John Fan is the CEO and co-founder of Stackdin Technologies, a pioneering startup at the forefront of the AI-driven smart ordering ecosystem. With a focus on bridging the gap between restaurants and their customers, Stackdin aims to revolutionize the dining experience. Fan, along with his founding team, brings a unique perspective to the table, specifically tailoring their solutions for the Asian restaurant market.
Fan’s journey began with a strong academic foundation in biology and computer science at the University of British Columbia, followed by a master’s degree in Biotechnology from Columbia University. Prior to founding Stackdin, he spent three years in the financial sector. His most recent position as an Equity Research Associate specializing in biotech/AI at Bank of America Merrill Lynch provided him with insights into the intersection of technology and finance.
In this interview, Fan shares the inspiration behind founding Stackdin Technologies and its mission to seamlessly connect restaurants and customers. He explains how Stackdin’s AI-driven smart ordering ecosystem works, utilizing advanced technology to enhance the dining experience. He also discusses the company’s focus on providing customized solutions for the Asian restaurant market and the potential for expansion into other niches.
Can you share the inspiration behind founding Stackdin Technologies and its mission?
The inspirations for Stackdin were originally two-fold: the global COVID pandemic and the struggle of students to find affordable food in contactless experience metropolitan areas. The global COVID pandemic caught everyone by surprise, and restaurants truly suffered during the shutdown. Our first solution was to create QR code ordering which allowed for a complete – no menus or bills passed back and forth. However, as we learned more about the pain points of restaurants, the Stackdin system evolved into something far greater, with specialized AI technology to pave the way into the future of restaurant-customer interactions. We are very excited to see how restaurant technology will improve, and we hope that our solution can help.
How does Stackdin aim to bridge the gap between restaurants and their customers?
Our vision is to create a system which allows restaurants and customers to interact on a deeper level, with systems like unique loyalty programs, restaurant prepayment, order discounts, and the ability to market dishes to customers which our AI recommends they would be most likely to enjoy. Just being a payment processor may not be enough in the future to create a loyal fanbase, and we want to ensure that our partnered restaurants have all the tools necessary to grow their business.
Can you explain how the AI-driven smart ordering ecosystem works in Stackdin?
The Stackdin system will be able to use AI to recommend dishes to customers taking into account over 20 “tastebud” data points, including things like saltiness, sweetness, even color of the dishes. The recommendations are based on the customers’ previous orders and their ratings of those dishes, matching the data points with dishes at any future restaurants they patron. On the restaurant side, our AI will provide various data points which can optimize the menu for our restaurants, including showing which customers like particular dishes, how to reorder their menu based on highest dish traffic, and much more.
Why did Stackdin choose to focus on providing a customized solution for the Asian restaurant market and do you plan to expand into other niches?
Although our system can be used in any restaurant no matter the cuisine, Stackdin’s first focus is on providing a solution for the Asian market first and foremost because, as Asian founders and foodies, we have the most experience in this market. As we talked to Asian restaurants, they have shared with us repeatedly that they do not feel that the current solutions on the market are a good fit for them. For example, dish management systems currently on the market do not do a great job with the high number of ingredients and different stations involved in Asian restaurants. We aim to service those restaurants who are unhappy with the current tech with a solution that suits them.
How does Stackdin’s mobile application enhance the dining experience for customers?
Our mobile application allows customers to take charge of their dining experience by ordering and paying directly on their mobile device. Customers are unhappy when they have to wait, and restaurants can have trouble keeping up at high traffic times. By allowing customers to put their orders in using either our app or web interface, as well as used saved payment methods, customers are able to have their restaurant experience on their own terms, and our reviews have shown that it relieves stress for both customers and restaurant workers alike.
Can you share more about the process of integrating Stackdin into a restaurant’s existing POS system?
Stackdin has the flexibility to supplement or replace a restaurant’s existing POS system. However, many restaurants are hesitant to switch to a different POS system since it takes time for the staff to learn how a new system works. In restaurants, where speed and efficiency are extremely important, switching is often more trouble than it’s worth. To provide more options to onboard Stackdin, we are working on integrating with large companies such as Clover, Square, and Toast so that companies can use Stackdin on the devices which they already have.
Can you share some success stories or examples of how Stackdin has helped restaurants improve their operations and customer satisfaction?
The Stackdin system can help restaurants understand their operations and improve customer satisfaction by unlocking insights which are not available to them, especially for those still using legacy systems. One of our restaurants in Chinatown had no idea which of their dishes were the best-selling ones before onboarding with Stackdin. Now, our monthly reports and pricing suggestions allow them to optimize their operations and keep improving for their customers.
How does Stackdin ensure affordability for restaurants, particularly in terms of transaction fees?
Although our system, especially with the upcoming new AI features, may seem costly, our system is actually cheaper than many of the systems on the market. We don’t charge any hardware, subscription, or flat fees to our partnered restaurants. It is free to get started with Stackdin and onboard with us. The only charge is a commission-based transaction fee which changes based on the card which a customer uses. Cash transactions are, of course, free as well. We understand the high costs of restaurant operations, and we want our system to work for our restaurant partners without jeapordizing their bottom line.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in developing Stackdin and bringing it to market, and how have you overcome them?
As a startup, the challenges that we have faced are endless. Everytime one is fixed, there are three more waiting in the bushes. The biggest challenge for Stackdin is sales and marketing. We have definitely seen some hesitancy from restaurants to try a new, untested product, at least in the beginning stages. With so giants in the payment processing space, why should a restaurant partner with a newcomer? Our biggest promise to restaurants is that we will listen to their issues and get them fixed quickly. Our response time to partner issues is within the same day. We can often have them fixed in our system before the start of the next working day, depending on the magnitude of the problem. We believe that customer service and dialogue between a restaurant and their technology partner is of utmost importance, and we strive to continuously improve our product with their help.