Interview with SquareMeal

SquareMeal UK's best-known restaurant

Interview with Dean Yardley,
CEO SquareMeal

Hi Dean, can we start with you telling us about you, please?

I started my career at British Airways and held a number of sales and marketing roles during my 19 years there, finishing as GM of the short haul business. Whilst still working at BA, I founded wedding planning website Hitched in 1997 after spotting a gap in the market for a digital wedding resource. Hitched grew to become the UK’s leading wedding website and helped millions of couples plan their wedding day. The brand was rolled out globally to six destinations – including Ireland, Australia, and South Africa. In 2015 we sold the business to Immediate Media.

In 2018 the founders of SquareMeal approached me to explore working together and replicating the success I had at Hitched. Given SquareMeal’s position in the marketplace both to diners and restaurants, as well as their heritage, I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to work with an evolving business and joined as CEO. This led to the strategy of going digital-only and to develop the fintech SquareMeal Rewards product.

Can you tell us about SquareMeal Rewards and what makes it great for a restaurant partner?

The beauty of SquareMeal Rewards is its simplicity for both the diner and the restaurateur.

From the diner’s perspective, there is no physical loyalty card, gift voucher or discount code to keep a hold of, points are awarded simply by paying with the credit or debit card linked to your SquareMeal account. Dine out, collect SquareMeal points and then convert points into vouchers that can be spent in multiple restaurants.

From the restaurateur’s point of view, SquareMeal Rewards is an offers platform that will not only generate new business but also allows restaurants to make the most of existing customers, rewarding higher spend and building enhanced customer loyalty through detailed insight into transactional behaviour.

The really clever bit – which keeps it so simple for the users on both sides – is the cutting-edge, card-linking technology. This fintech all works seamlessly in the background, making it easy for the diner to use and easy for the restaurateur to operate and manage.

What do you think is the biggest challenge when it comes to customer loyalty for restaurants?

A successful loyalty scheme relies on frequent purchases, frequent customer engagement, attractive rewards and great technology. Both independent restaurants and group operators struggle to have all these ingredients by themselves.

The SquareMeal Rewards scheme gives restaurants two key loyalty mechanics. The first is a channel to communicate and reward loyalty of valuable frequent diners. The second is the ability to influence customer habits by rewarding new behaviour with points, such as lunchtime dining or reactivating lapsed customers.

What attracted you to Bink as a partner?

We are attracted to the integrations that Bink is developing within banking apps. SquareMeal’s card-linked offers and its Rewards programme will be of interest to people beyond the current large SquareMeal base. Bink’s ability to help us market SquareMeal Rewards to Barclays banking app users will help accelerate our growth.

How was the integration process with Bink?

Bink have been great to work with; communication has been fantastic, and our tech integration has been pretty easy. Both companies have modern technology stacks and so end-to-end integration took less than three months.

Are there any interesting new trends in the restaurant world that you can share with us?

The de-formalisation of high-end dining continues, with high quality fine dining style menus without the fuss of white tablecloths and silver service.

Diners are also becoming increasingly inquisitive about the ethos of the restaurant they choose to dine at, with sustainability and sourcing local foods with a low carbon footprint being at the forefront of many bookers’ minds.

In the past 18 months especially, interest and demand for plant-based dishes in restaurant menus across the board has been high, and in turn we have seen chefs becoming more creative and dedicated to bringing exciting plant-based dishes to the table.