clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

How One App Aims to Disrupt the Desk Lunch

Allset joins the dining app fray, bringing start to finish fast-casual convenience to sit-down restaurants

Anna Frajtova/Shutterstock

Where did you eat lunch today? Chances are, you were at your desk. But Stas Matviyenko, founder of the app Allset, wants to change that: "Our mission is to bring people from offices to restaurants, to get all the benefits of a restaurant experience and have a proper lunch break," he says. The app coordinates with restaurants and combines reservations, ordering, and payment into one interface, and ensures lunch arrives moments after diners arrive. "We called it Allset because every time you finish in the restaurant and everything is okay," Matviyenko says, "everyone says ‘all set.'"

Allset combines a lot of the features available in other apps. Reservations can be made on Resy and orders placed on various delivery apps; payments can be made with apps like Cover, which was bought by Velocity, a similar app from the UK. OpenTable has recently began to include payments along with reservations. Ordering on most delivery apps now includes some element of timing, such as a text notifying diners when their food is en route. "Everyone is trying to focus on only mobile payments or only booking, or only on takeout, or only on delivery, but nobody was doing table [reservations], plus payment, plus food," says Matviyenko.

"Everyone is trying to focus on only mobile payments or only booking, or only on takeout, or only on delivery."

In the app, users search for participating restaurants nearby, select the time and table size for their reservation, and can invite guests from their phone contacts using the app. Allset then allows users to select their desired menu item, and usually offers all the items regularly available at the restaurant for lunch, listed with descriptions and occasionally some snazzy photos. (Allset shoots them.)

Meals are timed to be completed in under an hour, as the app coordinates with the restaurant to set the users' meals at the table within five minutes of diners sitting down. At the initial ordering, users choose a preferred tip amount, or set the tip amount in the account settings before dining. (The tip amount can't be changed once the order is placed). Credit card information is stored in the app, and when you're done, you're "allset" —€” payment is taken care of. Allset makes money by charging restaurants $1 per diner, and diners $.99 per use.

Before launching Allset, which has received $1.5 million in venture capitalMatviyenko worked on two separate apps, one focused on customer loyalty, another on restaurant payment, in his native Ukraine. Allset was first launched a few months ago in San Francisco and became available in New York City in February. It's currently available at 140 restaurants; according to Matviyenko, more than 3,000 people have used the app so far, and more than 800 have used the app 10 or more times.

In addition to helping users take a lunch break, Allset supports the restaurants they work with, too, Matviyenko says. In 2013, he opened a bar in Kiev mainly to help him understand what the pain points of running a restaurant were and to learn what restaurateur might want from an app. His bar, Hashtag Bar, is still running and quite popular, according to Matviyenko.

Allset helps its partner restaurants, in part, by increasing the number of diners during lunchtime, a notoriously slow time for restaurants. In the past decade or so, workers have moved away from a true lunch break due to time constraints, and more recently, fast-casual restaurants and myriad delivery options have further cut into restaurants' lunch shift. Fast-casual restaurants increased their collective annual sales by 12.8 percent to $30 billion in 2014, according to the latest study from Technomic, a food industry research firm. "We'll continue to see fast-casual drive much of the sales growth in the restaurant industry for years to come," wrote Technomic preseident Darren Tristano in a press release announcing the findings.

Blake Irving, the general manager at Black Barn, a restaurant in New York's NoMad neighborhood, is a new Allset partner. He's betting that accepting the app will help him compete for lunch diners in an area crowded with fast-casual options like Dig Inn and Sweetgreen. "Lunch is definitely an opportunity we're looking to drive more business and traffic," Irving says. With Allset, the diner "can get that more premium experience at a fast-food or fast-casual express rate," he says. Of course, the premium experience comes at a price: Even the prix-fixe lunch at Black Barn is $28, well over the average fast-casual meal, which costs between $8-$15.

"I think this app has a great appeal for people who want to get out of the office and don’t want to spend time in the taco line."

"I think this [app] has a great appeal for people who want to get out of the office, and don't want to spend time in the taco line or like having something nicer than the taco truck and still be within the hour back at work," says Krzysztof Kaczka, manager of San Francisco restaurant La Mar. The restaurant has been working with Allset since its launch.

La Mar accepts other restaurant apps, as well, like OpenTable. This is just fine by Matviyenko. "We don't think that delivery apps or booking apps are competition for us," he says. "We're trying to solve a different problem. Our aim is to help you enjoy the restaurant experience, but in a shorter time. If you want a relaxing dinner, feel free to use OpenTable or other apps. It's not what we're doing."

But like many restaurant apps, Allset requires training, coordination, and technology from the restaurant, which is a concern for Tristano. "I think the application makes sense for full-service restaurants that wish to compete with limited service Monday through Friday," he tells Eater. But "the application provides significant promises to the consumer that the operator may not be able to fulfill, which creates some very negative consumer brand reviews that could hurt the brand more than help it."

According to Tistano, "with the complexity involved to actually orchestrate the time savings and efficiency, it is hard to imagine that this will be the next killer app for restaurants and their customers."

Matviyenko says he took these concerns into consideration when creating Allset. On the restaurant's end, whenever a user places an order, the app displays two options —€” confirm or cancel. If an order is confirmed, the app sends a notification about 15 minutes before a guest is set to arrive to remind the restaurant to fire the food. "They work as usual," says Matviyenko of participating restaurants' workers. "We don't change workflow."

Allset's app works on restaurant operators' and waiters' smartphones or through POS systems, not through a dedicated device, a deliberate decision by Matviyenko. "We noticed that if you provide the device inside the restaurant, the restaurant doesn't care about that device. They're not keeping it charged. They're not keeping it plugged into the internet, so we decided not to give any devices," he says.

At Black Barn, Irving, the general manager, has the app on his own cellphone and on the iPad at the front desk. Currently, users cannot add on items in the app after an order's placed. But this is something Matviyenko says he's working on and hopes to roll out in May or June. Matviyenko also plans to expand to Chicago and Los Angeles, add a breakfast option, and has begun working with B2B clients. Working directly with businesses "allows companies to manage lunch budgets for all employees linked to one credit card or bank account," he says.

This just helps further his mission to get everyone to take a restaurant lunch break. "No more catering, no more tired employees, no more reimbursements, and crumbled receipts," Matviyenko says. "We believe that our solution will help a lot of employees spend their lunch time happier and not at their desk."