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By Haley Chi-Sing
Following the statewide lockdown, it was clear local restaurants were taking the brunt of the economic shutdown.
Tuli, a San Clemente-based tech company specializing in making digital marketplaces, recognized this need and made it a top priority to support local restaurants and get them back on their feet.
“When the coronavirus pandemic hit, we obviously saw that (restaurants) were being affected very negatively and were struggling. That’s when we said, ‘Hey, we need to support our community,’ ” said Meysam Moradpour, cofounder of Tuli.
As a part of the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce, Tuli wanted to support the local community in whatever way possible. It was after speaking with Chamber members that Tuli began its free specialized program, offering contactless menus, online ordering options, a specialized Tuli profile and menu, and free online pickup orders. Restaurants participating in Tuli’s program receive a unique QR code that guests can scan with their phones to view menus and order.
“People are just going to get used to ordering online. You don’t know when the pandemic is going to be over, so there’s just the effect of the convenience of ordering in,” said Moradpour.
All services were initially offered for free for six months up to a year. As Tuli has expanded, the offer has been extended, and it will be offered for free until the restaurant can begin operating as normally as possible.
“We told them, ‘Hey, initially we are going to give you online ordering and pickup for free for six months, but if you see that the pandemic goes on and things don’t get better, we are ready to extend our offer to a year,’ ” said Moradpour.
According to Moradpour, approximately 80% of local restaurants in the San Clemente area have signed on to participate in Tuli’s digitized program. “However long it takes them to bounce, we are not going to be charging them,” Moradpour said.
“For us as a digital marketplace, we’ve profited off of the shift to online ordering a lot over the past months,” he said.
Moradpour has stated that Tuli does not plan on ending its special restaurant offer anytime soon.
Having just opened their doors this past year, the Tuli team found it easiest to include restaurants and culinary entities in their business. Likewise, Tuli currently serves as a “digital mall” for local businesses in the South Orange County area, creating profiles and highlighting local entities. Tuli is also currently available in all 50 states, as well as several countries abroad.
According to Moradpour, items and entities presented on the platform are carefully curated by the Tuli team, featuring quality and highly rated restaurants in the area. Tuli is currently housing its specially categorized food court, where users can find, look, and recommend their top local restaurants.
“You won’t see big chains, because our users use Tuli to recommend local gems, hidden stuff, cool things to their followers,” Moradpour said.
Moradpour said Tuli is looking to expand its “digital mall” in the near future to include more local businesses, such as retail and travel. As of now, visitors can use Tuli to explore local cuisines and food hotspots.
“Over time, we would like to go more vertical and add retail and travel and other stuff that you can usually find at a mall,” said Moradpour.