The food business sector isn’t just limited to restaurant and cafes these days. There are a number of brands and companies that don’t actually prepare food themselves but are slowly establishing themselves as a huge part of the food industry. However, Twinkle Goyal doesn’t think there’s a comprehensive platform in Nepal that covers most – if not all – aspects of the food industry. And this is exactly why she, alongside her co-founder Nikita Chitlangia, launched FoodPal, a restaurant discovery platform that also has event listings and blog posts related to food. This is where you can expect to find answers to all your food related queries.
As someone who has lived most of her life abroad – mainly in India – Goyal mentions that she could never figure out which restaurant to go to whenever she wanted to eat out in Nepal. “I never found convincing reviews or listings online for restaurants and always had to call up friends to ask for their recommendations,” she says adding that she never faced this problem in other countries. It was something she had an issue with only here in Nepal.
A few months ago Goyal observed how food blogging and restaurant review sites were gaining big momentum in India and decided to open a similar site of her own targeting Nepal. She felt doing this would help food enthusiasts like herself discover new eateries as well as build a foundation for similar sites and companies to thrive in the future. She shared this idea with her school friend Chitlangia and the two started working on the idea immediately. They believed the idea had a lot of potential since they was nothing remotely similar to it in the market already.
It took Goyal and Chitlangia around six months to do the necessary groundwork before they launched FoodPal in June 2018. Currently, Chitlangia isn’t actively working on FoodPal and Goyal alongside her partner Subhashish Koirala, handle all operations of the site. Because it’s a new concept in Nepal, FoodPal is still working on reaching the masses. Their office is based in Biratnagar but Guyal mentions that the site will list restaurants all over Nepal and not just the ones in a few major cities.
One of the main things that took Goyal and Chitlangia a long time to figure out while prepping for the launch of FoodPal was its name. Goyal reveals that the two of them had come up with a long list of names that they thought would suit their concept. They finally settled on FoodPal as it is an easy and catchy name that most people would remember after hearing once.
Goyal admits that she finds the name FoodPal quite witty as it can be perceived in more ways than one. You could perceive the ‘Pal’ in their name as friend – in this case, FoodPal would mean your food related friend. But you could also think that this ‘Pal’ came from the word Nepal – in this case, FoodPal would be a food related business run in Nepal.
Till date, there are about 150 restaurants registered on FoodPal. Goyal and Koirala are busy contacting new restaurants every day to add them to their list. Goyal states that it’s quite a hassle to explain the concept of FoodPal to a lot of the restaurant owners but most of them do agree to register when they understand what FoodPal is trying to do. Goyal also claims that many restaurants haven’t been professional when it comes to deadlines and there are usually delays in sending details even when they are promised free listing. “I think lack of professionalism is something that plagues every industry and it’s the same with us,” she says.
The FoodPal team is currently promoting their business through social media. They also collaborate with restaurants to conduct contest on holidays and national occasions to engage and reach more people. Goyal claims that they’re getting positive reviews from people who come to know about their concept. As food blogging is slowly becoming popular in Nepal, the FoodPal team is also looking to work with prominent food bloggers to further promote their site.
Right now, Goyal and Koirala are mainly working to reach out to and list as many restaurants as possible on their site. But in the future, they will also list events that are scheduled to take place at the restaurants listed on their site and update regular blog posts as well. They are also working to launch an app for FoodPal and looking into involving more people as regular writers for their blog.
“I think a site like FoodPal has a big scope in Nepal because Nepalis love eating out but there aren’t many platforms from where they can get information about new restaurants,” says Goyal. She also thinks that in the next five years this concept of a comprehensive site for everything related to food will be established as one of the most profitable and popular markets in Nepal.