The Uncover founders: David Saenz, Christopher Steinau, Dan Ziv
Many of London’s top restaurants can be legitimately described as “exclusive”, primarily because they cost upwards of a hundred pounds a head – prices way out of most ordinary people’s price range. There is, however, another echelon of exclusivity inhabited by restaurants that aren’t only eye-wateringly expensive, but are also booked up for years to come.
New app Uncover offers a way into eateries in the latter category by redistributing cancelled reservations. The app also provides a “curation” service, hand-picking a shortlist of London’s most desirable restaurants, tailored to your tastes. We caught up with co-founder Chris Steinau to ask how it all works...
WHO IS THE BRAINS BEHIND UNCOVER?
The three founders are David Saenz from the US, Dan Ziv from Israel and me from Germany. We all love food and great restaurants and were a bit bored of our prior careers. Essentially two lawyers and a banker searching for the next big thing.
HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA?
We are spontaneous guys. As busy professionals, we found getting last minute bookings a pain, even though we knew the London restaurant scene very well. Then, talking to restaurateurs, we learned that last minute cancellations and no shows are a huge issue, and Uncover was born.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
We flip the traditional booking process on its head. Instead of the user, the team and tech behind Uncover does all the work to create a shortlist of amazing restaurants with guaranteed tables. We take the process of finding a great, last minute table from 30-40 minutes to 1-2 minutes.
WHO IS IT AIMED AT?
Basically everybody who works or lives in London and shares our passion for great restaurants and who can’t always plan their work or leisure dinners, lunches or brunches in advance. Also, the app is a great discovery tool for finding and learning about all of the capital’s great restaurants.
Going very well! We are a bit overwhelmed by the initial traction. Having been featured by Apple
three times as a Best New App, our user numbers have been skyrocketing. Only 2.5 months after our launch, we are approaching 100,000 users, 200 restaurants, and are seating hundreds of diners daily.
HOW DID YOU CONVINCE RESTAURANTS TO GET INVOLVED?
Our product is super simple and we help restaurants solve their biggest challenge to profitability. Nobody else does this, and we can therefore get the best restaurants on the app. Think Kitchen Table, Coya, Hutong, Restaurant Story, Nobu, Hawksmoor, Foxlow, Mission, Yauatcha and many others.
WHAT’S BEEN THE MOST DIFFICULT THING ABOUT GETTING THE APP OFF THE GROUND?
When we pitched our service to restaurants in the early days, our app didn’t look as great as it does today and we didn’t have a lot of users. Man, that was tough. As we started to send great diners, restaurants appreciated our value and it got a lot easier.
HOW DO YOU GET PEOPLE TO DOWNLOAD IT?
So far we generated most of our growth through virality, the App Store features, as well as some nice articles that were written about us.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
We are launching mobile payments very soon and diners will be able to pay and split their bill through Uncover, bringing that “Uber” experience to dining out. And of course Uncover will be available in all the major foodie cities worldwide with the hottest restaurants on the app.
Uncover is free on iPhone.
Best of the rest: other useful dining apps for hungry Londoners
Bookatable not only finds the best restaurants around, it also finds the best deals. With a range of offers at great restaurants, it’s a useful, cheapskate’s way of eating in some of London’s best restaurants.
Perfect for when you’ve just arrived in a new city, Urbanspoon organises restaurants by distance, cuisine and popularity. You can also browse menus as well as look at reviews by diners and professional critics.
Not strictly a dining app (it covers pretty much all leisure pursuits), Vouchercloud users are notified of deals at restaurants in the surrounding area. With big chains and small independent businesses it’s perfect if you’re on a budget.
Still the daddy of all dining apps, OpenTable. Reservations can be synced with your calendar and you can also browse ratings and reviews so you can be sure you’re booking a decent place.
Can’t face going out? Download the Deliverance app and take your pick from a frankly overwhelming range of options. Whether its Indian or Chinese, this jack of all takeaways literally caters for everyone.