Interview with Ben McKean and Dan Leahy, Founders of VillageVines.com

VillageVines is a demand management tool that restaurants use to discount reservations on specific nights to optimize their customer traffic. Since VillageVines is members-only to consumers, restaurants can use the service to discreetly tier their prices to monetize their empty tables. VillageVines members can book online reservations with top New York City restaurants, and by doing so receive discounts of up to 30% discreetly and automatically taken off their parties’ bills without needing to bring along paper coupons. The company is looking for strategic partners and ASP.NET developers.  Ben McKean and Dan Leahy will be presenting at the NY Tech Mixer Event on June 10th (www.nytechmixer.com).


Tell me how it all started, where did your vision/inspiration come from?

Before founding VillageVines, we were working in investment banking covering internet and digital media companies (Ben for Merrill Lynch, Dan for Brown Brothers Harriman). When the recession hit, we saw how businesses struggled and were forced to cut costs. We wanted to see if there was a way to help small businesses increase efficiency without having to lay off their staff and since we are both food lovers, restaurant owners were the first people we spoke with. We found that even some of the busiest restaurants have empty tables that go to waste on most nights and we sought a way to enable these businesses to offer discounts selectively on those tables in order to monetize these otherwise expiring assets.


Why does the world need your product? 

There has been so much hype recently about discount sites. While we provide massive savings to our members, we are all about enabling consumers to have memorable dining experiences. We have found that members use our site to discover incredible restaurants and to splurge a little bit more than they otherwise would, like buying a more expensive bottle of wine or not worrying about getting the pricey filet. We are not just about saving money, but also about enabling people to experience the best that this great city has to offer.      


What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Talk to anyone and everyone that is willing to provide you with advice. It is amazing how willing people are to help and it is through the feedback and suggestions of countless advisers and consumers that VillageVines has grown into what it is today. Anyone out there willing to give us feedback on how we can make it better, we are all ears.


What do you do for fun when not working on your company?

It is rare that we are not eating out at some VillageVines restaurant these days (which is exhausting), but we both enjoy playing sports with our college buddies and meeting new people in the city. We feel lucky to be able to live in New York City and one of the things we like best is to explore all that it has to offer.


What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Talk to anyone and everyone that is willing to provide you with advice. It is amazing how willing people are to help and it is through the feedback and suggestions of countless advisers and consumers that VillageVines has grown into what it is today. Anyone out there willing to give us feedback on how we can make it better, we are all ears.


What do you do for fun when not working on your company?

It is rare that we are not eating out at some VillageVines restaurant these days (which is exhausting), but we both enjoy playing sports with our college buddies and meeting new people in the city. We feel lucky to be able to live in New York City and one of the things we like best is to explore all that it has to offer.


What’s your favorite drink?

RedBull Vodka (need to stay awake somehow…)

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  • Ben

    Is this NY only? When will VillageVines be in my city – SF?

  • Benjamin McKean

    Hi Ben. We are only in NYC right now but have already registered a number of restaurant partners in other cities, including SF. We hope to be there soon!

    – Benjamin McKean, Co-Founder

  • Benjamin McKean

    Hi Ben. We are only in NYC right now but have already registered a number of restaurant partners in other cities, including SF. We hope to be there soon!

    – Benjamin McKean, Co-Founder

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