Consider the last time you made a restaurant reservation online. Did you muddle through a restaurant’s website and then an online reservation site for a table? Did you eventually succumb to a time slot that left you less than happy? Show up to find you’d been given a mediocre table? Or what about the last time you canceled your reservation? Did you cancel online without notifying the restaurant — even if it was the same day you were supposed to dine? Worse yet, did you no-show? Ben Leventhal (who made his name as the co-founder of restaurant news site Eater) believed the online reservation process left a lot to be desired. And so he teamed up with Gary Vaynerchuk and Mike Montero, both vets of the tech space, and set out to create an app that would provide a better experience for the diner and cut down on the no-shows (and, therefore, lost revenue) for a restaurant. In 2014, they launched Resy in Manhattan; they’ve since expanded to Los Angeles, Miami, and, as of last week, Brooklyn.
“There was a lot of opportunity to improve the experience for the restaurant and consumer, and to improve platform for the restaurant,” says Leventhal. “We wanted to put the right customer in the right seat.”
And so when you enter Resy, you find a list of carefully curated restaurants, listed in order of what’s closest to you. You may have to pay a fee to book a table; how much, Leventhal says, depends on demand. “We work with the restaurants to set pricing,” he explains. “We really strive for it to be an accurate representation of demand. Demand is driven by a variety of factors: seasonality, day of the week — we’re looking at all those things, and attaching what we feel is a fair price to the reservation. On Monday or Tuesday, 70 percent of the reservations are free. On Saturday, 70 percent are paid.” In some cases, you get a free glass of wine with that fee. Or you might be able to guarantee a booth, or outdoor seating.
And, because Resy is open only to restaurants the team feels confident about recommending, you’ll theoretically get a better guarantee that you’ll have a good night out than with picking a restaurant blindly. “Usually, you launch a webpage and get a thousand choices,” says Leventhal. “We do the opposite — we provide users with the best choices. These are restaurants that deliver an amazing experience every time. We’ve turned down some restaurants that we weren’t confident enough in.” He adds that Resy does offer many different kinds of dining experience, so that it can function for you, whether you’re looking for a casual night at the bar or an appropriate date spot.
Restaurants, in turn, see many fewer last-minute cancellations and no-shows, especially if you had to pay a fee to book a table. And Leventhal says Resy drives a “mobile-conscious customer” to these restaurants, which can be an asset in spreading word-of-mouth buzz.
The team launched Resy in Brooklyn last week, keeping the borough distinct from Manhattan because they believe Brooklyn is a dining destination in its own right. “To have been in Brooklyn as part of launching Manhattan would not be maximizing the value for users in Brooklyn,” says Leventhal. “That would have been a misrepresentation of the landscape. We decided to wait until we had our ducks in a row, to have an opportunity to figure out what the right restaurants were.”
The lineup includes some big perks — Lucali is on the app, for instance, which means Resy is the only way you can skip the line at the pizzeria, which has long been walk-in-only. And at Battersby, you can reserve a two-top but still order from the à la carte menu. Traditionally, you had to commit to the tasting menu there if you wanted to make a reservation. Other restaurants on the roster include Maison Premiere, Do or Dine, the Pines, Littleneck, and Noodle Pudding.
Look for more perks to launch with the app in the coming weeks — Leventhal says the team is working on unique experiences for early and late seatings. He cites, by way of example, a forthcoming deal with Barchetta, for which you’ll be able to score a lobster roll and a glass of wine for $25, so long as you accept a 6:30 reservation. “This is an opportunity to create something really valuable on both sides of the marketplace,” he says. “You can grab something on the early side and not go through the full experience.”
Resy plans to launch in the Hamptons on May 1, just in time for summer. After that, the team will be working on Washington, D.C.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 3, 2015