Founded by Greg Hong and true(x) CEO, Joe Marchese, Reserve is a digital concierge service focused on making every part of the dining experience better, for both restaurants and diners. They’ve partnered with some of the top names in dining, over 110 partners — from Michelin-starred restaurants to James Beard award-winning chefs — to enable an exceptional experience for restaurants and guests before, during, and after their meal. Reserve has Series A funding and is headquartered in New York City with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston.
On Wednesday, Reserve announced that it has raised a $15 million in another Series A round led by Human Ventures Capital, Marchese’s firm, as well as Expa, a startup lab of sorts created by Uber co-founder Garrett Camp, bringing the total amount of funding raised by the startup to $17.3 million. Expa has raised $50 million to help build startups, including Reserve. Also contributing to Reserve’s Series A round are First Round, Lowercase Capital, Advancit Capital, Sherpa Ventures, SV Angel, Venture51, Visionnaire Ventures, and angel investors including Jared Leto, Jon Favreau, and rapper Will.i.am.
“Many of our early investors are known for knowing a good thing when they see it,” said Reserve CEO and co-founder Greg Hong in a post announcing the new round of funding, referring to Reserve investor First Round Capital, which was also an early investor in Uber.
“As our initial investors watched our progress and velocity, many of them urged us to pull together a syndicate round for our Series A to allow the group to continue to be involved at a larger level. The feedback, advice and support we’ve received from our investor group has been invaluable, and we’re glad to have the opportunity to continue to work and collaborate with so many talented individuals and organizations.” He added.
Designed to be more restaurant centric, Reserve doesn’t charge restaurants any fee but diners have to pay $5 as the app fee for every meal. The app allows restaurateurs to build their book on their own terms. They can see real-time diner requests and have more flexibility in accommodating guests. Reserve helps restaurants keep dining rooms full and maximize the number of diners they can seat. The restaurants Reserve partners with are given iPads from the startup that have the Reserve app already loaded. Restaurants can quickly and easily accept or reject reservation requests.
If you’re in one of those cities and you use Reserve, you use the app to enter details about the size of your party (you can book a reservation for up to eight people), when you want to eat (Reserve lets you reserve a table up to 32 days in advance), and what kind of restaurant reservation you’re looking for. Reserve sends information via text to the person who organized the dinner.
Reserve also handles payments by billing the diner’s card on file. Guests leave on a more positive note, and servers have more time to concentrate on providing great hospitality and managing the flow of the dining room. In addition, Reserve allows diners to provide private, verified feedback after every meal, creating a valuable source of actionable information for restaurateurs.
One of Hong’s goals is to expand beyond fine dining: “We want to give that experience to people in their everyday lives.” That seems like a worthy goal, especially since I currently feel like I don’t eat at enough fancy restaurants to be a regular Reserve user.
I wondered, however, if the app’s $5 fee for diners, which may not seem like much when you’re paying $100 or more for the meal, starts to seem more costly when it’s added to the bill at a more affordable restaurant. (Reserve doesn’t charge restaurants anything.) Hong countered, “We feel like the value has proven itself,” with Reserve not just tackling reservations and payments, but also adding little touches that improve the overall experience — for example, the restaurant staff can greet you by name when you arrive, making you feel like a regular.
“We’re always asking, ‘How do we continue to deliver a lot of value in exchange for that $5?’” he said.
Molly Hopper Sandrof, Director of People and Staff Development, Eastern Standard had commented- “Reserve has a deep understanding of the issues that restaurants face, and they’ve done a tremendous job tailoring their service to launch with an experience that is truly great for our industry. They are putting restaurants back in control of their dining room, which helps us provide an even higher level of hospitality. We’re excited to work with them to make the dining experience better for our guests.”
(image credit: Robert Young)