Meet the entrepreneur helping Londoners find the cool dining spots
- Credit: Supplied
Plans to dine out? Hampstead entrepreneur Natasha Zone is the vision behind an iPhone app that curates more than 2,000 places to eat, drink and stay in London. Spotlighting community heroes, female-led, Black-owned and sustainable businesses, Onezone covers restaurants, bars, cafes, pubs and hotels. Rashmi Narayan asked about her innovative platform.
Q: What inspired Onezone?
A: My background and experience is in concierge and hospitality. Being a millennial, I identified a gap in the market for a global city-based platform that resonates with the next generation. My vision is that it's brilliantly curated so the content can be trusted, hyper convenient so it's easy to find the best places in a city, and it addresses diversity and allows users to support innovative businesses. This blend of technology, brand-building and curation hasn't been seen before in this market. Being fortunate to have grown up in the social media generation, I reached out to London’s well-respected food influencer Clerkenwell Boy, and gained support from him, as well as additional key advisors, to help launch it in London.
Q: What hurdles did you face?
A: Finding the right people to bring around you on this journey definitely has its challenges, and I have also noticed the lack of women in technology and female mentors in the industry, which is something I am keen to champion and change.
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Q: How do you choose your restaurants?
A:. Initially my team and I evaluate the food, service and the atmosphere of a restaurant. We have a core team with a wealth of hospitality knowledge and we visit every place on the app before it is “Onezone approved”. We cover a wide range of places, from the most expensive through to the best street food and fast casual options. Our team take all the photos and we are focused on brand consistency and authentic, beautiful photography so that we can showcase a restaurant to the best of our ability and inspire our users to visit and know what to expect. We also have expert advisors whom we trust, from national reputed publications, who feed back their opinions and advice. And we work with expert guest curators in the industry e.g. the world’s best bartenders to curate some of our editorial lists, as well as the best restaurant PRs.
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Q: Are there any features that you are planning to add?
A: We are currently raising funds to accelerate our growth, develop the app for android so that more users can enjoy it, and expand to more cities. When we launched in May 2021, our target was to grow to 50,000 users by September. We hit our target in June, well ahead of schedule which was an incredible feat. 100,000 booking requests were made through the app in our first month and we have had 90,000 new downloads in just four months, with only a tiny team. In the next quarter, we will be focused on launching hotels on the app, given the popularity of staycations, as well as improving the stability of the app so that we can handle the user growth that we are seeing and deliver the best possible user experience.
Q: What cities are next?
A: New York is a strong lead, one of my personal favourite cities and a very foodie city. We are also looking at Paris and major European cities so that our Onezone users who rely on the app in London, can travel and access it in foreign cities, where the curation is even more valuable.
Q: Any personal favourites in Hampstead?
A: There are a number of independent cafes, including Ginger & White, in Hampstead that serve great, classic coffee and brunch. Cinder in Belsize Park is a new restaurant that I highly recommend and The Engine Room in Highgate is a brilliant new addition to the area.