LSA18: Yelp’s Chad Richard On The ‘Decentralization of Reservations’

Digital reservations are seizing on SaaS cloud-based models and becoming the norm not only for Open Table-oriented white table cloth restaurants, but fast casual restaurants, beauty salons, spas and even hospital emergency rooms and Department of Motor Vehicles.

Yelp SVP of Business and Corporate Development Chad Richard, speaking at LSA18 this week in Chicago, said a “decentralization of reservations” plays a key role in the new marketing value chain, next to discovery and following up with ordering, retention and loyalty. It is all part of “an immersive experience” with many entry points.

With many options, consumers “don’t know where to book,” said Richard. They might use Instagram, “an amazing marketing channel that works exclusively through small images.” Or Apple Maps, which can put them one tap away from a reservation.” Google is “late to the game,” but now features a linkable blue “find a table” button.

Voice is another factor in the next generation of reservations, says Richard. Food ordering itself is tough via voice – the names of dishes get too complex, too quickly. But “getting the table down the street is an easy conversational experience that voice assistants are capable of right now.”

Restaurants remain the hub for reservations. Richard notes that 38,000 restaurants currently take digital reservations. The most popular systems include Open Table (25,000); Yelp (9,500); and Resy (1,500). As reservation services get cheaper and more omni-present, however, Richard envisions a broadening of the marketplace that will include a much higher percentage of the 500,000+ restaurants in the U.S.

Reservations will also take new forms. Some high-end reservations may become pre-paid tickets, which could add excitement for consumers, turning meal into an “event.” It also would add security for restaurant owners who are afraid of getting stood up.

Mas, a gourmet popup restaurant in Ashland, OR, for instance, uses a restaurant ticketing system from Toronto-based Tock. Its tagline: “Book your next gourmet experience.”