Restaurant reservation app Ambl secures £2.3m cash injection
A pair of childhood best friends are hoping to become the Uber or Gorillas of Londoners of the night, after raising £2.3m.
Tech start-up Ambl, which was founded by Essex entrepreneurs Aaraon Solomon and Jed Hackling, helps diners find an eleventh-hour reservation.
The app has secured £2.3m in seed capital, with investors including Jon Spiteri of Sessions Arts Club and celebrity chef Marcus Wareing.
The funding will see the app launch in 100 restaurants in the City of London, with a wider rollout to include 1,300 venues across the UK.
Restaurants are bleeding £17.6bn a year to last-minute cancellations and no-shows, while the pandemic has given rise to a pre-booking culture in the UK.
“It has become increasingly difficult to go places [at the] last minute and you end up going to the same places all the time,” Hackling said.
The co-founders of the app, which currently employs 13 staff, said CityA.M. the app’s vision is to unlock nights “on the go” again.
Ambl enables hungry Londoners to send out a ‘broadcast’ to nearby restaurants, who only have to pay a fee of £1 per head if they secure a new order via the app.
For former city worker Solomon, the lightbulb moment for the app came amid panic after being asked by a boss to book a table for six.
Apps like Uber and Getir have focused on “click a button and what you want comes,” he said, describing “the generation of convenience.” Yet there seemed to be a gap in the market when it came to hospitality.
“The apps that work well right now are anything that saves you time,” Solomon said.
Are the couple – who started their business career selling ice cream to classmates at Southend secondary school – at all daunted by launching an app in the midst of an economic downturn?
With no fees for consumers and a pay-as-you-go fee for venues, the duo remain positive.
The crisis may actually deter diners from ordering far in advance and putting down deposits. “It’s going to be a feeling, but going out is a reasonable luxury,” Solomon said.
“People aren’t going to cut back on being able to socialize with their friends or get out of the house, even though it’s more of a luxury coming into this side of where we are in the economy,” Hackling added.
It’s been a turbulent time for tech companies, with the likes of Deliveroo warning they will struggle to retain consumers amid a cost-of-living crisis.
However, Ambl “focused on the elements of a profitable and scalable business,” and the aspects that were “in our control,” Solomon said.
“We started raising [funds] at a time when there were crazy valuations flying around,” he said, with fast-delivery grocery apps seeing billion-dollar valuations in the double digits.
“We’re not a business that’s going to make huge profits quickly,” he said.
Investors “spent not on maybes, but on absolutes,” with enthusiasm for “a proven problem that was solved.”
Ambl’s co-founders have their eyes on international expansion in time, but Hackling said the startup didn’t “want to go too fast”. For now, London is their “playground”.