How An AI-Enabled Booking Platform Aims To Disrupt The Restaurant Experience
With the acquisition of competing app Reserve, Resy aims to become a leading service bringing together restaurants and diners in a single app, providing consumers a convenient booking experience while enabling venues to better track their business
Restaurant booking app Resy does more than just enable reservations via smartphone. Using data and AI tools, the tool helps restaurants identify loyal customers, note trends in attendance and keep as many tables booked as possible.
For consumers, Resy offers a curated selection of restaurants and a discovery platform, as well as SMS software that helps diners take advantage of last-minute openings at hard-to-get locations. The app is well-established in the New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco markets, including partnerships with well-known hospitality groups like Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group and David Chang’s Momofuku group.
Recently, Resy acquired Reserve, a similar app with an established presence in other cities including Boston and Chicago. Combined with Reserve, the new Resy becomes the largest independent restaurant reservation service in the U.S. PSFK spoke to Victoria Vaynberg, Resy's chief marketing officer, about disrupting the restaurant booking experience and what AI can do for the future dining experience.
PSFK: What are some trends that you've noticed in the restaurant and hospitality industry in terms of how they intersect with new technology?
Victoria Vaynberg: It's not a trend to me anymore, but I still think data's probably the most powerful tool.
Data can help restaurants both before, during and after their service. The software is powered to say if this event occurs, what's the optimal change for that restaurant, for that night, to make sure that we're only gaining and not losing? I still see data as the crux. We need to make sure restaurants understand who's coming, who's coming back and how to maximize a particular night with ease.
AI is very broad, but I think that very much intersects with restaurants in the same way, which is, how do you build intelligence into the system to help address the various needs? For example, we're working toward a world where if it's snowing in New York, you can know how that will impact your business. That's where AI intersects for sure.
What does the acquisition of Reserve add to Resy software?
Resy and Reserve started at the same time. They kind of started out a little differently and ended up in the same place.
They were competitors, but served different markets?
That’s how things had netted out. In premise, the two companies very much believe in the same sort of new model for restaurants, which was rooted in making sure it was a fair price and didn't charge for covers, and focused on getting better restaurants on the platform and servicing restaurants first rather than trying to make money off of them.
Reserve ended up in a few markets where Resy isn't as strong, like Chicago and Boston. That's really the huge add for us—the ability to now be in both markets with really great restaurants that are of Resy caliber and bring the same value and service to them.
How does a service like Resy or Reserve improve the customer's dining experience? What does it add?
Resy is always focused on restaurants, making sure that the features that are enabling the restaurant to be great are also things the diners want. A lot of those features are what we're going to bring to new Reserve restaurants that are coming on the platform.
Then there's some signature items like our Notify feature, which allows you set a window of time of when you're looking for a table that is unavailable. Then if that table becomes available, you get alerted and you can snag it. It’s especially great for really hard-to-get restaurants.
That's a Resy-created feature, but from a restaurant standpoint, building up a notify pipeline helps you ensure you're always going to be able to fill your tables and make customers happy. From a customer's standpoint, it's one of the features where you don't totally have to give up or where you can snag something you didn't think you would be able to.
We allow you to set multiple notifications. That's a great example of something that is really beneficial for both sides. The same is true for Resy starting with SMS text to confirm for your reservation. Traditionally restaurants sit and call every person and try to confirm the tables and sometimes people don't answer. That leads to higher no‑show, which is really problematic. SMS has helped. Resy has the lowest global no‑show rate.
Again, from a restaurant standpoint it's one of the most important things, but from a consumer standpoint, everyone would rather get a text and say, “Yes, I'm good.” or “No, I'm not.” If they have a question you can text back and forth. Those are just two examples that we're excited to bring to Reserve restaurants.
Do you have plans to go beyond making reservations? Is there anywhere you'd like to also be involved along the customer journey?
We already are today, but we need to grow it a lot so that people know that. Discovery is really important. It feels like a very curated experience today because we have so many great restaurants.
It's location‑based so it reflects the neighborhood restaurants nearby to you. There are a couple of things in the app like little icons and signals of things that show climbing, which is restaurants that diners are dining at the most that you can track.
There's “New on Resy” things of that nature, top-rated. When we re‑launched resy.com in April, that was really focused on helping discovery. That's a big area that we want to keep growing in.
We have the unique value proposition of getting customers the tables they want through Resy, so we want them to be able to discover them and not feel like they have to go to three other destinations, figure out where they want to eat, and then end up on the reservation platform.
Resy.com is really focused on content. How can a Resy product help you make your experience as seamless as possible today? That includes putting special requests in your profile and saving them. That then becomes accessible to restaurants.
That way you don't have to write 10 different times every time you go out to eat, “I have a nut allergy.” You can just keep it in your profile and all restaurants can see that. There are some features that exist today and other things that we're testing and working on like local payments to pay your bill just through your app before you even have to request it. You could just pay and get up and leave. We're thinking about the full customer journey, absolutely.
What's the incentive for restaurants to work with you, and how do you build those relationships?
Great restaurants are focused on hospitality and that's what this technology is focused on doing. Even in those same examples, it's only a benefit to a diner if the restaurant is using it. For restaurants, getting to know their guests and making sure those guests come back and have the same amazing experience every time is the standard.
Restaurants and diners should have their own relationship, while Resy is the engine behind it. We want to enable everything. We don't want to be a barricade so we work really closely with all of our partners on what is it that would make their operations better, and drive better hospitality.
What we see in aggregate, a lot of restaurants wanting the same types of features, it helps make that easier for our roadmap. Restaurants who are really forward‑thinking about hospitality often can bring us ideas of what they're looking for.
That in turn helps restaurants overall. It's very much centered on that. We just like to think about as if we're going to make this for a restaurant, it's going to be great for them, and inevitably there's some benefit to a diner.
Is there any tension in balancing the interests of diners and restaurants?
Of course there can be at times, but for the most part, the way I think about it is restaurants and diners are both Resy's customers.
As restaurants are our customers, diners are restaurants’ customers. Everyone's servicing the same people at the end of the day. When restaurants are thinking about what they want and what they need, it's often in service of the diner so it's inevitably built‑in.
There are, of course, things that, let's say, benefit a restaurant maybe a little bit more than they benefit a diner, but we always ask that question, “Is this disruptive or is this helpful?” and look for ways where all sides can be happy.
Could you speak a bit about data and how the app uses it to build a better restaurant experience?
For one standpoint, at the end of any service through reporting, you are looking and understanding, “OK, what happened tonight? What trends can I see occur every Thursday night at my restaurant so I can plan accordingly for that?”
Within our software itself, the idea is that we have all this data from every night, even across restaurant groups, so companies who have four restaurants, they're able to have one holistic view of everything that's going on.
The data feeds the technology to help, let's say, your floor be optimized, for throughout the night. If I need to move one table or book one table, it's almost like Tetris, it calibrates itself to say, “Here's our recommended optimal set‑up so that you can get more turns in, so you can fit more people in so you're maximizing every part of the restaurant for the night that you have going on.”
That stuff is inherently built‑in to the software so that you're not just relying on one front‑of‑house human to make the decision in a split‑second while servicing everyone. There's a lot of additional tools like surveys where restaurants can deploy those on an ongoing basis. Just being able to provide them with all of the reporting and information so that they can understand what they need to potentially address in the business.
Then again data from just a guest standpoint so if you're running whether it's one restaurant or five restaurants, it's really important to them to see the whole picture of guests and what's going on and who's ordering what and how do I maybe people‑prioritize VIPs.
Everyone knows that, but what makes them VIP? If I have someone who wants to come in that I know, and spends a lot, how do I make sure that I get that person who's not become regular at my restaurant in, but still accommodate everybody else who wants to come? A lot of that comes from the technology.
How would it differentiate someone as a VIP inside the app?
It can flag them. We're just powering restaurants' world to let them run their business as they want to run it while giving them all the tools and information to maximize that experience. If a restaurant flags you as a VIP, you're just a VIP or a regular to that particular restaurant. That's not Resy.
That's your relationship with the restaurant. Where Resy can come in down the road in the future is how we can help grow loyalty for people who are repeat visitors to the same restaurants. Repeat visitors are much more valuable to a restaurant than a one‑time person that they'll never see again. Eventually we might score things like what is the benefit of being somebody who books a ton on Resy or who goes to a particular restaurant all the time.
If you have gone to a restaurant 10 times, they can see that you've gone a lot. Does that make someone a VIP to them? Not necessarily, but being a regular, it means they know that they're providing a great experience every time and they tend to come again.
Maybe if that user asks or tries to get a table, maybe they would bump them up. That's not stuff that Resy's here to control, but we want to make sure that we're allowing the restaurant to know who these repeat guests are. Overall, the trends in the reports offered to restaurants and all the data that they're getting in an automated way is all designed to help them understand what to do to maximize their business.
Resy is using data to enable tailored dining experiences for restaurants and patrons like, enhancing business while increasing convenience and satisfaction for customers. For more ideas from similar pioneering brands, see PSFK's reports and newsletters.