People who love to dine out and eat out with their friends and families know about Munchpunch, the food search site spearheaded by Alvin Tan. Most people have probably used this website to get some information on a new restaurant that they would like to visit, to look at the menu and how much on average would it cost per person to dine there.
Before becoming the CEO of a leading foodie resource in restaurants and food establishments, General Santos native Alvin Tan worked as a developer for a local start-up company.
Alvin Tan joined his co-founder Howell Hay as the lead technical person of a software development ship they had decided to put up. It was only later that they realized that they wanted to build their own products, which was the reason they rebooted the company – which then became Exponencia, Inc., the company behind Munchpunch.
Munchpunch is the leading online portal for food in the country, whereas it houses menus, branches and even reviews on restaurants within and outside Metro Manila. It provides the easiest way of finding restaurants, caterers and food providers as well as menus and top deals and promos in the food industry.
Munchpunch came about during the time that Tan and Hay were in the midst of brainstorming for ideas for a new product, when they noticed menu flyers stacked up at their office.
“That’s how the idea of aggregating menus came about,” says Tan. “It was initially for food delivery alone but it has evolved into a menu search engine for any food establishment.”
The initial concept was something similar to Citi Delivery, where they were able to develop an automated software to help with the actual deliveries. The difficulties faced though were getting some of the restaurants to conform to procedures.
Eventually, Alvin initiated starting using Munchpunch more for menus and dining out which redirected the focus and purpose of the site.
Among the challenges Tan and Hay faced on launching Munchpunch was in how to get menus and additional content and their lack of clients and resources.
Getting additional content for the site was a manual process where they would have to get information from the restaurants. Although after a certain point, restaurants began approaching them.
During the first three years, Alvin says they had no revenue and had to rely on Google ads. Because the ads weren’t bringing in a lot of revenue, they had to rely on interns to save on costs.
Revenue now comes in through ads and the VIP Menu subscription.
Alvin says the challenges taught him to “do things faster, test them right away since you’d never get anything done if you were to wait for everything to become perfect.”
If there’s one thing that Alvin wished he could have done differently, it is that he shouldn’t have held back and believed in himself more. He advises aspiring entrepreneurs to follow their hearts and believe in their abilities.
The biggest milestone Munchpunch attained was getting from zero to 1.3 million views per month.
“A great way to help increase readers or viewers for your site is to make sure that you are focused on a specific topic so that when people would talk about it, it will be your brand that would be their top of mind recall.” Alvin adds.
Munchpunch managed to grow through proper coding and SEO. Alvin says they’ve also given out stickers and goodies, but SEO has been the most effective method for growing the site.
His advice to people who want to get into the start-up game?
“Start small with a niche idea but research the target market size in advance”, he says.
Asked what was next for Munchpunch, Alvin says they are working on improving the VIP Menu for the restaurants they are working with. They are also looking into corporate tie-ups.