Thaves Ponnampalam: Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur

Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Thaves Ponnampalam, who launched Menyou to solve a disconnect between restaurant owners and patrons. What was the inspiration behind the idea? Find out in today’s profile…

Elevator Pitch: Describe your business in a nutshell.
Menyou is a cutting-edge product that allows restaurants to empower their patrons to take control of their ordering experience. Providing an unparalleled analysis of consumer engagement, employee performance and revenue and operations optimization, Menyou is unlike anything the restaurant industry has ever seen.

For more info, please see our product video here or visit our website.

Why did you start your business, what was the inspiration?
This business was started after realizing that there is a huge disconnect between restaurant owners and their customers. For example, the restaurant industry is one of the few industries where the owners know very little about their customers. Most businesses, including restaurants, generate 80% of their business through 20% of their clients. As such, restaurants are not able to create long-term clients that are part of the 20% because they don’t know much about them and don’t know how to connect with them enough to get them coming back. In addition, through my own personal experiences, I’ve noticed that people want more information on the food that they eat at a restaurant. For example, as I am becoming more health-conscious, I want to know the nutritional information on the dishes that I eat, in addition to allergen information because I do share food with some friends that have allergies. Another significant observation I made was that it is very difficult to get the attention of a server at a busy restaurant because they’re normally tied up with a large number of tables. 

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With all this in mind, we wanted to create a product that would address the issues outlined above while being beneficial not only for the customers but also the restaurant owners, which we do by providing a wealth of information to help them analyze how to better operate their restaurant. In addition, Menyou automates the ordering process by sending the orders directly to the kitchen and the POS station immediately from the customers’ hands. As a result of customers being able to take control of their ordering experience, and ordering things when they want, restaurants will see an increase in revenue.  This is very important in a typically low-margin industry. Menyou will allow restaurants to get quicker table turnover, which will allow them to serve more customers and, again, generate more revenue. In terms of costs, restaurants are able to save on huge printing costs associated with printing new menus for different promotions and seasons in addition to saving costs associated with food/drinks wasted on order errors. In summary, we wanted to help restaurant owners increase revenue while decreasing their costs and providing a great dining experience for their patrons at the same time.

What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
The best part is looking forward to working with the Menyou team. We have an amazing team that complements one another in terms of skills and experience. In addition, you can’t underestimate the intangibles of a team that gets along with each other and genuinely respects one another.

As with most start-ups, the biggest challenges have been finding the right people to add to the team and finding the funding to continue to drive the company. We solved both problems by being persistent.

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Where do you see your business going in five years?
I see the Menyou team taking the food and beverage industry by storm. I look forward to seeing Menyou in all my favourite restaurants within this time frame. In addition to the restaurant space, we are exploring other spaces that Menyou would be an ideal fit for and have prepared solutions to enter these markets in a short time.

What does success look like to you?
To me, success is not primarily measured by how much money the company will generate. Instead, for me, success is measured by the small steps taken in reaching milestones to reach the end goal, which is to create an exceptional product that will revolutionize the food and beverage industry, changing the way people eat. 

What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Other than receiving the five-year volunteer award from the Ontario government recently, I would say that the most memorable milestone was the first time we were able to put Menyou in the hands of patrons at a restaurant. After developing the product for over a year, Menyou launched its first test run at a busy restaurant in downtown Toronto. So far, we have received nothing but positive feedback. 

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Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Follow your dreams! Although the future is never certain and the outcome unclear, keep believing and good things will happen. Success is a combination of luck and hard work; you can’t control luck so focus on the hard work. In addition, always be networking and connecting with people, you never know what opportunities you can create. Building a strong team that shares the same passion as you is very important. Sometimes, it’s best to hire someone smarter than you to do some of the heavy lifting even though you are capable of doing it yourself. Your vision and spreading the passion is more valuable.

Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
Currently, as we are in the early stages of developing our business, we have not committed to supporting any charity.  However, we are exploring developing partnerships or supporting a few charities in the future related to food such as the Daily Bread Food Bank, Second Harvest and even some food co-ops in the city. 

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What is Notable to you?
Notable is THE go-to online publication for young professionals such as myself.  I enjoy reading articles on a variety of topics I’m interested in and love the fact that Notable caters to that.

Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
iPhone.

How do you keep active, energetic, and vibrant?
I play variety of sports that including basketball and baseball while also biking frequently to keep myself active.