After stints trading stocks and running a popular downtown brunch spot, a local entrepreneur has found a confluence for his two past careers.
Duncan Parker earlier this year launched DineGigs, a food-service job board and foodservice management software company that’s also in the midst of raising funds as it prepares for a larger rollout.
DineDigs’ two main functions are a job board for restaurants and a package of software which managers can use to run their establishments.
The job board is the only division of DineGigs that is currently live, while the management software, which will be rolled out gradually by early 2019, offers scheduling tools, onboarding for new hires, communication platforms and more.
Parker, a Freeman High School alum, graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and Flagler University in St. Augustine, Florida in the early 2000’s.
He began a career in finance in Santa Monica, California. While working for the likes of Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and doing statistical arbitrage on the New York Stock Exchange, Parker picked up a few tools he’d later use to develop DineGigs.
“I learned a lot about programming computers and financial algorithms. But finance, after eight or nine years, got a little tired. I’d been through 2008. I wanted to do something different,” Parker said.
In 2014, he moved back to Richmond and began as general manager of Lulu’s in Shockoe Bottom. In his time there he began developing management technology as means to make the business more efficient.
“In restaurants, everything’s in filing cabinets and it’s all spread out all over the place and everybody does it their own way,” Parker said. “DineGigs was born out of answering frustrations that I had.”
The infrastructure he built ran the gamut, ranging from employee schedule-writing programs to remote light-dimming at the end of the night.
“(The technology) was mainly for me, just something I was playing with,” he said.
Then he had the idea to offer it to other restaurants.
“It got to a point where I blueprinted the entire thing. I was going to give it away for free. It wasn’t nearly as advanced as what we’re doing now though,” he said.
Today, Parker said DineGigs has about 17 divisions. One of those is the public-facing DineGigs website, on which restaurant-specific jobs are posted around the country. The job board launched in May and is available as a mobile app.
Parker said the site is getting around 280,000 monthly visitors and has become popular in cities such as San Francisco and Austin.
Richmond has been a beta-market for DineGigs, Parker said. At the time of publishing, only two jobs are posted on DineGigs in Richmond — at Cha Chas Cantina in Shockoe Slip and Crossroads Coffee & Ice Cream in Forest Hill. Comparatively, Austin has over 350 jobs posted.
“Every time you need help (as a restaurant manager), the favored way is to talk to the employees you like and see if they have friends who need a job. If that doesn’t work, you have to step out,” Parker said.
Though DineGigs does list a few fast food jobs on its site, Parker said he’s specifically focusing on independent restaurants. Categories on the site include bakeries, breweries, coffee shops, hotels and food trucks. Parker said he wants DineGigs to help the restauranteurs who are being “nickel and dimed to death.”
“The restaurant is being sold to all day long – the phone company, the person that wants you to install WiFi, all that. The restaurant is just something that generates revenue to pay everybody else. I want to help restaurant owner,” Parker said.
The job board and much of the initial software offerings are free to use for restaurants and job-seekers.
“It’s a free marketing tool for our technology,” he said.
The company then hopes to win customers and drive revenue by selling a-la-carte add-ons to those existing offerings.
For additional funds for his company in the meantime, DineGigs is in the process of closing a $50,000 funding round, according to SEC documents. Parker said the company is also starting its Series A capital raise for an undisclosed amount and is about four to six weeks away from generating revenue.
Parker is the company’s lone full-time employee now, and said he has a staff of about 50 contractors from local firms. He’s working with Madison+Main on marketing, with Robert Half Technology and V4 Development handling IT and programming.
With the bulk of DineGigs’ offerings still yet to come, Parker is aware of the obstacles ahead.
“The biggest challenges are growing and reaching our markets,” he said. “But the goal is to increase restaurants’ profit margins by about 10 percent.”