaurant trying to grab a table. This is the problem that Mr. Noow, an app that lets you place your order from your phone before even arriving at the restaurant, is trying to tackle. The Barcelona-based startup just raised €900K to develop their on-demand app that saves time for both users and restaurants, as well as improving the quality of restaurant service. They currently partner with more than 300 restaurants all over Barcelona and Madrid. We sat down with CEO Alejandro Fresneda to talk about the concept of Mr. Noow, their journey and the pros and cons of running a startup in Barcelona.
Mr. Noow’s 140 character pitch
Have lunch without waiting! Discover restaurants and pre-order your food, pick it up when you arrive at the restaurant or book a table and get served immediately.
Down to business
Why do your users love Mr. Noow?
Because no one wants to waste time standing in line at a restaurant during their lunch break. With the Mr. Noow app, you can pre-order your food and schedule it for the exact time that you’ll be arriving at the restaurant. You can choose whether you want to pick your food up or sit down and eat it there. Another advantage is that the app shows you all the restaurants near your office. You can discover new places and see all the items on their menu. You can pay through the app when you place your order, making the payment process quick and painless.
What are the app’s benefits for the restaurants that you work with?
For them, it’s a new online sales channel that people carry around in their pockets. Secondly, it increases the rotation of tables. Mr. Noow users only spend around 25-30 as opposed to people who order their food at the restaurant and stay for at least 50-55. And if the pre-order is for take-away, they don’t even need a table.
Soon, restaurants will also be able to send marketing communications to our users in the form of emails or push notifications. However, they will only be able to do so for users who have already ordered from that restaurant.
What’s your take on delivery apps like Glovo and Deliveroo? What are the advantages of pre-order and pick-up over delivery?
To be honest, I am a super “heavy user” of delivery apps. However, delivery is too expensive and it’s not for every occasion – certainly not for lunch every day. It’s for nights when you want to stay in, or weekends when you don’t want to cook. Plus, you never know when a delivery is going to arrive – it could be anywhere between 40 minutes to an hour and 20 minutes.
Pick-up is actually a much larger market than delivery. In Spain, delivery represents approximately 8% of the entire restaurant market, while pickup represents around 15%. The rest is eating in restaurants. Delivery only seems to have a bigger share because companies like Just Eat, Glovo and Deliveroo are making so much noise these days.
And to give you more numbers, of the 8% market share that delivery represents, approximately 30% is covered by tech apps. The rest of the orders are done by telephone. This is why delivery apps have a lot of room to grow. We have even more because we’re also trying to revolutionize the way people eat in restaurants.
Unfortunately, Spain tends to get a bad rap for the quality of restaurant service. How is Mr. Noow helping to improve that situation?
It is true that the service you get in Spain is not always the best, but I think it has less to do with being in Spain than the fact that when restaurants are full, everyone gets stressed, things get delayed and mistakes are made. I’ve experienced that in other countries as well.
However, you no longer need to be served by a limited number of waiters. By pre-ordering your food, you can help the restaurant manage their queues and save time in rush hour. By giving users an on-demand app and ownership of the process, we’re helping restaurants improve their service.
Do you ever get complaints from users saying that their order was late?
It has happened before on very rare occasions. Having to wait, even if it’s just 5 minutes, is not the Mr. Noow experience. Our obsession is to improve the service, make it quicker and smoother, so we take this very seriously.
Curious to try it? Download the Mr. Noow app and never have to wait for your lunch again!
What is the advantage of being based in Barcelona for you?
I think that there are some very good things and some bad things about being based here.
First of all, the city itself is amazing. It’s very modern, cosmopolitan and the weather is great. We also have very good universities, and you can hire strong IT talent here. Developers are not as expensive as in other places, although they are getting more expensive because a lot of startups with bigger budgets are moving to Barcelona.
There are more and more investors looking at Catalan startups, some of them are entrepreneurs who have sold their companies and are now willing to invest back into the ecosystem and advise others.
However, there is a lack of VC investment in seed-stage startups.
What I see is that many investors are followers and not leaders. They follow you, they like you. But they don’t make a commitment until you have a large fund with a good name and reputation backing you. This is why many startups are suffering. Without a strong, leading VC ecosystem in early stages, it’s extremely difficult to raise a seed round.
The reason is that there haven’t been enough exits in Spain to convince VCs that they can bet their money on Spanish startups. We need to wait for more success stories like Glovo, TravelPerk and Spotahome, then they will be more open to risk and invest at an earlier stage.
Are there any other disadvantages?
Another thing that I don’t like is that we pay a lot of taxes. It’s not possible for a startup that’s creating jobs – at Mr. Noow, there are 15 of us – to pay the same amount of taxes as profitable companies that have been around for decades. We may be losing money, but we are creating an innovative product that is going to have an impact. We need more regulation and more tax-efficiency for startups.
However, all in all, I think that the ecosystem has evolved a lot over the last ten years, and we’re heading in the right direction.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are just starting out in Barcelona?
Being an entrepreneur is not as glamorous as it is shown in the media.
Work very, very hard, even though many people will say that your idea is crazy. You will hear that from many investors too. But you have to believe in your idea, no matter how hard that maybe when you’re quitting your job and deciding to launch your own venture.