The Reservation Rumble: Whose Table Will You Sit At?

Throughout the past few months, the topic of dining reservations has been thrown on the table, and more startups want a seat — both literally and figuratively. An interesting dynamic, considering OpenTable, a main contender because of its network size and reach, was recently bought by Priceline for $2.6 billion. 

The Experience Age: Affordable Luxury

In 2014, we might as well call ourselves not only the Digital Age, but the Experience Age. Millennials and Baby Boomers, the two most prevalent generations as far as buying power goes, are no longer looking for just an end result: We want an experience. An affordably luxurious one, at that.

This goes for mostly everything now — from travel (we’re looking at you, Branson) and transportation (hello, Uber!) to shopping (HauteLook) and dining. And let’s not forget that the dining experience doesn’t begin when you walk into a restaurant, but rather when you begin searching for one and then, of course, making a reservation. The full experience.

Foodable WebTV Network

Foodable WebTV Network

App vs. App

Launching in beta this month on June 11th in the New York market was Ben Leventhal and Gary Vaynerchuk’s new app Resy, which they hope will be the ultimate game changer in restaurant reservations by offering otherwise exclusive tables at some of the most sought-after restaurants for users on-the-go. (Note: On Resy’s blog, Ben Leventhal writes, “as a thank you for helping us get it [the app glitches] right, we’re extending free reservations through tomorrow.” How’s that for user-friendly?)

Last week, entrepreneur Garret Camp (Uber and StumbleUpon) revealed on Facebook a vague “Coming soon to NYC” teaser with a link to this bad boy, Reserve, a site that is bare except for a message that reads, “A Better Dining Experience is Coming.” Also tagged in the post are Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai, who became a partner of Expa — Camp’s startup studio — at the end of May 2014, and Joe Marchese, CEO of ad tech company True[X]. Rumor has it that the app will launch in NYC this Fall. 

What’s also interesting, aside from the fact that these two app startups will be competing in the same space and market, is the fact that Vaynerchuk (Resy) is an investor in Uber, which Camp founded.

Putting the Pieces Together

While there hasn’t been much revealed yet about Reserve, Camp’s background with a stress on discovery function (both StumbleUpon and Uber) and Naveen’s Foursquare endeavor highlighting location-based actions makes us curious as to how the two will approach differentiation in the marketplace, especially from Resy.

In an interview with 99U, Camp explained that the Expa umbrella primarily focuses on two very significant threads: design and data. “For online consumer products, design also means all the little interactions: the usability, the system the product is built on, the details under the hood. But to help determine what’s working, we’re very data-driven,” he said.

According to LinkedIn, the Reserve team also includes CEO/Founder Greg Hong, Timothy Knight (VP Product at Fuse Networks) as CTO, Drew Shepard (Pxl Now) as GM, Joseph Loria (HBO) as DevOps Manager, and Maggie Rold, Director of Restaurant Relations.

Will Camp incorporate a more full-bodied experience into Reserve, like an in-app Uber partnership? What incentives will Reserve offer that encapsulates the Experience Age’s affordable luxury paradigm? Will OpenTable rebrand itself to become more flexible and incorporate a more local approach to its users? What will become of Yelp and GrubHub, some other big players in the game, both of which saw stock increase when Priceline announced its OpenTable acquisition? 

Only time will tell, but we can almost guarantee with the talent behind both teams that no one will be eating leftovers.