Robert_HallAlthough tech-centric, there’s nothing we like more here at TechSPARK than a good plate of grub. So to find a startup which combines both is good by us.

Wriggle is an app which connects hungry Bristolians with empty restaurant tables. It works on the premise that food and drink businesses always want their establishments to be filled, while consumers want to find great deals at local, independent venues. The app simply links the two.

Whether due to cancellations, surplus ingredients or simply a quiet night, restaurants can make their empty tables available by providing a discount that is only available to Wriggle users. The business can choose their own offer, select the times at which the offer is available and the regularity with which they work with Wriggle, giving them complete control over their offering.

For the customer, it’s a chance to discover independent food and drink businesses that they may not previously have tried: and to support local businesses rather than opting for one of the regular deals that they may find for chain restaurants. It’s designed for the spontaneous – those who decide on the day that they want to go for lunch, dinner or drinks, rather than planning in advance. It’s a devastatingly simple concept, but one which has already had over 3,000 downloads in Bristol alone.

Pre-Wriggle, founder Rob Hall (pictured right) had no startup experience at all: “I was a frustrated lawyer when I had the idea for Wriggle”, says Rob. “The moment I came up with the concept, I was certain that Bristol was the place to do it, with all of its amazing independent restaurants and bars. I promptly gave up the legal career to give it a go, and it’s been a roller coaster ride ever since.”

Choosing Bristol because of its welcoming attitude to new projects and startups, and gaining valuable help from WebStart Bristol and SETsquared, his workspace at technology hub The Engine Shed is home to him, a full-time designer and two Bristol University interns.

From its humble beginnings, Wriggle has grown in a number of ways: the number of people that Rob employs, the number of independent venues that partner with his business, and the number of users. The concept has also developed significantly since its launch.

“The moment I came up with the concept, I was certain that Bristol was the place to do it, with all of its amazing independent restaurants and bars.”

 

Says Rob, “It all started out with an email phase where we fired out on-the-day offers to anyone who signed up to receive them (our first was with the lovely Yume Kitchen) – this showed us that people were up for spontaneous going out – and since we launched the mobile app on 7 May, it’s all snowballed!”

The app offers daily deals, sending reminders through to users at certain points throughout the day. Once you decide on a deal, the offer and payment are then transferred directly to the business, minus a 9.5% commission fee for Wriggle. The transaction is one that is completely risk-free to businesses – the customer pays in advance, so even no-shows are covered – while Wriggle are filling tables that would normally have remained empty.

Wriggle_Camera_2

Mega deals: Discounted food and drink for the masses. Trendy retro camera optional

And it continues to grow in popularity. While the focus has previously been on drinking and dining, Rob is now looking to take Wriggle to the next level by offering unsold places on behalf of a variety of other business types. Says Rob, “We’re already supporting many high quality food and drink businesses here in Bristol. Now we are widening what we do to bring the city spontaneous and last-minute opportunities in other areas. Theatre tickets, bowling, hot-air balloon rides, supper clubs… unsold places are wasted assets.”

In order to proceed further with his plans for Wriggle, this first-time entrepreneur is seeking investment via crowdfunding platform Seedrs, where investors will become Wriggle shareholders and join the fledgling company as it grows. With further plans to expand to Bath, and with download figures for the app now in their thousands, it’s clear that the success of the Wriggle business model is set to continue.

Thanks to Rob for chatting to us. For more info on Wriggle you can follow them on Twitter or check out their excellent food-centric blog. And for all your local tech news, give us a big old follow too.