It’s probably a sign of my age but I still like to refer to it as the restaurant business although many refer to it as the restaurant industry. For me the distinction is simple, industry makes be think of a behemoth collective, while business makes me think of all of the individual people in the businesses that make up the industry. Having said that, I am acutely aware of the proliferation of technology solutions being developed and deployed for the restaurant business.
In my opinion, technology is dramatically changing the restaurant business and some technology will forever change the way that guests interact with restaurants. One of the most impactful technology solutions and probably the best known is OpenTable. OpenTable dramatically changed the way guests made reservations and created a huge following of loyal customers. For the restaurant, OpenTable solved a problem that for years most restaurants that took reservations didn’t realize they had until OpenTable. OpenTable made it simple for restaurants to accept reservations through the OpenTable network and effectively eliminated that big red book that so many restaurants used to take reservations. OpenTable’s basic business model is for restaurants to pay a monthly subscription and a transaction fee on every reservation that OpenTable sends to the restaurant.
OpenTable was originally launched in the San Francisco Area in 1999 and was acquired by Priceline earlier this year for $2.6 Billion. TechCrunch, a media property that profiles and reports on technology companies lists OpenTable as having over 30,000 restaurants in it’s network in multiple countries including the US, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Germany, the UK has “seated” over 530 million diners. Regardless, of your interest, technology, business, restaurants, or all of the above, that’s a lot of dollars, diners, and reservations and it is doubtful that anyone could disagree that OpenTable changed the way restaurants and guests accepted and made restaurant reservations.
While it is clear that OpenTable defined the restaurant reservation it’s probably not as clear what the future holds. Last year, online review giant Yelp entered the field with it’s offering SeatMe which Yelp acquired in a cash and stock deal worth $12.7 million. Yelp enjoys millions of users many of which made reservations from Yelp through OpenTable. Yelp’s acquisition of SeatMe will undoubtedly bring an end to that relationship when the agreement expires if it hasn’t done so already. Yelp is really significant in the restaurant space with consumers posting millions of reviews every month with an increasing number of reviews and views coming from it’s mobile app. SeatMe offers a monthly no-contract subscription for restaurants and it will be interesting to see if the love-hate relationship that many restaurants have with Yelp will help or hurt new subscribers to the service. SeatMe appears to be clearly going after the huge space that OpenTable enjoys and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
A quiet but effective provider in the reservation space is Charlotte, NC based NexTable which is moving steadily up the line as a key provider in the restaurant reservation and waitlist space. One of the greatest attributes of NexTable is that it is not owned by a behemoth consumer facing company like Priceline or Yelp but rather a seasoned restaurateur. Restaurants use the system as if it is their own with all attribution coming to the restaurant. I recently used NexTable to make a reservation and from a restaurant’s perspective I loved the fact that my confirmation and reminder emails were branded from the restaurant. NexTable also offers a multi-tiered subscription model which works for both large and small restaurants. NexTable has a very simple to use table manager and also works great as a waitlist. I especially like the the fact that it generates from the restaurant’s brand and if new customers or old access your restaurant from other sites and click-through to your website they can make their reservations right on your website. What is so important about that is that all of the customer data stays with your restaurant and NexTable has a very robust reporting and analytics tool to help you get the most out of that data.
Who knows what the future holds but one thing seems to be very certain and that is that technology will play a significant roll in the ever-changing landscape of the restaurant business. How restaurants present their brands in the online spaces is more important than ever. What is even more significant is the fact that your customers and potential customers are probably more likely than not viewing and interacting with your online profiles on a mobile device so whatever solution you choose make sure that it works really well on a mobile device.
If I can help you to get the most out of technology for your restaurant let’s schedule a call.