How to afford food in Hong Kong through a mobile app

Calimex Bar & Grill in Kennedy Town. (Photo by Delia von Pflug)

“Y se formó la gozadera!” booms out of the speakers as I step into the dimly lit Mexican restaurant. While I wait for my other friends to arrive, I chat casually with other HKU students I know, streaming in by the groups for their weekly Mexican meal. “Ahhh! The 9 pm Cali!” says an acquaintance cheekily as he catches my eye.

“Cali?” has become a frequent response to “dinner?” amongst HKU students. But if a place has bar tables furnished with beer taps, large TVs showing live football and 10% service charge, how are college students such regulars here?

They are all here with an Eatigo reservation, which reduces their bill by up to 50%.  A mobile restaurant reservation app headquartered in Bangkok, Eatigo lists out restaurants with time-based discounts to choose from, without prepayments or penalties for bookings. Thanks to Eatigo, restaurants once considered totally out of the budget, now stand amongst 可可(Ho Ho)and quick hall cook-ups as wallet-friendly dinner plans for HKU students.

A full quesadilla, perfect for sharing between two hungry mouths, costs $148 on the menu. At the best slot of 50% off, that would mean $37 per person. (Photo by Delia von Pflug)

“It allows me to splurge a bit and have good food rather than cook”, says Ankit Tibrewal, a second-year student. Having downloaded the app in October, he uses Eatigo two to three times a month. “Above 30% is super attractive”, he says about the deals which have incited him to venture to new places such as Hooters, Little Creatures and Checkmate. Other students also confirm how Eatigo has led them to eat out more. “I wouldn’t go out to eat unless there are Eatigo discounts,” admits Amsal Lakhani, a second-year student. “I went to Hooters just for chicken wings!” he explained excitedly. Reserving through Eatigo slashed the original bill of $738 by 50% to $369, making a dinner for a group of 5 frugal friends affordable and exciting.  

Good for business?

But while Eatigo has been a godsend for students, its lack of profitability may lead to its eventual cancellation, says restaurant manager Jade Catague. “Eatigo charges us 10% per head”, as Catague explains the pricing mechanism. Although the app has not brought direct economic benefits, it is highly useful in introducing Calimex to first-time customers. This is especially important, remarks Catague since the Calimex in Kennedy Town expanded from a taqueria into a more formal bar & grill last April.

Eatigo’s uniqueness is that the restaurant is in full control of the traffic driven by the app, as they can designate discounts at off-peak hours. After seeing the increase in customers near closing time at 9 pm, which lengthened the peak dining period of 7 pm to 9 pm, Catague shifted the revered 50% time slot to the quieter hour of 5 pm. But those determined to get their food at half price have not been deterred. “I have seen some of the regulars from 9 pm come in at 5 pm”, says Catague. And for those who prefer to eat at more traditional hours, “30, 35% off is still okay”, says Lakhani, between mouthfuls of his original chicken quesadilla.

 

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