A year ago today, the team at Reserve woke up early (some of us still at the office from the night before), excited to finally release the public beta of our service. We were coming out of the gate swinging, launching simultaneously in three different cities across the country and proudly touting our partnerships with more than 60 restaurant partners. It was just the beginning.
Over the course of the next twelve months, Reserve launched in San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia. We launched our Android app, came out of beta and took down our diner waitlist, which we had implemented to keep us from overwhelming restaurant partners with requests. We raised a $15 million Series A round, bringing our total funding to $17.3 M raised from amazing backers at Expa, Human Ventures, First Round, Lowercase Capital, Advancit Capital, Sherpa Ventures, Google Ventures and individual investors like Jared Leto, Jon Favreau, will.i.am and Nas. We acquired four restaurant and dining technology companies, who had been working on problems from reservations to CRM to payment. We started a social media trend, and worked with amazing partners like Uber, Banana Republic, Coachella and more. We also partnered with phenomenal restaurateurs across the country, growing our restaurant network more than 600% to 400 of the country’s best restaurants.
Every single day, we talked to our diners and our restaurant partners about what we could do to make dining better for them. Responding to requests from both sides, we became the first company in the country to help you both make a group reservation and split the check, leading the way in the mobile payments space. We added sorting and filtering tools to make it easier for diners to find a place that was just right for them. We rolled out communications tools to help restaurants offer alternative times or seating options if what you originally requested wasn’t available, and launched a more conversational view to make it simpler and easier to chat with your concierge.
Along the way, we learned a lot about hospitality, the restaurant industry and dining habits across the country. Some of it wasn’t that surprising. On average, diners spent the most on dinner in New York City, followed by San Francisco and Los Angeles. Reserve diners generally tipped more than average, and friendly midwesterners tipped higher than diners in our other five cities. And having connected with their chosen restaurant via concierge and facing the possibility of a fee if they didn’t show up, our diners missed their reservations at a drastically lower rate than the national average.
But we were surprised to find that impulsive New Yorkers were the most diligent planners, requesting tables on average 6.7 days in advance, more than any other city. While diners in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles prefer to make their weekend plans on Friday, New Yorkers plan ahead and submit the most requests on Wednesday, and Philadelphians procrastinate until Saturday. And though they love the weekend, Angelenos didn’t shy away from weekday dining, with higher than average weekday requests, especially on Tuesdays.
As a lightweight communications tool between restaurants and guests, we also looked at how diners in different metros communicated about their meals and plans. Diners in Philly were the most eager to share information with restaurants — a full third of requests in that city have special request notes attached sharing everything from dietary preferences to details about a special occasion. And when it comes to texting their concierge, the tech-savvy citizens of San Francisco were the chattiest, sending more messages on average than any other city. New Yorkers were the most likely to invite others to dine with them through the app, and diners in Boston were most likely to split the check.
Our data also helped qualify the idea that when it comes to getting a reservation, the more advance notice you could give, the better. Across all our restaurants in all cities, the optimal time to request a reservation was about seven days in advance of when you wanted to dine, or up to two weeks if you were requesting an extremely popular restaurant. More advance notice isn’t necessarily a bad thing though — just ask the diner who placed a request 309 days in advance (he got in)!
People often turned to us to help plan a fun meal out. Our diners were most often looking for places that were “trendy,” “casual,” or served brunch. And when it came to cuisine, Italian was the most searched for, followed by Chinese and American. Reservations made furthest in advance were often special celebrations, and guests on Reserve had a lot to celebrate — most often birthdays, followed by anniversaries. We were also honored to help make arrangements for more than one couple planning a marriage proposal.
Today we have something to celebrate as well — the official launch of our seventh city, Washington D.C., with some of the best restaurants in the city. Whether it’s classic tapas at Jaleo or contemporary Greek at Kapnos, we’ve got you covered. We’ll be adding new restaurants on an ongoing basis, both in the Nation’s Capital and in all of our other cities around the country.
It’s been an amazing year, and as we look ahead we can’t wait to continue expanding to more cities, adding more restaurants in our existing markets and bringing a better dining experience to more guests. We’re incredibly thankful to our investors, partners and diners for helping us have such an amazing year, and we can’t wait for Year Two.
Greg Hong, CEO and Co-Founder