Inside Mr Yum’s $100m global expansion plans

Teo and her fellow co-founders Adrian Osman (COO), Kerry Osborn (CXO) and Andrei Miulescu (CTO) intend to take their product to the world. International expansion plans form a key part of its strategy: the start-up raised $100 million last year, with Skip Capital founder Kim Jackson and her husband Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar among its backers, who saw hospitality’s embrace of technology as a lucrative opportunity.

Mr Yum CEO Kim Teo with a Mr Yum QR code.Credit:Joe Armao

But Mr Yum is one of two leaders in Australia’s small scan-order-pay market, with the other being Sydney-headquartered me&u, led by Dimmi founder Stevan Premutico. Customers would be forgiven for not knowing the difference between the two; their table beacons are nearly identical. Both launched at very similar times, albeit one headquartered in Sydney and one in Melbourne.

Both are in a race to crack the US and UK markets; me&u recently installed a new CEO (as well as a new finance chief and two business development leaders) allowing Premutico to focus on just that.

The three respective markets – US, UK, and Australia – are “super different”, says Teo: the UK market is “very competitive” and “very mature in their thinking”, with venues taking their time to carefully consider their options in a crowded market. Meanwhile, the US market presents its peculiar difficulties, with its unique customer service and tipping culture, which means the adoption of QR code ordering and paying is “next to zero”.

“They’re almost like salespeople in a shop. They are personally responsible for upselling customers, getting as many tips as they can. Their work is rewarded in a really different way to Australia,” says Teo. But the US’ jobs market is even tighter than ours, she points out. “We’ll get there.”

International growth isn’t the only way Teo’s team plans to spend the recent capital injection: Mr Yum recently acquired the customer relationship management platform MyGuestList. Headcount will also be added to the Australian team (Mr Yum counts 260 full-time staff globally).

And then there’s the simple principle of being prudent. “We don’t have to burn it all … it’s comforting to know that [we’ve] got more capital in the bank than what we planned for and what we needed.”

‘We’re a really different DNA’

When asked how Teo aims to get an edge over me&u, Teo says the rivalry has been a net positive.

“Me&u and Mr Yum have worked together to change the industry. Not in a deliberate way,” she says. “We’re helping each other educate a market, as opposed to just trying to take each other. It’s not a zero-sum game.”

But when it comes down to it, Teo distinguishes the two not on product features, but on culture.

“I would say that, behind the scenes, we’re a really different DNA to them. The things they prioritise in the business are dissimilar to things we prioritise. It’s just a way of running companies that are really polar opposites.”

Teo also notes her counterpart, Premutico, had the benefit of being an established figure in the hospitality industry when he launched me&u.

“We were totally the underdogs, and I think a little bit underestimated,” Teo says of when Mr Yum was first launched. “We didn’t know anyone in the industry – hardly, maybe some people here and there, but not any super meaningful background or black book to lean on.”

For someone who claims not to cook well, Teo is concocting some fairly ambitious plans.

“Our number one priority is being the best product in the world and continuing to lead on innovation.”

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