10 Minutes with Samuel Rason of Viva City App

ResDiary has partnered with Viva City. The app designed to Attract & better serve Chinese independent travellers and help them dine like a local. For ResDiary customers it’s another enriching partnership that boost your online business and increase your restaurant’s exposure to a normally hard to reach market of diners. We had a catch up with Viva City founder Samuel Rason to find out more...

RD: Hi Sam! Thanks for taking time out to speak with us. So first things first – what makes Viva City different from other restaurant booking apps?

SR: We looked at the market and saw a huge number of services helping restaurants to attract the same people with slightly different propositions – be it special deals, a curated list, last minute bookings. There is only a finite number of local diners and they have enough tools now to dine their hearts out.

Our vision at Viva City is to expand the market for restaurants but targeting a completely different group of diners – Chinese Travellers. This group of travellers are notoriously difficult to reach due to cultural barriers and the great firewall which stops all things Facebook, Google, Twitter. We have completely tailored our service to the Chinese market and therefore bring a real incremental booking channel to the table and provide a way for restaurants to sell fixed menus and targeted promotions in advance of a seating.

RD: What made you decide to tailor your app to the Chinese market?

SR: From the outside it must seem a bit odd focusing on a small segment of the travel market, but I’m actually the only British person in the Viva City Team. We are fully international, with two of my co-founders from China, so the focus on the Chinese market was slightly bias and the problems we set out to solve were based on the personal experiences of Szelee and Sukie. Lots of products in China stop at the discovery phase of dining out, so many Chinese travellers get an idea of where to go from Trip advisor type products, but then have no way to book tables, understand menus, find deals and pay using Chinese mobile wallets.

It’s a bit of a scary experience trying to do all that in a foreign language and even more troublesome in European cities where restaurant staff are often speaking in English as their second language too.

 

The team’s personal affinity has also been backed up with strong business sense. The Chinese travel market is growing at a ridiculous rate and we are seeing 80% YOY growth in Chinese visitors to the UK. Around 50% of the market now travelling independently, with many from an affluent backgrounds and wanting to book trips on their own terms, choosing where to stay, what to do, where to dine!

What has stopped them dining like a local so far is a lack of tools to help them. It’s not just a case of offering Chinese Language – you have to communicate and market your product in a way that Chinese travellers will understand. You have to build a product which functions well in the Chinese social media ecosystem of WeChat and Weibo. You have to fully immersive and focus on this segment to create real user value.

 

RD: It makes perfect sense to us, and sounds like a really valuable tool for Chinese visitors. How long has Viva City been around for?

SR: We started working at a concierge level over the summer of 2016, helping Chinese friends and delegations book tables on their trips to London and assisted them with choosing their dishes from menus. It’s quite amazing how wordy menus can get in culinary destinations like London.

We then released an IOS App for the London restaurant market in Q3 2016 and have grown ever since, recently launching our service to restaurants in Edinburgh and Manchester.

RD: Which cities can Chinese travellers use Viva City in and how can restaurateurs using ResDiary be involved?

SR: We currently support restaurants in London, Edinburgh and Manchester, with more cities to follow in the UK before we look at European and other English speaking markets popular with Chinese travellers. ResDiary customers in these cities can be involved at the moment, with other UK cities to follow in 2017. After this we will be supporting ResDiary customers across the world, so feel free to drop us a message if you’d like to stay up to date with our plans.

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RD: What are the benefits we can bring to ResDiary customers by working together?

SR: Viva City is more than an incremental booking channel – We professionally translate the whole dining experience from content to bookings, menus to deals in a way that Chinese travellers would understand. We market our restaurants through WeChat and other Chinese channels that Chinese consumers actually use. Right now we are also building a payment gateway for our restaurants to accept Chinese Alipay payments. We really do offer a fully targeted marketing solution for ResDiary customers, giving them a huge opportunity to capture Chinese diners over other restaurants.

RD: All this talk is giving us the travel bug! Where is your favourite place to travel?

SR: I just had the most magical trip for New Year’s Eve and my birthday in Tighnabruaich, Scotland. Everything about the place is stunning – The views are breathtaking, the people are some of the friendliest you will find and the local Scottish food is heaven. We stayed on a pier cottage right on the sea front, waking up every day to a killer sun rise and even managed to take part in the New Year’s Day dip in the sea – a bonkers idea but the freshest start to a New Year you could have!

RD: Well,Scotland will always have a very special place in the hearts of the ResDiary team, but we think we will leave the early morning loch dips to you!

 

To find out more about  our partnership with Viva City click here.

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