The story so far...

A 7 minute read, posted Paul Dean on 26th March 2023.

The story so far...

We had our first round of meetings with potential early access customers recently.

I've been looking forward to this for a while after a few weeks of reaching out to businesses — many of whom didn't get back to us.

On reflection, it's easy to see why the response rate was so low; a message out of the blue, offering a free website obviously seemed too good to be true.

The truth is that giving away a few websites for free has always been the plan, because the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.

Easy Eatery's value and quality at this stage are best judged based on a direct experience of our product and witnessing its impact first-hand.

We can shout from the rooftops as much as we like, about how great Easy Eatery is, but at the end of the day, they're just words without real customer experiences backing up our claims.

So we're giving away a small number of websites to businesses willing to trust us at this early stage.

In return for that trust, we're working hard to support them, to do great work for them, and in return we can get honest feedback and build strong case studies that prove Easy Eatery's value.

That being said, the initial response to our product demos has been great. We've already secured a third of all available spaces in early access in the first week alone. I can't wait to share more!

While preparing for these meetings, I realised that I'd never properly introduced myself or discussed my motivation for starting Easy Eatery in any real detail.

I wanted to use this post to do that and talk about the long-term vision I have for Easy Eatery.

So hi — I'm Paul.

I've been a web developer for nearly 19 years. I started my career at the now-defunct martial arts online retailer; 'MMA Universe' based in Herefordshire.

I joined the company as a trainee graphic designer. I made up for what I lacked in experience with plenty of enthusiasm and a strong drive to learn from a great teacher, one of the company directors.

I learned quickly, and around nine months into the role was tasked with redesigning the company's website.

The whole process, and whitnessing the knock-on effect of the new website was an eye-opening experience for me — one that sparked the love of web design that I have until this day.

I went freelance in 2013.

In 2013, I was unfortunately made redundant. I was devastated but it was not entirely unexpected. The 2008 financial crisis hit hard and the company never fully recovered.

In the years running up to leaving the company, I began to do more web design work for myself, my friends and my family and by the time it came to leave MMA Universe, I was more than ready to go it alone.

I worked with small and large companies alike including some international clients. One of the things I truly enjoyed as a freelancer was seeing the impact my work had.

I joined Blue Stag in 2015.

After roughly a year of working with the Cardiff-based creative agency Blue Stag as a freelancer, I formally joined the team full-time in August 2015 as a mid-level developer.

In the nearly eight years I've worked at Blue Stag since, I've been promoted to senior developer and built dozens of websites.

I firmly believe that "you gotta do what you love", and I genuinely do love my work at Blue Stag. I'm a part of a fantastic team doing great work with incredible clients from well-known brands and good causes.

I also built a website for a campaign to help name a particular ship, an experience I'll never forget.

The road here began in 2019

I had the idea of what would become Easy Eatery shortly after the start of the COVID pandemic.

It was all over the news about how hard the hospitality industry was being hit, and was effectively on pause thanks to a nationwide lockdown.

While I was lucky enough not to be furloughed, I transitioned to a fully-remote working setup that freed up many hours per week, which I was eager to put to good use.

The awful news stuck in my head and got me thinking constantly about how much I enjoyed working for hospitality businesses.

They were often smaller and family-run companies and I always got a kick out of seeing the impact that a well-designed and well-built website could have.

My old freelance customers often needed branding work in addition to web design, and so the impact of going from a basic website with no branding to a fully-branded, well-designed website was huge.

My clients often reported an increase in bookings with the new websites and often found new customers visiting from further away.

But I quickly realised that while almost all the companies I wanted to help could benefit from a website with the features I could deliver, very few could justify spending the money it would take to build such a website.

At around the same time you could see the enormous success that SaaS (Software as a Service) companies like Canadian company Shopify and the British EKM were having, helping all kinds of startup e-commerce companies thrive.

I saw how they took the technical responsibility of maintaining a website away from their customers and, instead, helped them do more online by making high-end tools and valuable features available to everyone.

Their subscription-based pricing model made their product affordable and helped fund the ongoing development of new tools and features, making their products even more valuable as time passed.

Sure, I realised that the best website in the World wasn't going to defeat a global pandemic, but COVID wouldn't last forever and when it was over, I wanted to be ready to help businesses bounce back and realised that the SaaS approach for Easy Eatery would be the best way to do that.

We're not the first to try this.

In fact, in the past decade, one organisation already did some of what we are trying to do now — HappyTables. However, in 2016, they pivoted from providing restaurant websites to analytics and insights for hospitality businesses. Their motivation for doing so was due to:

Website builders becoming a race to the bottom with regards to revenue, and an belief that the industry was shifting to a fragmented collection of siloed products (reservations, online ordering, loyalty, waitlist, etc.)

While that turned out to be accurate, I don't believe this fragmented approach is good for businesses, and neither do the companies I've spoken with.

The main problem is that running multiple standalone products can be incredibly expensive. Most such services charge a base monthly cost, but many also charge a commission per cover, booking or order.

And when you pay for multiple services with each effectively taking a percentage of every pint poured and meal served, you've got to question how this approach can be good for business?

What's more, having multiple standalone services can make running your business vastly more complex, with multiple logins to multiple platforms and a hugely increased scope for errors.

Not to mention that adequately integrating the customer-facing aspects of these services into your website is often time-consuming, complicated and expensive if you want to do it properly.

I'm a firm believer in the idea that if you provide a quality product that has both utility and value, people will be willing to pay for it.

Enter Easy Eatery.

We're creating Easy Eatery to right everything wrong with restaurant websites.

But this is only part of the story; we want to go beyond and deliver a genuine all-in-one product that provides all the valuable services the hospitality industry needs, seamlessly integrated into a well-designed, lightning-fast, easy-to-manage website.

We're starting small, but we have big ambitions and we have the expertise to get the job done.

What makes Easy Eatery unique?

I believe that it's our approach that separates us from those who have come before us.

First and foremost, I don't believe in charging a commission. Your bottom line matters now, more than ever and we're not interested in punishing your business for being successful.

We've priced Easy Eatery in an ethical way that covers all our costs, plus a margin that allows us to fund ongoing development, which will be highly influenced by our customer's needs.

We're not trying to be greedy; with us, you only pay for the services you want to use. Most will be included in the standard monthly subscription.

Some features, such as the table reservations manager, will come at an additional cost. These optional features will also be sensibly priced, with no commission charged by us on bookings or orders.

Our first-party tools and features will all seamlessly integrate into your website, providing an exceptional customer experience.

Easy Eatery's user-friendly control panel will allow your team to manage your website and all of your online services in a single location with ease.

And we'll support the integration of third-party tools and services if you really want to keep the services you already use.

And now we're here!

After some initial research and six months of planning, Easy Eatery has been in development for the past three years. We're not in a hurry here. Easy Eatery is a complex piece of software with many parts, and we want to get things right and not rush to bring it to market.

Early on, all our energy was dedicated to building a powerful, yet easy-to-use content management system (CMS). One that serves as a rock-solid foundation on which we'll build our industry-specific features.

From there, we moved on to creating a website builder that utilised our CMS. One that was as fast and efficient as possible and afforded designers and developers as much flexibility as possible.

We launched an initial prototype website in April 2021. Since then, we've taken on board the feedback we've received — and learned a few lessons along the way.

Last month, we launched our early-access version of Easy Eatery. This new version has been rebuilt from the ground up and incorporates all of the feedback we've had to date.

It was only fitting that the first website to utilise this new version be for the company who supported us from the beginning:

Under the bonnet, Easy Eatery has been redeveloped at a fundamental level, so that it can become the true SaaS application it is intended to be.

In the coming weeks and months, we'll be launching more websites and bringing more valuable and exciting features online as get ever-closer to launch day.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy following our journey via this blog, and I hope that we can help your business in the future!

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Paul DeanPaul Dean

Paul is the owner and lead developer at Easy Eatery and is also senior web developer at the award-winning Cardiff-based digital creative agency, Blue Stag

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