In this interview with Moneys Magazine, Luca Lotterio, CEO of Restworld, shares his background and experiences in the hospitality industry that led him to start the company. Restworld aims to improve the process of matching job demand and supply in the hospitality sector, with a focus on addressing the high worker turnover rate and improving the working conditions for professionals in the industry. Lotterio discusses the market research and funding process for the company, and shares his vision for the future of Restworld and the hospitality industry.
Can you tell us more about your background and career prior to starting Restworld?
Hello Francesco, and thank you for asking about my background. I’m 29 years old and I’ve been starting my career right before my University studies. While studying in high school I’ve been working as a rider, as a dance teacher, as a model, and doing flyering for different companies. Once I started IT engineering at the University of Rome “La Sapienza”, I understood that I was not that great at spending time behind a computer, but I was pretty good at speaking and selling. That’s why I spent a few months between network marketing and direct selling. Not that positive experience, mostly because of the “sell whatever it takes” mood. So I decided to start Psychology and I’ve been studying for 5 years the organizational social environment, focusing on companies and organizations. In the meanwhile, I had a parallel career in Hospitality, starting as a waiter in Edinburgh (Scotland) and jumping from city to city (Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Turin, Terracina, Acceglio, Timisoara, and so on) working in restaurants (while studying) and managing floors and services.
While working on my thesis at the end of the University, I started to roll the idea of Restworld. The easiest way to match job demand and offer in the Horeca sector without borders.
What steps did you take to conduct market research before starting Restworld and what insights did you gain from this research?
I asked my professors if it was possible to conduct scientific research on restaurant owners and staff behaviors while looking for a job or for people to hire. There are a lot of studies about the factory and office dynamics, but almost nothing in restaurants and hotels. Even if professionals in this sector are millions around Europe. I invited one of my colleagues at the University (today one of the co-founders of Restwold) to make this research. We spent almost 3 months running through restaurants and speaking with more than 100 owners, asking them for interviews and questionnaires. In the meanwhile, we made the same with professionals working in the sector.
After this research, while the pandemic was forcing us into lockdown in early 2020, we spent other 3 months making research on the Horeca skeletons in the cupboard.
“We found that 91% of people had an experience of illegal work, more than 50% were working with people that use cocaine, and we received hundreds of testimonials explaining harassment situations or moments in which they received discrimination”
Our research involved more than 15.000 people in the sector just in Italy. And in the meanwhile, we created a tool to help restaurants understand which where the government supports they had to figure out the covid19 crisis.
How did you fund the company in its early stages and who are your investors?
We started as most startup founders, with a short traction of customers and a pitch deck with a business plan done with no experience. But, differently from most successful startups, we had no experience and a really poor network of people. No BAs in our triple F (Fools, friends, and family). So we raised our first €12k from a little group that invests in projects and then we started including some restaurant owners that understood what we were working on. Today, we are backed by 7 restaurant owners, 2 accountants, a startup accelerator known as Startup Wise Guys, and an HR Tech company called Intervieweb (Zucchetti group, the biggest leader in software, hardware, and services in Italy)
What is Restworld’s goal in the hospitality industry and how do you plan to achieve it?
We believe that one of the biggest challenges for the Horeca sector is basically the workers turnover. Even if it is something that you can control and reduce, it is inbred, due to a big percentage of workers in the sector that are basically choosing this job for a short period of their life (students, immigrants, second-job). And another percentage of workers are basically seasonal workers. So they love to move from place to place. Our goal is to embrace the turnover, and help restaurants to be able to use it as an advantage for their success, not an Achilles’ heel.
What is your team’s background and how did you bring such a diverse group together?
Our team basically comes from psychological backgrounds and engineering studies. We believe that a good mix between human centricity, technology, and automation is the core of every product. There is no tech without user experience, and there is no user experience without understanding human behavior. As we are growing in the last months, we are starting to hire people with backgrounds in communication, marketing, and sales. Obviously, everyone has the same passion: restaurants!
What is the advantage of having psychologists on the Restworld team and how do they contribute to the company’s mission and goals?
As I previously mentioned, the core activities of a service design are basically understanding the customers, their behaviors, needs, and hopes. Zuckerberg is a living example of how psychology is a must-have knowledge when starting a startup. It helps you deliver not just better products and services, but products and services that people really want. Through a scientific approach (yes, psychology tests can be scientifically demonstrated) you can go deeper into understanding your customers and users. And this is true for UX, tech, marketing, communication, and even administration and to better manage your internal teams.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact the creation and launch of Restworld?
We’ve been blocked at birth. After all, I believe that even if we’re 1 year late with our first business plan, we had time to listen to our target audience, get knowledge and learn from others. As we are all young founders (under 30), we had to fill a gap of not having experience in the business sector. So we spent a good amount of time studying and improving our skills from the better books, trainers, and mentors we crossed our way. Now, in 2023, it’s time to bring Restworld from startup to scaleup and to put on the ground what we learn so far.
How does Restworld aim to benefit restaurant and hospitality workers and their employers?
Imagine you’re a worker looking for a job. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than surfing the net for hours applying to dozens of job positions hoping for an answer and receiving daily advice on job positions you’re not fitting for. Now imagine a platform that works for you, looking for your fitting job positions and giving you always feedback from the job positions you’re applying for and explaining to you why this or that is right or not for you. Reasonable feedback improves your consciousness of how the world of work looks like. Seems like Linkedin right? Well, for the restaurant industry, Linkedin is not a must-have, and workers are abandoned to themselves.
On the other side, I don’t want to bother you with hundreds of words. Basically, they save time and money, a lot of. Here there are more information about https://www.restworld.it/employer
How does Luca Lotterio plan to internationalize Restworld and bring its services to a global market?
After being included in the startup Wise Guys accelerator, we understood why we started this project so far. To give the possibility to people that want to change their life to do it with Restworld, enabling them to go to work everywhere in the world, with the right bench of basic competencies.
We will continue rolling our technology and market in Italy, and then we will start moving forward in 2024 with one initial country (today those at the top of the list are France, Spain, and Estonia). From this, we will develop our personal Build&Send model, and we will go through 20 countries in 5 years. That’s our goal.