How a guy who hated working in finance quit and built a startup that powers some of the hottest clubs and restaurants


Joel Montaniel Headshot


SevenRooms founder and CEO Joel Montaniel.

The idea for Joel Montaniel's startup stemmed from one simple reason: he really hated his job.


In 2009, Montaniel was working a finance job at Credit Suisse, putting in 120-hour weeks and spending up to three months at a time working until 4 a.m. every night. The brutal pace of his day job made it hard to have a social life, book vacations, or try out new restaurants and nightclubs.

"The challenge is, the nightclubs and restaurants that I wanted to go to, you had to know someone or you had to book very far in advance in order to go there," Montaniel told Business Insider. "In a world where you're finding out whether you're off or not at 8 o'clock, it made it fairly impossible to go do that."

Montaniel embarked on what would ultimately be the first iteration of his company: an OpenTable-like site for nightlife. The app allowed users to book reservations at nightclubs in advance and on the website's first day, 100,000 people visited the site.

No one came back. The site, called Nightloop, "failed miserably."


"We made every mistake in the book," Montaniel said. "It's easy to say that, but going through that experience was really tough. We had spent three years working on this on the side while we were working full-time jobs."

The problem, Montaniel said, is that it was more expensive to book reservations at nightclubs through the site, because club owners didn't know what type of clientele they'd be getting and charged more.

Finding the pain points

Montaniel knew he was on to something, he just needed to learn more about building technology. He took a job as the chief of staff to Robert LoCascio, CEO of New York-based software company LivePerson. There, Montaniel learned how to run a business, launch a product, and how to think about culture. Montaniel says that his two years at LivePerson served as a business school of sorts.

During his stint at LivePerson, Montaniel was doing something else on the side: working behind the host stand at nightclubs and restaurants around the city and getting to know the owners to try to understand what the industry really needed.

The biggest pain points, he realized, were that most places were still using a pen and paper to take down reservations; bookings were coming in through multiple different channels, like email and text messages; and there was no centralized place to keep customer data.


In 2011, Montaniel decided to launch SevenRooms, a digital platform built specifically for businesses in the hospitality industry that help them manage reservations and customer data, all in one place.



A central hub

SevenRooms is an iPad app that serves as the central hub for front-of-house operations. While the company does serve as a platform for booking reservations, the main difference between SevenRooms and competitors like Resy or OpenTable is that SevenRooms stores extensive customer data.

iPhone_ResID Profile


A hostess or doorperson will be able to look up a customer's name on an iPad, then quickly find out information like what they ordered last time the visited, the price of bottles of wine they usually order, any food allergies they might have, and whether they're a VIP.

Essentially, the company hopes to improve the customer's experience and eliminate awkward situations for the staff, like the dreaded "Don't you know who I am?" question.


Another feature of the product that sets it apart, Montaniel says, is the ability for larger hotel, club, or restaurant chains to use that data across all of their properties.

SBE, which owns high-end properties in multiple cities like Hyde and Katsuya, is a client of SevenRooms. For customers that frequent a club in one city then visits a property in a different city, for example, the company can quickly pull up that customer's information and accommodate them in the same way.

"We're the thing that they log into every day to run their business," Montaniel said.

The software costs businesses $495 per month per property, although there are add-ons a company can opt to purchase as well.

SevenRooms is currently being used by more than 100 companies around the world. The startup has raised $6.3 million in funding from BoxGroup, and some less traditional investors from the hospitality industry, like Per Se's Thomas Keller, the Merinoff family, which owns a billion-dollar liquor distribution company, and the Handwerker family, which owns Nathan's Hot Dogs. The company says it plans to raise a Series B in 2017 to help "expand and accelerate" growth.


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