Startup of The Month: HotTab

A point of sale system for restaurants and cafes is making its way around Hanoi


On the surface, HotTab is a point of sale (POS) system for restaurants and cafés. Yet, beneath that, what started as an idea to put tablets in hotel rooms has transformed into “an operating system for restaurants,” according to owner Sanjeev Sapkota. Through a multifaceted approach, HotTab aims to change the face of F&B operations.


HotTab provides partner restaurants with a POS machine or tablets with the system installed. In addition to giving waiting staff a modern and accessible user interface, and dedicated customer support, HotTab also links to an inventory database that allows restaurants to keep track of their stock. Soon, this database will directly connect restaurants with food and beverage suppliers, enabling the timely restocking of food and beverages. What else?


“The only thing we’re missing to complete the circle are the consumers,” Sanjeev says. “So we have to get into that.”


That means that a consumer app is on the horizon that will allow customers to pre-order, track orders, pay, and collect loyalty points at HotTab partner restaurants. The app will also let consumers find partner restaurants nearby, a selling point for all parties.


Traditional Markets


Nepali national Sanjeev says: “Vietnam has been a really good market for us to test our product.” HotTab is experiencing growing success in Hanoi, currently operating in 23 outlets. They plan to expand to Ho Chi Minh City and Cambodia in the coming months.


“Hanoi is a more traditional market, so if we can crack this we can practise here and sell (elsewhere) much easier,” Sanjeev says.



That raises the question: why does a traditional market make a good place for thriving startups?


“I don’t think the traditional market inhibits creativity,” Sanjeev says. He agrees that the relative lack of infrastructure such as online channels for suppliers or mobile payment systems can slow down the growth process.


“But that’s a negative and a positive at the same time,” he says. “It allows us to move a little bit slowly, one step at a time, and to understand everything.”


Going Global


As HotTab evolves, Sanjeev and his cofounder, Nicolas Campourcy, are building a multicultural team of people with a variety of skills who all possess an excited, energetic attitude.


“We’re at the point where we have to think global,” Sanjeev says. “We have to be thinking as a company, rather than as a startup.” In startup territory, Sanjeev tells me, it’s easier to make excuses, to scrap plans, and to cut corners. Looking ahead, he and Nicolas are stressing innovation, experimentation, and growth.


“Innovation is the key to success,” Sanjeev says, and luckily, Nicolas shares that sentiment. The pair met in a hostel in the Philippines in 2013, and when Sanjeev called Nicolas in mid-2014 with his new business idea, Nicolas was immediately interested. Nicolas supported HotTab from France until finally joining the team on the ground in Hanoi in May 2015.


How did two guys from techie backgrounds end up deeply entrenched in F&B? “I had no idea I’d be in this industry,” Sanjeev admits. “I just loved eating.”
With more innovation, change, and plenty of food on the horizon, HotTab’s future is looking good. — Noey Neumark

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