After growing up immersed in the restaurant industry, Taranvir Johal wanted to create something that made the dining experience better for everyone.
So along came Tavolo — a platform that allows diners to reserve a table, order menu items and their favorite meals at restaurants that they love, all in one place.
How it works
Essentially contactless dining, co-founder Johal started Tavolo with his two co-founders in 2019, before the age of COVID-19 — which has inevitably made the platform more popular.
“Especially in a COVID world, it’s something that’s been a lot more popular over the last year and a half or so,” Johal said, adding that pickup is available on the app as well.
On the restaurant end, Tavolo allows restaurants to directly market through text or email, and collects data on customers that can be leveraged to increase the ROI on any marketing materials.
“The way we were started was more about preventing wait time at restaurants,” Johal said of his startup that is now a four-person operation. Seeing the friction that came along with the restaurant experience firsthand, he felt the industry was going a certain way. But with COVID, restaurant tech has accelerated.
“Businesses became a lot more tech oriented over the last year because of COVID...they had to rely on different technologies to make sure that the businesses stayed afloat,” he said. With the shortage of hospitality employees, products like Tavolo that streamline the experience on both the restaurant and customer sides are helpful. “Our goal is ultimately to make it as easy as possible for restaurants to run their operations,” he said.
Another hit to the restaurant industry during COVID was the rise of third-party delivery platforms. Coming from a family of restaurant owners, Johal mentioned they “hated it” whenever someone ordered from GrubHub or DoorDash, because they only saw a fraction of the profit on each order.
“It became sort of a necessary evil,” he said of restaurants having to participate on these platforms for customers, but not seeing any ROI on it. This is another reason why the Tavolo team wanted to come together to build a product that serves both the needs of the restaurant and also the customer.
BETA and beyond
A member of the first-ever virtual Cohort in the spring of 2020, Johal found the experience “super valuable.”
“There were a bunch of benefits from being online, the main one being that every session was recorded so you never missed anything,” he said, mentioning he still has a bookmark on his browser that leads to the BETA Cohort recorded sessions. “Whenever I have a problem I think BETA can help me out with, I can re-watch one of the videos from my old Cohort.”
The biggest benefit of BETA for Johal was leveraging the network.
“Connecting with other folks in the Twin Cities startup community, whether they were other founders or folks who are just interested in the startup community or investors, it just opens up other opportunities,” he said.
One of these opportunities for Tavolo was Food Foundry, a Chicago-based food and beverage accelerator in partnership with Gordon Food Service, 1871, and Relish Works, that they participated in in the fall of 2020 with Forever Ware, another BETA company.
Johal, who recently emceed the Food & Ag Track at Twin Cities Startup Week 2021, said that the focus for the new year is raising a seed round. With approximately 30 restaurants on the platform and a few in the pipeline in Minneapolis and Milwaukee, it’s “full force ahead.”
BETA is a 501(c)(3) organization that develops Minnesota’s next generation of business leaders by inspiring and educating first-time founders. The BETA Group nurtures startups and small businesses with great scalability potential, so that they can grow to become our next Fortune 100s. Learn more here.