Monday, November 3, 2014

New markets for restaurant reservations

Move over, Open Table.  Matt Buchanan has the story in the NY Times: Can You Uber a Burger?

"In recent months, as retail rents have risen in cities like New York and San Francisco, and as food prices have simultaneously hit three-year highs, various companies have been trying to find new ways to monetize the restaurant experience. Inspired by how we pay for concerts, airline tickets and, more recently, transportation through the car-hailing service Uber, more and more apps and reservation systems have homed in on disrupting a fundamental ritual: how we book a table.  Table 8 in San Francisco sells reservations at popular restaurants just days in advance; Zurvu scours the best open tables on OpenTable; Reserve, a start-up created by founders of Uber and Foursquare, aims to be a full-fledged digital concierge; SeatMe, which was acquired by Yelp, allows restaurants to ping eager diners if tables open up at the last minute. “This is a space that hasn’t seen a lot of innovation since 1998,” which is “when OpenTable first started taking online reservations,” says Brian Mayer, the founder of ReservationHop, yet another new reservation-­selling service. This summer, McNally’s restaurant group teamed up with Resy, a service that sells reservations for tables at peak times.
"Nick Kokonas, a former derivatives trader who is an owner of the exclusive Chicago restaurants Next and Alinea, has found perhaps the most clever way to solve this problem. Kokonas has developed a system that requires diners to pay for a ticket to reserve their spot, with that money deducted from their final bill. While he has employed a version of the system for his expensive tasting menus, he expects tickets at more casual restaurants to take the form “of a deposit ticket of $5 to $10, fully applied to the bill.” According to Kokonas, restaurants using pilot versions of his system have seen no-show rates drop to less than 2 percent.
"a number of services have emerged to book reservations without a restaurant’s knowledge and sell them to diners, while cutting the restaurant entirely out of the transaction. Sophie McNally, the operations manager of her father’s restaurants, described these services as “basically scalpers.” Some, like Today’s Epicure, frame themselves as a concierge service, charging a large annual fee. Killer Rezzy, which charges its 6,103 members $25 per reservation, books tables at 78 restaurants — a sizable fraction of which have teamed up with the service. Killer Rezzy tries to lure restaurants, however, through revenues from the reservations it sells and access to the profiles of its members, enabling them to better target potential diners. Sasha Tcherevkoff, its founder, said that roughly 40 percent of the restaurants that initially asked him to remove their reservations from his site ultimately either signed on for a trial or became partners.
"Kokonas, Leventhal and Tcherevkoff all have much larger plans for their services as logistics with a broad range of applications. “Nonemergency medicine, spas, your personal trainer,” Kokonas says. “Anything that’s a time-slotted business.” Have your tickets ready."

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