Do you hate to queue in food court?

Opportunity assessment for an APP product used in food courts. It’s to solve the puzzle to queue.


  • Background
    • Singapore has hundreds of food courts in many shopping centers, housing and commercial estates that serve inexpensive cooked food, drinks and desserts, with an array of standalone food stalls.
    • For certain dishes(Chinese or Korea cuisines), it needs sometime (5-20min) to cook; some food stalls use queue machine so that their customers can seat or do something else while waiting but they need to pay special attention to the mini-screen to know they food is ready.
    • The APP built in iOS aims to replace traditional queue machine by sending customers pop-up messages.
  • My understanding for value proposition of the existing product
    • It helps food-stall owners reduce cost of investing queue machine.
    • It provides service to food-court customers by informing them when the food is ready and allowing them to do something else while waiting for food.
  • What kind of basic assumption the existing product is based on in my view
    • There are sufficient food-stalls that require relative longer time to prepare food after ordering.
    • The food-stall owners really need to invest machine queue because it would help them figure out who-to-serve-what. The APP will charge less compared to traditional queue machine.
    • The customers are really willing to do something else rather than standing and waiting near the food-stall.
    • It’s more suitable for one order with multiple items from which any item would need at least 5min to serve, simply thinking about the time customers walking back-and-forth in the food-court.
  • How is the market look like in my view
    • Business Pattern. Food-court here has very clear peak-time which is lunch time. Normally it is 1 hour from 12PM to 1PM and there is always long-queue for hot stalls.
    • Where the time is spending when waiting? Majority of the food-stalls need less than 3min from ordering to serving. And majority of the end-to-end waiting time for the customer (from stepping into the food court till getting the food) is to queue to start order itself, which actually comes from the unbalanced demand and supply.  We have bottleneck from limited “food production rate” during peak-time; but it’s not justifiable ROI for food-stall owners to invest even more resource.
  • Is it really an valid opportunity with the existing product
    • If we assume who needs the APP the most and benefits from it the most would pay for the APP, I assume, it would be food-stall owners.
    • At maximal, only in 1 stall of few food-courts would fall into such category. If we assume Singapore has 500 food-courts and 1 out of 10 has such food-stall; the APP charges 100 SGD (let us assume the traditional queue machine charges 500 SGD), the total revenue is only 50000 SGD over at least 2-3 years. It can hardly bring profit thinking about the effort of development, test and marketing.
  • Is there any other opportunity for the product
    • Food courts
      • Since it’s not easy to solve supply and demand dilemma here, there is still space to smooth the order and payment procedure, e.g. to erase the suffering to get too much coin exchange by introducing Digital Wallets.
      • The point here is focus on saving the first-time facility investment for food-stall owners and ensuring the scalability for small business.
    • Queue
      • The product is based on the problem for queuing – to allow customers to enjoy life in better way rather than waiting, if and only if customers care about “the better way”. In Singapore, shopping malls are full of restaurants which always have long queue; we may be happier for shopping when waiting for the table from the restaurants. There are so many neighborhood clinics, we could feel better resting at home while waiting for the doctor; one neighborhood clinic I visited is actually asking me back home and SMS when there is only 2 left in front of me.
      • Queue problem is everywhere; but system is only good at solving problem with black-and-white business rules and it would still rely on human brain when the problem is complex enough and require quick judgement, e.g can the customers accept smaller table or we ask them to share the tables with others.
    • Booking and ordering
      • To look at it even further, only for small business, queuing problem is just part of booking and ordering problems. For different domains, the booking and ordering problems would have different preconditions, constrains and challenges.  Therefore, there is no common approach.  It needs further assessment to find opportunities.
      • The dentists would like to link the booking to last visit of the patients to judge how much time the next visit may require, as well as to have the possibility easily take note for every visit in the same tool.
      • For yoga and dancing class booking, it may be helpful for customers to view how many slots are available; and such history information can help the coach to arrange the class and do marketing in better way.

Opportunities exit all around us; which one is worth our effort is the first question we need to answer.

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