German firm’s menu ordering tech excites South West hospitality sector

A German tech firm has received interest from South West hospitality businesses after revealing details of its digital menu, ordering and payment system.

SO’USE, based in the east German city of Leipzig, has been contacted by businesses in the restaurant and hospitality sectors and Invest Bristol and Bath, the organisation which supports enterprises looking to operate in the area, since Business Live featured its invention in October 2021.

The German company has also been approached by several potential investors, enticed by its technology which allows customers in a bar, cafe or restaurant to make orders and pay via their smartphones.

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The tech means customers don’t have to get out of their seats or speak to a waiter, and not do they have to download an app. Instead, they use their phones to scan a QR code which takes them to a website containing all the outlet’s menu choices.

It also allows them to pay securely too, even by cash if they want, and leave a tip for staff, and receive a digital receipt. It is also GDPR compliant.

SO’USE only launched its technology in 2021 but already it is used in more than 100 outlets in 30 cities throughout Germany. It is also growing customers throughout central Europe, including Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Romania and Bulgaria. And now it wants to run a pilot in the UK, and has focussed on the South West because of its huge number of hospitality businesses.

Ben Wollscheid, SO’USE managing director, told Business Live that his firm aimed to launch in the UK in 2022 and was still keen to hear from companies in the South West that want to work with it.

He said there had been strong interest since Business Live featured the SO’USE invention and said: “We had a very good response, some people contact us from a governmental institution (Invest Bristol and Bath) and also different people from different gastronomic groups in the South West.”

He said these were mainly in the Bristol area but SO’USE was keen to speak to more businesses from across the region.

“Get in touch any time,” he said. “But our ambition is to start in the UK in 2022.”

Mr Wollscheid said the high density of gastronomic businesses and tourist traffic makes the South West the ideal proving ground for the UK. He said once the South West pilot is up and running the firm could move to cover the whole UK market.

He said companies such as JD Wetherspoon were already offering apps so customers can order from their seats but said there was “no major player” in the UK market yet.

Mr Wollscheid said Germany, like the UK, has been suffering from a shortage of staff in the hospitality industry, with 20% of posts currently unfilled and the SO’USE system allows businesses to cope with staff shortages more easily, by easing the workload and thereby increasing sales, and negates the need for customers to download multiple apps if visiting many venues, or even register at an outlet.

SO’USE was founded in 2018 by Mr Wollscheid, Thomas Niermann, Joachim Müller and Benedikt Pilz, to develop its SAAS (Software as a Service) tech for the hospitality sector.

In July 2021, SO’USE raised about 700,000 euros – about £600,000 – from German investors, including Hamburg company builders and early-stage investor Hanse Ventures, FACT Finder founder and AI expert Carsten Kraus and angel investor Stephan Mahlow.

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Business Live’s South West Business Reporter is William Telford. William has more than a decade’s experience reporting on the business scene in Plymouth and the South West. He is based in Plymouth but covers the entire region.

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Mr Wollscheid said more investors were now interested and said: “We have had different investors approach us. Our next financing round will be in Q2 2022.”

He stressed the company’s tech is designed to help customer businesses but “not make a profit from them”. Instead SO’USE aims to make money via product placement, with brands showcasing products on the system.

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William TelfordBusiness Editor, Plymouth Live