This year, Table8, a reservation system started in 2013, folded, unable to raise additional funds to keep going. So far, none of the new services appear to be profitable.
“Everyone is fighting to win over the handful of top restaurants in each market — and then what?” said Jeff Jordan, a former chief executive of OpenTable who is now a venture capitalist. “It’s hard to see the endgame.”
Consumers continue to have fundamental gripes about these services: chiefly, that they offer few or no tables during the peak dining hours. They make it difficult to book tables for large or odd-numbered parties, which is why diners like Jeff Day, a marketing executive in Austin, Tex., keeps no reservation apps on his phone.
“My default way to make reservations is still to call,” he said, “I guess because my desire to speak to a human transcends the need to just make a reservation.”
His wife, Teresa, however, recently added one of the upstarts, Reserve, to her phone. “I think I’ve used OpenTable for 10 years, and it has a really good loyalty program that gives you points to use in restaurants or on Amazon,” she said. “But Reserve has better restaurants, places that are hipper, newer and just more desirable.”
Reserve has managed to attract those restaurants because, like many of other new reservation services, it is paying more attention to meeting their needs. After all, the restaurants are paying monthly fees for the service.
But winning over restaurateurs, many of whom have accumulated a long list of gripes against what they perceive as cookie-cutter approach to their reservation woes, is still a challenge.
“These kinds of technologies have been a boon for the diner,” said David Barber, an owner of Blue Hill in New York City and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Westchester County. “But the idea that it’s delivered this great efficiency to the restaurant business is kind of a myth, especially for fine-dining restaurants.”
OpenTable is not just standing by as others invade its turf. While it has been slow to move in the past, last spring it upgraded its flagship GuestCenter package for restaurant managers, improving its ability to handle large parties and better juggle servers’…