Mobile ordering and payment app me&u has finalised its second capital raise, securing $8 million to turbocharge a national expansion plan that started with a launch in Melbourne this week.
It’s been a busy year for me&u founder Stevan Premutico, who returned to the startup scene in July with a new riff on the meal-tech boom, quickly capturing the interest of high-profile investors, including Merivale’s Justin Hemmes and Tyro chief Robbie Cooke.
The Dimmi founder had not planned on returning to running a company after selling his first startup to TripAdvisor for $25 million in 2015, announcing he would leave the business two years later.
But Premutico tells SmartCompany he’s on a mission to change the direction of Australia’s $20 billion hospitality industry, which he says is “more fragile than ever” as delivery platforms such as UberEats and Deliveroo take customers out of venues.
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“The problem is it simply takes too long to order, and definitely too long at the end to pay the bill,” Premutico says of the issues plaguing in-venue dining in Australia.
“This is an industry operating on sub 4% margins … it’s more fragile than ever.”
Launched in 2018, me&u has already raised over $11 million, with a who’s who of high-profile backers, including former Google Australia and Domain chief Jason Pellegrino, MYOB boss turned Business Council chief Tim Reed, and Cliff Rosenberg, former MD for LinkedIn in the Asia Pacific.
Celebrity chef Neil Perry and Facebook Australia MD William Easton are also on board.
Premutico’s latest investors bring some additional bonuses too. From next year, me&u will launch in Merivale venues, while Tyro will become the main payments provider for the app.
“I’m very fortunate to have what I consider to be a world-class team,” Premutico says.
“We want to get customers off their couches”
Conceptually me&u’s model is simple: beacons are placed in the middle of tables within a hospitality venue, enabling diners to link up their smartphones and be presented with a digital, personalised menu within the me&u app, which they can both order and pay from.
Premutico says the age-old role of the humble waiter needs to drastically change if restaurants want to remain relevant with fickle millennials, who he says are fed up with traditional dining.
“We want to get customers off their couches and into venues … we’ve got a very tech-savvy customer, but a very old-school industry.”
“You have to make it more fun and convenient, we have to create an experience that’s more millennial-friendly.”
The future of Aussie hospitality
Not unlike most consumer-facing markets, there’s a fight underway to determine the future of Australia’s hospitality industry, spurred on by the reality that most people carry a mini-computer in their pockets.
On one side, meal delivery giants such as UberEats and Deliveroo are trying their utmost to convince consumers to ‘order in’, while on the other hand, startups such as me&u and HungryHungry are modernising dining out, using tech to enable at-table ordering and easier bill payments.
In the middle are restauranteurs, cafe owners and independent takeaway shops. Already dealing with increasingly high operating costs, these businesses now contend with giving up an additional portion of their margins to access meal-tech platforms.
Similarly to Uber, me&u operates on a per-order commission model, taking a 5% clip in exchange for access to its technology, which Premutico says is encouraging customers to spend up to 30% more than they otherwise would.
“We believe in a very simple premise,” Premutico says, “hospitality happens around the table, and in venues”.
There are already hundreds of venues across the country using me&u’s technology, including the likes of Rockpool Group, The Opera Bar, Colonial Leisure Group and the Sonoma Group.
Being an app charging commissions on orders, me&u has the potential to scale extremely quickly, but Premutico says he has no exit strategy and is focusing all his energy on growing the company over the coming years.
This article was updated at 3:57PM AEDT December 4.