There are many ways to develop a viable business idea, but none may be more reliable than taking a concept that’s already working elsewhere and bringing it to a new industry.
That’s part of the thinking behind GoPapaya, a mobile app that takes advantage of dynamic pricing by partnering with restaurants willing to offer discounts to consumers if they show up within half an hour of booking a table.
Already in use by airlines, hotels and ride-sharing services like Uber, dynamic pricing is used by companies to maximize profits by adjusting their pricing based on demand.
With GoPapaya, users can scan a list of nearby restaurants offering discounts that are based on table availability. Once they book a reservation, a 30 minute countdown appears to show users when the deal expires.
Co-founder Zachary Weiss came up with the idea a little more than a year ago as he was eating in a popular restaurant that was empty because it was the middle of a weekday.
Weiss spoke with restaurant owners and consumers about the idea and got positive feedback, so he began devoting more time to researching the food service industry.
It was around that time Weiss met Marik Marshak, who was also exploring ways to bring dynamic pricing to restaurants in Boston.
“We were looking into the same space and just connected right away,” Weiss remembers. “We thought why go at this separately and joined forces.”
Marik was further along in the process of developing the company than Weiss. In January of 2016, he’d quit his longtime software engineering job at EMC to work on the project full time.
By May, Marik had finished developing an iOS app and GoPapaya was born. Two months later, Weiss quit his business consulting job and the pair devoted themselves to expanding the company.
The app is designed to be as straightforward as possible. In just three clicks, users can have a table booked and a deadline to meet. When GoPapaya customers walk into the restaurant, they simply tell the hostess they made a reservation through the app and are seated like everyone else. When they receive the check, the discount is included.
The pitch to restaurant owners is almost as simple as the app: Want to bring in more customers during downtimes?
“In the restaurant industry, by nature, there are ebbs and flows in the day,” Weiss says. “So we explain to owners how GoPapaya can help incentivize people to come in during slower times. For them, the empty tables are sunk costs, so anyone that comes in is additional revenue.”
Right now the founders are only targeting dine-in restaurants with waiter service. Each restaurant has its own platform within the app, allowing managers to set the times they want to make offers, decide how many tables to include and pick how big the discount should be.
“It’s all very real-time, because sometimes they’ll schedule everything in advance but they can also instantly turn discounts off or add new ones, so it’s all flexible,” Weiss says.
When it comes to finding diners, the founders say they’re looking for people who have trouble deciding where to eat and are motivated by saving a little extra doughー which is just about everyone.
“Luckily for us, it’s a pretty broad target audience because everyone eats out every once in a while,” Weiss says. “Young professionals and college students love us because they seem to do things last minute. And when they’re trying to decide where to go, that little nudge of saving 30 percent can really put them over the edge.”
So far around 60 restaurants have partnered with GoPapaya across the metro Boston area and the app has been downloaded a few thousand times. That’s a pretty impressive figure considering the company recently doubled its potential user base when it launched the Android version of the app on Jan. 23.
The founders have brought in several partnership managers to work with restaurants as they experiment with discounts and have hired marketers to expand the company’s social media presence (follow them @GoPapayaApp).
“Now we’re really making a push to keep adding restaurants and grow,” Weiss says. “Although right now we’re only interested in our hometown of Boston.”
Down the line, Weiss says they’ll even look to raise venture capital to help them scale more quickly.
But for now, the founders seem happy to let their great idea and memorable name do most the work for them.