EP 205 – Yu Taniguchi – Founder and CEO at TableCheck – With Restaurants, the Customers Need to Play a Part

by | Jun 1, 2022

The Asia Tech Podcast was joined by Yu Taniguchi, the Founder and CEO of TableCheck.  TableCheck empowers restaurants with technology to enhance operations, engage guests and optimize business.
Some of the topics Yu covered:
  • Moving between Singapore and Japan as a youngster
  • Brought up with a conventional outlook of success
  • But not wanting to live a conventional (business) life
  • Initially working for a credit card company, but getting bored quickly
  • Spent 8 months at a startup, but found out that a large portion was sold to VCs
  • Deciding to start his own company, which felt inevitable
  • TableCheck’s (almost) three business models
  • The volume and importance of the data that TableCheck can gather
  • Optimizing the transactional part of the dining experience
  • Sushi being his favorite food
  • The intended future of TableCheck
  • What do お父さん and お母さん think of his business
Other titles we considered for this episode:
  1. I Never Wanted to Go to High School
  2. I Will Help You Just as Long as You Make Me the CEO
  3. 95% Of the Restaurants Believed That Bookings Will Stay Offline
  4. It Was Clear I Was More Capable
  5. World Conquest in 15 Different Languages

This episode was produced by Isabelle Goh.

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:40
Hi, this is Michael Waitze. And welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. Today we are joined by Yu Taniguchi, the founder and the CEO of TableCheck, Taniguchi-san, thank you so much for coming on the show today. How are you doing?

Yu Taniguchi 0:55
I’m doing great. And thank you so much for inviting us.

Michael Waitze 1:00
You just sound amazing and can’t get over it. Thank you so much. It’s great to have you here. Before we get into the main part of this conversation, can we just get a little bit of your background for some context?

Yu Taniguchi 1:14
Sure, um, I am Japanese. But I went to move to Singapore at the age of six months, six months in, right and, and went to an international school in Singapore, came back to Japan at the age of six, and went back to Singapore again at the age of 10. And came back to Japan at the age of 15. And I have a very, very unique or weird Korea. I then, you know, went to high school, but then dropped out from the high school in a month and started working as a salesperson. And you know, did various things. I’ll talk about DDoS, if you want to know, but then I joined the credit card payment processing company helped help the startup start their business. And then you know, finally founded my current company table check.

Michael Waitze 2:12
I have to ask you this. If you move to Singapore, and you were six years old, I have to presume it was somebody in your family’s job that brought you there. What was your family doing that moved you to Singapore? And then back and forth? I presume it was for the same reason? Yeah.

Yu Taniguchi 2:25
Yes, my father worked for oil trading company. And it’s usually like, you know, two different countries you be moved to but for some reason, it was Singapore again.

Michael Waitze 2:39
And when you went to high school in Singapore, as well, because you were there from 10 to 15. Where did you go to school?

Yu Taniguchi 2:45
It was called United World College. UWC? Right?

Michael Waitze 2:49
Yeah. Nice. So when you came back to Japan, as a 15 year old or a 16 year old? were you living in Tokyo proper just outside of Tokyo?

Yu Taniguchi 2:58
Just outside of Tokyo? Yeah. Yeah. And

Michael Waitze 3:01
you went to just a regular Japanese high school? No.

Yu Taniguchi 3:05
Right. It’s a International Christian University. I see you.

Michael Waitze 3:10
You went ICU for a month? And what was the deal? Was it just really hard to transfer back from places like you WC and Singapore into ICU? I mean, not a lot of Japanese kids leave high school to be fair.

Yu Taniguchi 3:25
Well, I never wanted to go to high school, actually. And I told that to my parents and I, I just wanted to get out into the world and start working and experience, you know, things I I’ve never experienced. But then my parents successfully persuaded me to just, you know, go to university, I mean, high school, and, you know, check it out. And I did that. And but still, I wanted to, you know, get into the world. And, you know, instead of sitting in the classroom, and you know, reading textbooks, things like that. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 4:01
Yeah, no, I love this idea. Did you feel like when you left that you felt free?

Yu Taniguchi 4:10
Huh? Yeah, I felt like I have nothing to lose. Yeah. Because it’s, it’s my parents always told me like, since I was small, the key to a happy life is to go to good high school, good university, and, you know, work for a big company. And I was very, very skeptical about that and wanted to prove that, you know, they were wrong, or that, you know, people can still be happy without going to a good high school or, you know, joining a big company.

Michael Waitze 4:46
Yeah, well, it seems to have worked pretty well. I want to look something up. Just give me a second. There’s this great song that I love. So Janis Joplin has a song called Bobby McGee and one of the phrases in the song says freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose. I love this idea. This is one of the things that I try to teach my daughter as well, right is that and she had this poster up on her wall when she was like 13 or 14. In life, the only regrets you have are the things you didn’t do not the things you did do. Does that make sense to you? Totally here. Yeah. And I love the fact that she’s playing it out, she can do whatever she wants, I kind of don’t care anyway, what was the startup that you worked for originally? And how did you get into a startup? Because if you’re working for a credit card company, a credit card payment company? What was the move from there into the startup? Like, how did you even know star was for there? You don’t I mean,

Yu Taniguchi 5:35
um, yeah, I was working for a credit card company, and was supporting various e commerce websites. And, you know, b2b and b2c both. And, you know, these guys, there was a company founded by three foreigners in Japan, and they came to me working out credit card payment company, saying that, you know, they want to start a business similar to Groupon, and they will be the first in Japan, okay. And initially, they were just a customer. And, you know, at the time I was fed up with working at credit card payment company, I wouldn’t disclose the name. And, you know, they, they, you know, consulted me saying, like, you know, you know, they have no Japanese employees, but then they have to approach to the restaurants, hair salons, et cetera. And they have to be able to pitch and market in Japanese. So they initially asked me whether I wanted to join them as a sales manager. And I looked into Groupons business model. And, and my opinion was that, you know, the business model was corrupt, it was not going to be successful. But I had other ideas to make it better and make it work. So I discussed my ideas with those three guys, or founders. And actually, I asked them, like, you know, okay, I will help you, as long as you can promise me that, you know, you will make me CEO of the company within six months. And they had to sit on this idea for a couple of weeks and came back to me and said, Okay, let’s do it.

Michael Waitze 7:21
So can I ask you this, because the in retrospect, the Groupon model clearly was broken, right? I mean, a lot of companies that actually use Groupon figured out later that it in a way, it kind of destroyed some of their businesses, right, you have 700 people show up to a restaurant that only accommodates 30. And they never come back, because they’re only there for the discount. What was it about the business model that you thought was corrupt? And that you then talk to the founders? About, you know, what I mean, and what did you want to change?

Yu Taniguchi 7:48
So there was no targeting. So there was no concept of like, you know, who do you want to, you know, come to the restaurant with a steep discount, right? Because if you just give a steep discount to everybody, and you know, make it public, of course, there will be bargain hunters who will never repeat, visit that restaurant, right? But if if you can correctly, target the customers who are likely to love your place and try it out for the first time. This customer if they are satisfied, they will be a repeat customers at regular price. But you know, Groupon didn’t have that concept at all. It was very, very, like analog.

Michael Waitze 8:30
Yeah, it was super basic for a platform that was using technology in the mobile phone, right? There was some geolocation and some GPS stuff. But frankly, they weren’t using any great data analysis and want to get the data later. But you’re right. There was no method to that madness. It seemed to me as well. Exactly. Yeah. So what was your idea that you pitch to them? Did you say let’s do something different? But let’s do let’s do it like this kind of way.

Yu Taniguchi 8:52
Yeah, I wanted to, like, bring in more marketing aspect into into the business model. Because, you know, clearly, Groupon wasn’t really a sophisticated marketing method or anything like that. I basically told them that, you know, I’m, you know, I was young, and I was arrogant. It was clear that, you know, I was more capable than them. So that’s why I asked them like, you know, you shouldn’t make me see you staying as a CEO. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 9:20
What were those guys doing beforehand? Like what other kind of companies were they working on? What were they running before that?

Yu Taniguchi 9:25
They they were teaching English to hair salons, restaurants? You no small business.

Michael Waitze 9:34
Got it. Okay. So they weren’t running tech companies. They were teaching English. I don’t want to be pejorative about that. But yeah, there’s a whole group of people that go to Japan to teach English. So did you did you do that business or did you just move right into do table check and what was the idea roundtable check to begin with as well.

Yu Taniguchi 9:52
So yeah, I spent eight months at this startup. As soon as I joined, I was a I’m informed that, you know, they, they’ve already signed a investment contract with Rocket Internet. And shockingly, they gave 51% to this DC. And so they assigned this, you know, Harvard MBA grad kind of person as the CEO. And they gradually moved out all the founders, original founders from the company. And I tried to negotiate to become a CEO with this VC, but they never worked out. So that’s why I found in my own company,

Michael Waitze 10:37
and I mean, I was, I was gonna say, sorry, interrupted, but that’s kind of the way rocket works, where I will invest some money in you, most founders would not give away 50% or 51%, whatever it was, but they’ll definitely get somebody from some, you know, like, from BCG, or from Anderson Consulting and install them as the CEO most likely in German dude. Yeah. German dude. Yeah. Okay, so what was the idea behind table check? He just said Enough of this, I’m gonna go out on my own, which wasn’t? Do you feel like this was inevitable for you to run your own company?

Yu Taniguchi 11:08
I think so. Yes. Because when I was working on the credit card payment company, it was my first proper career. And I realized that I knew nothing. So I knew nothing about, you know, accounting, I knew nothing about legal, you know, laws and regulations. I knew nothing about many things. And so I started started studying every day and night, spent about five hours on weekdays and 10 to 12 hours on weekends. And, you know, after a year or so, I realized that I had more knowledge than anybody in the company about everything. Again, I was young and arrogant. So I started, you know, I joined as a salesperson, but then I started working on marketing as well, and, you know, ended up you know, giving orders to the legal department, etcetera. And eventually, the company was a joint venture between Japanese company and US headquarters, got it, I, I went to the US and told the founders and the board members that they should buy back the, the Japanese JVs shares and appoint me as a CEO. Because I can run the business better.

Michael Waitze 12:31
This is definitely your quest to run something, you can feel it from the earliest time No.

Yu Taniguchi 12:37
Yeah, so I, you know, I just felt like, just the phrase you mentioned earlier, like, you will regret the things that you did not do. Yeah. So when I was working, I knew that, you know, the methods to run the business better. But if I cannot execute that, I would be very, very stressed out. Right. And, and I couldn’t bear that frustration.

Michael Waitze 13:03
Yeah. I mean, that’s the thing, right? You’re sitting in a room with a bunch of people, and you’re thinking, I know the answer to this, and nobody in this room can come up with the answer. And either they’re gonna listen to my answer, or I just have to do this by myself. That’s why I said it was inevitable. Yeah. Yeah. So what, let’s get back to this, what was the idea for table check? Right? So you’re trying all these different things, and you say, darn it, I’m just gonna go do this on my own.

Yu Taniguchi 13:25
So firstly, I love eating, going to restaurants and having great dinners. And I was searching through restaurants, review sites, and you know, checking the latest new opening restaurants during my work hours. And, you know, every time a colleague or my boss passes, you know, behind me, I would have to switch my screen from the reviews website to Excel or PowerPoint spreadsheet. And that was very frustrating for me because you only have one lifetime. And, you know, most people spend, maybe not majority but a lot of, you know, a large portion of time awake. Working at office. Yeah. And I just thought that, you know, should I live up life like this, like, you know, not being able to do what I actually want to do? Or should I live a life where, you know, I I do what I want to do for, you know, majority of my time.

Michael Waitze 14:30
Yeah, I think it was, I think it was Thoreau who said the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation right and just can’t live that way destroys your soul. Go ahead.

Yu Taniguchi 14:44
Yeah, and at the same time, I was working on a credit card payment company and at that time, all the hotel room bookings shifted drastically and rapidly from offline to online. Yeah, and all One of the reasons is, of course, it’s more efficient for the business. You don’t have to hire a English and Chinese and Japanese speaker and make him or Hara stand in front of the phone for, you know, 24 hours, right. And at the same time, what one other reason the hotels loved online booking is because they were now able to capture cancellation fees. Before you know, when it was offline, they would have cancellation policy. And if the guest does not show up, they might call call the guest and ask them to wire the cancellation fee. But of course, most of them would not do that. That’s not gonna happen. So I thought, you know, it was very natural for other business to, you know, start accepting online bookings, and at the same time making people enter credit card details so that the business won’t, you know, get harmed by cancellations.

Michael Waitze 16:02
So What year was this? Approximately?

Yu Taniguchi 16:06
I founded the company in 2011.

Michael Waitze 16:09
Okay, so that’s a while ago, I’m just trying to remember right, I was still living in Japan, depending on when you started this company, I was still living there. And there were plenty of sites that were doing restaurant recommendations Tagalog, like all these signs, right. And it always, and I always wondered, it was the same thing to me for like the real estate sites, they were lead gen, which was nice. But they weren’t involved in the transaction. And I always wondered why they didn’t get involved in the transaction. Because you obviously saw this, you’re like, wait a second, if I can get involved in the transaction in the booking of this, then I can definitely make some money that’s not based on advertising, or just on eyeballs alone, right. Go ahead.

Yu Taniguchi 16:48
Yeah, I mean, back in 2010, I visited the US headquarters, multiple times, like every quarter. And I called up a restaurant in San Francisco, and tried to make a reservation, the staff said, like, you know, oh, how can I help you? And I said, I want to make a reservation. And the staff says, Oh, you can book online, and then he just hang up. And I was shocked. Because you know, people in San Francisco, it was so natural for them to just make online booking right, maybe through OpenTable at a time. And yeah, the staff didn’t seem to be rude or anything like that. He was very natural that oh, you can make reservations online. You know, you don’t have to make a phone call. Right. And I, you know, was confident that, you know, this, this was going to be the standard in Japan as well. But at the time, there was only one website that was providing online booking, which was all small. Yeah, it’s a very small minor website.

Michael Waitze 17:56
Yeah. Fair enough. Does it still exist? Or no? It does, it does. Okay. So tell me more about table check. So this was your idea. You’re like, wait a second, I can do this in Japan. Yeah.

Yu Taniguchi 18:07
Sure. So I wanted to do something with restaurants. That’s, that’s the core idea. And online booking and credit card payment, combined. So you know, our business is like, combined. With three business models, maybe you can say that. One is, you know, helping the restaurants manage their reservations and customer data. We call this table management system, TMS. So we charge a monthly subscription fee for using the system. And at the same time, we provide credit card payment solutions, where the merchant can ask the guests to prepay, or, you know, pay cancellation fees, or even the checkout process, the guest can register the credit card details upon reservation. And then when they eat and drink at the restaurant, and the bill is fixed the restaurant, all they have to do is they they would go to our table check manager admin, and enter the bill. And in the end, the bill is charged to the credit card that was pre registered upon reservation,

Michael Waitze 19:20
go ahead and watch the third one. The third

Yu Taniguchi 19:23
one we haven’t actually released yet, but it’s marketing automation and optimization. And this this has been the business model for I mean, for the past seven, eight years, and we’ve never changed our business model ever since.

Michael Waitze 19:40
So this is pretty amazing, though. Can I Can I go back to 2011 or 2012 When you first walked into a restaurant and for the people that don’t live in Tokyo or don’t live in Japan, you can’t underestimate not just the Japanese food culture, but just the food culture overall, like the best Italian food you’ve ever hadn’t your life is like on a small side street in Tokyo somewhere? I’m pretty sure about this. Yes, it is for me. And the same thing with French food. And French people will tell you the same thing. Sure they love their hometown food. But the guy, the Japanese guy or gal that went to France and studied and brought it back, it’s just making killer food. But what is it like going into some of these places and saying you need a table management system? At least at the beginning, right?

Yu Taniguchi 20:23
Well, initially there, the initial reaction was that, you know, online booking is not going to become a standard, you know, booking method, really, you know, 90% of the restaurants 95% of the restaurants believed that booking for restaurants will stay offline. I mean, foreign foreign reservation will be the standard. And even the VCs actually, I’ve pitched to, I don’t know, like 4050 VCs? And the first question they would ask is that do you? Do you really believe that people would start making online reservations for restaurants? And I’m like, Why? Why not?

Michael Waitze 21:06
So they do. They do it for airlines. So they’re happy to get on a plane that they’ve booked.

Yu Taniguchi 21:11
And they buy things on Amazon. And they book hotels online. And, but then for restaurants, they believe that, you know, from making phone calls is much more convenient.

Michael Waitze 21:24
So interesting. So did you ever get funded? I mean, I know this is a different part of the conversation. But did you ever get funded from a venture capitalist? Or did you just find this out of revenue?

Yu Taniguchi 21:32
initial funding was done by angel investors. And then obviously, afterwards, only after we closed Hilton as a client.

Michael Waitze 21:45
There’s nothing like a venture capitalist when it comes to taking risk. We can talk about that later as well. Is there anybody? So I love this idea of the cancellation fees? But what is it like when I go to a restaurant, I input my credit card information? And then do they come to me with the table check application? And I have to approve the bill? Do you know what I mean?

Yu Taniguchi 22:04
I’m for cancellation fee. You have to agree to the cancellation policy upon making reservation?

Michael Waitze 22:09
Yeah, not that I mean, when the bill is done, if I’ve eaten I’ve loved my meal. Oh, yeah.

Yu Taniguchi 22:14
No, you don’t have to approve or anything like that. After the restaurant enters the bill amount into our TC admin, you will receive a short message on your phone and SMS and what was the amount that was charged. And also you can access to receipt.

Michael Waitze 22:30
Wow. So wait a second. So if I’m a consumer, I have a I have a table check app and I’m like, let’s go out to dinner with my girlfriend or my wife or whatever. And I’d like book a thing. I’ve already agreed to the credit card details. I put my credit card stuff in and I go to my favorite Italian restaurant. I go there and I eat. I want to get to something in a second because it’s really important to me, but you’re saying I order my food. I drink my wine. I do whatever I say thank you very much for dinner and then I’m done.

Yu Taniguchi 22:56
Yeah, yeah, it’s definitely the same thing. You’re doing

Michael Waitze 23:02
it. The point that I want to make that’s different is this though. And that is when you go to like a high level resort. They make it feel like when you’re dinner’s done, I’ve been to like one of my favorite resorts is the Amman Pulo in the Philippines. Yeah. And the best thing about it was that when you were done eating, they knew who you were. And they never brought a bill to your table. So you knew you were paying for it. But it didn’t feel like you were paying for it. It just felt like you got this incredible service. And that’s what it sounds like this is doing. I go out to dinner, I’m on a great date or whatever dinner’s done. It just gets approved, I get an SMS and I go fine. And then I leave. It’s just a much better experience for me, because I don’t like that idea of signing a check checking the bill, and in Japan actually do benefit from the fact that there’s still no tipping, I’m guessing. So the bill is just the bills. And you’re done. Yeah.

Yu Taniguchi 23:53
Right. Right. So you know, it’s a perfect solution for dating purposes, for example. Yeah. Because at least in Japan, people try to avoid their, you know, girlfriend or boyfriend, how much seeing you? Yeah, seeing you pay the bill. Or also for business dinners, maybe when you’re paying for for your guests.

Michael Waitze 24:17
But is so does this tie into, you know, like when I used to work at Goldman Sachs, if I would take a client out to dinner and have to save the receipt, copy the receipts send the receipt to my company, it doesn’t integrate also with the company so that they know what I’m doing on table check in and that just seamlessly sends them a receipt as well For business accounts.

Yu Taniguchi 24:34
That’s actually a very good idea. We were still not doing it yet. But let me get access to the receipt online. So they they would still have to print it or maybe send the image to their company right in order to reconsider. But I think that’s a very good idea actually. I like we can sell to the company saying like you know, okay, make your you No employees like much easier.

Michael Waitze 25:01
Yeah, but also because again, if they’re if they’re counting their company, American Express card anyway, they put it in like there’s a whole market out there for people, you just go to Goldman Sachs and say, have everybody’s table check for every business owner that they do, boom, it’s just done every time they book. Somebody knows about it, they know where are they going, they know who they’re going with, it sends the receipt right back into the receipt system, it’s one of the hardest things that people at big companies do is just having to fill out an expense report. And look, science is such a pain. Right? If you can build that into then every company in the world is going to want to use it, because now their whole process is made so much better, particularly if they’re already booking anyway. That’s my idea…

Yu Taniguchi 25:39
Please introduce me to someone at Goldman Sachs.

Michael Waitze 25:44
I’ll do the best they can. You talked about data earlier, right? When you’re talking about Groupon and these three, three foreign founder people, what kind of data does table check? Gathered? Now, if you can talk about a little bit? And what do you do with it besides this marketing, optimization and automation? Do you know what I mean?

Yu Taniguchi 26:04
Right, so we currently collect data, such as you know, reservation details, so number of people time, you know, purpose, what they want, which menu courts they’ve reserved, also, we integrate with most major POS vendors, okay. And if the restaurant wants to integrate POS data into table check, we can also do that. So we can actually see like how many beers they’ve ordered how many you know, what they’ve ordered, and we are planning to utilize those data to, you know, provide deeper insight into the restaurant business for restaurant owners or, you know, large, larger marketing. If it’s a larger company, they would usually have marketing team. So you know, it’s impossible without a TMS table check or POS data being integrated for them to analyze. You know, their customers in details.

Michael Waitze 27:07
Yeah, and but also the reverse thing works as well. Let’s say I’m a small chain, right? I’m not global dining, but I’m a small chain, and I’ve got five restaurants in five different places in Tokyo. And I try to do consolidated ordering, but it’s different in every location. So maybe Tuesdays are busy at the one in Ginza, but Fridays are busy at the one in Shibuya, right. If you’re gathering all this data connected to the POS, is there a way then to do the automation of the ordering of the you know, the ingredients as well? Do you know what I mean? So connecting that to the back end as well. Right? That’s if you’re gathering that data, you know, how many beers sorry, if you know how many beers the ordering, then you know how many kegs they have to order or how many cases of Heineken or whatever. Yeah, is there a thing to do there as well with all that data?

Yu Taniguchi 27:57
Well, in theory, that’s possible. But at the same time, there’s a very strong competitor in the market already, which has a very, very high market share. So we’re not entering into that domain. Just in theory, we can do that. Yes. Okay.

Michael Waitze 28:11
Can you talk a little bit about expanding outside of Japan? Right, because the Japanese market is very specific, but this should work kind of everywhere. There’s a restaurant? No. What are some of the challenges you found of expansion?

Yu Taniguchi 28:28
Um, I’ll start off from my, you know, opinion about how you should operate business go ahead, yet. So I think it’s very natural for for a company to select a market that is growing, and Japan is not growing. So from day one, I wanted this business to expand outside of Japan. But of course, you can start from Japan because I’m a Japanese I have a lot of network here. Right. And, you know, have advantages. And we have offices in seven countries outside of Japan, mostly Asia, Korea, Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, mainland China, and Dubai. Wow. Okay. And our service name table check is you know, only using very simple words so that anybody in the world can understand what it means. And also another reason actually to confess is because open table was so major already. I wanted two people to confuse us with open table. I

Michael Waitze 29:39
got it. I got it. And did that work?

Yu Taniguchi 29:44
Yeah, it works for some cases, actually.

Michael Waitze 29:47
But I mean, expanding to do by and expanding to,

Yu Taniguchi 29:50
Oh, okay.

Michael Waitze 29:51
I’ll careers is different, right.

Yu Taniguchi 29:53
It’s different, but our strength is that we have global health Sell brands as our clients, okay. And how it works is that those brands have a headquarters and the headquarters would usually have to certify a vendor. Each property each hotel in every market uses. So table check was certified by the headquarters. So we can actually go to any hotel in in the in the market in other markets and say that, you know, we are already certified. Why don’t you start using us because if you want to use a different system, the headquarters would have to spend another six or you know, 12 months to certify that vendor.

Michael Waitze 30:37
Right? Can I ask you this, though there’s a travel aspect of this business as well than right. In other words, if you’re dealing with major hotels, there has to be a travel aspect. People do come from the local, you know, city to go into a hotel to eat, but most of their guests are probably going to be from overseas or just from other cities. Was there an impact of COVID? I mean, we almost have to ask over the past couple years? And did you get early signals that there was a recovery coming as well, just based on usage? Do you know what I mean?

Yu Taniguchi 31:03
By right? I mean, when the COVID hit, of course, you know, impacted our business and our clients, of course. But as a company, we managed to record increase in revenue for most of the month. And still in Japan, if we look at data, the number of customers coming to the restaurants is still 60 to like 50% down compared to 2019. Really, and it’s gradually recovering, but not at a very high speed is very gradual. That’s interesting.

Michael Waitze 31:39
I know, I feel like things are going to accelerate. And is that just in Japan? Or is that in all the other countries where you operate as well?

Yu Taniguchi 31:46
Depends country by country because some, you know, for instance, mainland China, mainland China, yeah. You know, locking down and you know, other countries like Singapore, Thailand, they’re, you know, opening up the borders. So it depends country by country.

Michael Waitze 32:00
Got it. What does an ideal partner look like to you is, are there more hotels that you want to get into? Or are there just, you know, is there just a great restaurant that you want to be a partner with? What does that look like to you?

Yu Taniguchi 32:13
We Our target is high end or popular restaurant. So one example would be Michelin star restaurant got it? Or any local restaurant that is super popular and super busy. Because if your business is slow, you wouldn’t probably need a system to manage your reservations. Or data.

Michael Waitze 32:32
Yeah, fair enough. What’s, what’s your favorite?

Yu Taniguchi 32:37
That’s a very difficult question. I know. Everybody asked me that, actually. And everybody asks me for a recommendation…I have to say sushi. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 32:49
It has to be though, doesn’t it?

Yu Taniguchi 32:52
But one of the reasons why I wanted to do this in the restaurant, business is because when I was working in the US, or you know, when I visit outside of Japan, people don’t really know about Japan. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s really, it’s really more Tineye for people not to experience the Japanese food culture. Because when I went on when my boss took me to a great steak restaurant in San Francisco, I was shocked with, you know, how the quality was low. And they recommended me I asked for, like, you know, what’s the best beef and they were like Kobe beef. I’m like, Oh, yeah.

Michael Waitze 33:42
I’ve come all the way around the world to get Kobe beef. Right, and probably not even good. Look, there. There are a steak restaurants in Ginza. That would make a steak restaurant owner United States embarrassed. Yeah,

Yu Taniguchi 33:57
I totally agree. Yeah, like

Michael Waitze 33:58
Smith and Wollensky is if you brought it to Ginza, they just be like, You must be kidding me. Anyway, just my opinion. Um, are there other things you can do? With restaurants, other services you can provide? You haven’t done already, like things in your mind that may not be food related? Do you only mean as COVID starts to unwind, and people start to go out more? Are there other things that you can do?

Yu Taniguchi 34:24
Ah, yeah, I mean, we can do all sorts of things in the future in theory, you know, employee management, or, or like, you know, people usually evaluate their employees internally, but for restaurants, I think it’s very important for the customers to also be part of that interesting. So, you know, one way to do that is with system because outside of Japan, where there is you know, tipping culture, right, people might be able to measure the, you know, the customer satisfaction with the amount that Tip, yeah, amount of tip. But in Japan, there is no tipping culture. So you have to get input from another data source. Also, maybe we can build a community of diners like foodies, and also maybe build community within, like, restaurant staff across different companies.

Michael Waitze 35:20
Yeah, I mean, it’s a really good idea. Once you build a community, it’s hard for people to leave. And if there’s a table check community, you could actually do table check meetups and a whole bunch of other stuff you could do…

Yu Taniguchi 35:30
Exactly, yeah.

Michael Waitze 35:31
Did you ever think about putting here? Here’s the idea from me. Here’s another free idea that I’ve just had. Restaurants have downtime. Yeah, so between lunch and dinner, if they’re open for breakfast between breakfast and lunch, I’ve always wondered why restaurants at scale. And in my mind, I’ve always thought about these kind of Irish Pub type places, but it doesn’t just have to be them. They already have people making food, they already have places to sit and they already have power. Why not? Not advertise, but like market themselves as a place where you can get work done right now that people are working from anywhere? Why not create a space where you could do this? Do you know what I like have a three meter by three meter space where someone could come in and do this type of thing for any kind of content creator for any kind of thing and then upsell them into the food. Right? Because if they’re there at three, and they work until five, well, then they’re naturally there for dinner. Why not put a studio or something in a restaurant and completely differentiate it? Right? Not a bad restaurant, even a nice restaurant? Yeah. And then business manager go there as opposed to go to an office? Yeah. Or co working space.

Yu Taniguchi 36:38
Very interesting. Because some some restaurants are actually doing that already. Also, some Caracas are doing that already.

Michael Waitze 36:44
Yeah. But Caracas, could I

Yu Taniguchi 36:48
very, very convenient. Because you can just call a staff and they will deliver you drinks.

Michael Waitze 36:54
Yeah. But it’s, it’s it’s a bad environment. I’m talking about like, if I’m a businessman on a trip from New York, and I’m coming to Tokyo, I don’t want to sit in my hotel room all day. But I would sit in hope Michelle, right. Right. Right, right. And then I’m definitely gonna start drinking at five. And if I have a place to work that has good equipment, and it’s I can do my meetings and do all my virtual stuff there. That should work. No, and then they can book it using table check.

Yu Taniguchi 37:19
Yeah, actually, I’m from my experience, I have to be honest, but I’ve been visiting the restaurants during the downtime, tell me it and a lot of the staffs are taking naps. Yeah. Maybe they don’t want to become like, you know, start making noise maybe? I don’t know.

Michael Waitze 37:37
I don’t know. I just look at everything as an opportunity to use space, particularly during downtime and off peak hours. Anyway, so what does the future look like to you? Right, you’re gonna roll out you said this. The third part of the business plan, what does the future look like to you more expansion into more countries, particularly as COVID on once?

Yu Taniguchi 37:55
Right, I think we want to dominate Asia first and then maybe attack US and European markets. Actually, I’m wearing a polo shirt table check a polo shirt. And on my back it says Kong word conquest. Yes. In like 15 different language,

Michael Waitze 38:15
different language. Right? It what does it say? In Japanese

Unknown Speaker 38:19
世界制覇. So some people asked me like, you know, my barber asked me like, Oh, are you an MMA fighter?

Michael Waitze 38:31
Get cut short over here. Yeah. Are people surprised? And I’ll let you go after this. But are people surprised some time this? Just how international you are as a person? You know what I mean? Like when you walk into a room in Dubai, or in Singapore is kind of like your second home. Right. But in other countries in the world, you go into salah, they surprised just how well you can communicate with them. You know what I mean? And then do you look back on the time you spent a you WC and just think that was definitely worth the struggle kind of thing?

Yu Taniguchi 39:01
Yeah, I think my English is okay. And people appreciate that I can I can communicate in English. I think it’s more over more of like, thinking out of box, always. Yeah. You know, I never listened to people actually. That’s the thing. Like, you know, people say that, you know, this is the rule. This is you know, how you do it. I always skeptical. Yeah. And that’s, that was thanks to my genes and also the education at university, I believe, because you’ll see there was a history class and the, you know, usually in Japan, you will just memorize all the days and years and, you know, the events that happened, but at university we we watched, like four or five documentaries related to John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Right. And some documentaries say you know, the Lee Harvey Oswald Is the assassin. And some documentary said it CIA some documentary said it’s alien. And at the end of the semester, each student would have to come up with their own theory and try to persuade the rest of the class, right? And so there’s no like correct answer or anything like that. But it’s totally the opposite of how Japanese education is done.

Michael Waitze 40:24
Right. And this is one of the reasons why I was so happy that my daughter actually graduated from the same type of school in Thailand is that they weren’t teaching them things. They were teaching them how to learn things and how to think about things not to analyze things, which is way more important than learning the dates and times of the murders of leaders. Yeah, right. Right. So the last thing you said when we first started talking that your mom and your dad said you the best way to have a good life is by going to a great high school, going to a great university and then getting a job at like Mitsui Busan what are they thinking now?

Yu Taniguchi 40:59
Hmm, my mother is very supportive. Yeah. And I have to say my father is still skeptical that my business is going well.

Michael Waitze 41:16
Oh, I love it. 11 years in. Still worried. Anyway, I think this was such a great story. You have to come back in like a few months to give me an update on how things are going if for no other reason than just to chit chat if that’s okay, more than happy to you, Tony Gucci, the founder and the CEO of table check. That was awesome. Thank you, Michael.


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