Singapore's Chope Gobbles up US$8M Investment

(As reported by Rahil Bhagat, e27, 30 June 2015)

Singapore-based Chope Group, firm the eponymous Chope restaurant reservation service, has just announced receiving US$8 million in an investment round led by F&H Fund Management, along with NSI Ventures, the venture arm of US$1.8 billion Northstar Group.

NSI also recently invested in fellow Singaporean food startup RedMart. DSG Consumers Partners, Frontier Ventures, Singapore Press Holdings and other unnamed Chinese investors also participated.

Singapore Press Holdings had invested US$1.3 million into Chope back in 2013.

Prior to this investment, the company raised US$3.5 million since its launch in 2011, making this latest round its largest ever.

Chope (which is Singaporean slang for ‘reserve’), so far has operations in five major Asian cities: Singapore, Bangkok, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. It has more than doubled revenue and has sat over 20 million diners to date, claims the company.

Similar to US-based restaurant reservation platform OpenTable, Chope works by letting diners log onto the service via its website or smartphone app, pick a restaurant, reserve a table and receive instant confirmation via email.

Chope’s recent acquisition of Singapore-based Ticktock has also allowed it to take advantage of not only the reservation crowd but the walk-in crowd as well, by allowing patrons to enter their contact details into a device outside the restaurant, track the people in queue and receive a reminder via SMS and an automated phone call when their table number is about to be called.

“As demonstrated by their remarkable growth, Chope’s service provides real value to both diners and restaurant operators,” said John Wu, Chairman of F&H Fund Management. Wu was previously the CTO of Alibaba Group from 2000-2007 . “We hope to help Chope expand its platform to more Asian cities, and accelerate the company’s pace of product innovation,” he added.

This interest from Chinese investors is probably due to Chope’s rather successful foray into China in August of last year, which would seem is part of the company’s strategy to diversify its offerings instead of focussing on just one core avenue.

What Chope did was form a partnership with Ringier China, the Chinese arm of the Swiss media conglomerate. Ringier China runs City Weekend, an online lifestyle guide aimed at English speaking expats.

According to a report by The Business Times, the City Weekend boasts 5.8 million page views a month, making it China’s largest online English guide. The report goes on to state, “Under the partnership, Chope will provide reservation service to restaurants that are listed on City Weekend, allowing readers to book tables through City Weekend and also Chope’s website and mobile applications.”

ZDNet also reports that Chope has also tied up with Travel platform TripAdvisor with Chope’s CEO, Ariff Ziaudeen, stating, “People go to TripAdvisor obviously in search of hotels and the next logical step from there is to look for places to dine. They look at reviews of the restaurants [on TripAdvisor] and can directly proceed to make a dining reservation via our booking system.”

At the moment, according to Chope’s website, “Chope is Tripadvisor’s official restaurant booking partner.”

Additionally, Chope has also announced that Duncan Robertson, the former CFO of US rival OpenTable, will be joining Chope’s Board and “will use his considerable experience to position Chope’s Asia strategy”.

“This investment and adding Duncan to our Board has further increased Chope’s lead in Southeast Asia, but this is just the beginning,” says Ziaudeen. “Thousands of restaurants still use paper, and a lot of education is needed to make them realise the potential of being available to mobile-toting diners 24/7.”

The most recent round of funding will enable release of a new app for the Apple Watch, and launch of a ‘What’s Happening’ feature that enables diners to see which restaurants their friends have dined at.

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