With the abundance of restaurants popping up around the country each day, patrons need to be able to make a table reservation to secure their spot. This helps restaurants improve their sales and their customer experience. Most people don’t want to call in and shout over background noise to make a reservation, they want the freedom and flexibility to make and change dining reservations on a booking app when it’s convenient for them. Similarly, restaurants want to enjoy the benefits of seamless reservations that remove the burden from their staff and avoid the possibility of human error.
What’s the best restaurant reservation app?
Just as there are many restaurant options, there are also many options for restaurant reservation software. And while we won’t crown one the ultimate winner, we will make recommendations based on your restaurant’s specific needs. Because, after all, a tiny pop-up eatery and a restaurant with dozens of tables will have vastly different needs. Some restaurants will want a reservation software that has a massive review platform that will bring new diners in the door, while others with major name recognition might want to only host reservations on their own site to better manage their limited seating. With that said, let’s go over a quick visual guide to the features of the top restaurant booking softwares. We also go more in depth into each platform below.
Around the Clock Support
$249/mo + $1 per seated online cover
$249 – 899 per month
$0 – 699 per month + prepaid fees
$249 per month
OpenTable (Most Robust)
OpenTable is a San Francisco reservation mobile app powerhouse that got started in the table booking business back in 1998. Boasting over 27 million app users around the world per month, this platform helps restaurants keep their seats full each day and night. Their network currently spans about 48,000 formal and casual restaurants, which makes them both well known and trusted.
The benefits of using OpenTable include a robust review and ratings platform that helps participating restaurants attract new diners based on positive reviews from users(76 million reviews at last count). They also host mealoptions and additional information, to help customers get a full picture of what their dining experience might be like at that particular restaurant.
To be sure, OpenTable is an end to end platform, extending much further than it’s own website. In fact, the company found that 10% of all reservations come from their 600 integrations (which include Zagat, Facebook Messenger, TripAdvisor, and more). So no matter where your guests happen to be, OpenTable will be there to make the booking process as easy as possible. And their offerings go far beyond reservations as well. Need email marketing help? They’ve got you covered. As you can imagine, OpenTable’s premium service comes at a significant cost with per reservation surcharges and a higher cost per reservation if booked through the OpenTable site, compared to your own website. But 48,000 restaurants use it for a reason.
With OpenTable, keep in mind that you’ll pay a dollar per cover when people book through OpenTable.com versus the reservation widget you’ll put on your website. If your restaurant is already popular, you may want to look at an alternative reservation software provider that costs you less.
Resy (Best for Pop-Ups)
Resy is more of a newcomer to the restaurant table reservationonline booking app scene. They’ve been around since 2014, but don’t mistake their age for inexperience. Resy burst onto the scene and started to give OpenTable a run for their money after just a short time on the market. With over 2,000 restaurants in their network in more than 200 cities, it will take time for this new addition to the table booking app industry to make more of a dent.
While Resy started out as a “pay to play” service, charging diners a fee to book at popular restaurants on busy nights, it has since transitioned to a flat fee platform. OpenTable similarly gave this model a try, but also abandoned it. What’s left is an occasional required deposit for certain restaurants on Resy. But every platform has its own way of dissuading diners from skipping out on their reservations. Another difference between OpenTable and Resy is that OpenTable has a massive network of restaurants globally, while Resy is only available in top tier US cities. Of course, as Resy grows this will likely change, but it is still an important consideration when thinking about the reach of the restaurant reservation software you choose.
As a complete software solution that expands from reservations to POS integrations to waitlists, Resy is perfect for newer restaurants and pop-ups that want to get it right the first time without employing numerous platforms. To say the least, Resy is all-in-one, much to the delight of their thousands of restaurateurs. And to top it all off, they also have robust analytics to really understand your customers and offer them unforgettable experiences, even before they cross your threshold. As a cost effective solution (Resy charges a flat fee, compared to a fee in addition to a per seat charge for OpenTable) that works well with innovative and trendy restaurants, we see Resy gaining more market share as their business continues to expand.
The ease of use when it comes to Resy can’t be matched, as Pacific Standard Time Partner and Resy board member, Josh Tilden, explained: “when we bring in our host team, some of which have never used the platform before, they become proficient in one shift.” The time and cost savings associated with Resy simply can’t be beat.
Tock (Best for Fine Dining)
Tockis a restaurant reservation software that focuses more on the “experience” side of dining. While marketers have been touting the importance of experiences for Millennials and more, this platform actually lives and breathes that ethos. Tock is perfect for pop-up and experiential restaurants.
One feature that sets them apart from what competitors are doing is that they require diners to prepay for their meals. While other restaurant reservation software have moved away from this model, it has seemed to work especially well for Tock–even helping them attain an industry leading no-show rate of 0.8%. This fits well with their focus on upscale restaurants often offering prix fixe menus. Prepaying can remove the “pain of paying” that economists have long studied in commercial settings to help the diner enjoy the restaurant experience more fully.
In addition to the typical booking process, they also allow restaurants to offer supplemental products to their checkout pages, such as cookbooks.
One thing that we noticed was that Tock is quite bullish in their anti-OpenTable stance. They even list a dinosaur on their list of employees with the name of “Opentablesaurus” and their role within the company as “Extinct.” That makes it quite clear that they are aware of their different approach to restaurant reservation software and think that OpenTable’s two decade winning streak might be over soon.
Reserve (Best for Trendy Restaurants)
Reservestarted off as more of a concierge app for sought after restaurants. Their restaurant reservation software offerings were added later on, much to the delight of restaurateurs. Now Reserve is a reservation software created by restaurateurs themselves, so it enables them to have the flexibility they need at times, compared to more rigid systems offered by bigger competitors.
A feature that is especially helpful for busy restaurants is called their freestyle system, in which their technology makes smart decisions based on data at hand. For example, a party of two will always be seated at a two person table, compared to seating them at a four person table. The intuitiveness of their technology stretches far beyond that, but the core idea is that they make the most of the space available to ensure optimal reservation management.
Interestingly, Reserve also owns a mobile payment app, as it aims to be an end to end platform for managing reservations, tables, and payments. This fits with the fact that Reserve is definitely the most data driven restaurant reservation software we’ve encountered, as it helps restaurants make decisions that are backed up by data, instead of hunches. What’s more, Reserve even helps restaurateurs understand their customers more will full profiles of each guest in order to pass this information along to staff who can offer them the most personalized service possible.
Yelp Reservations (Best for Top Rated Restaurants)
With Yelp being such a massive platform, using Yelp Reservations is a no brainer for thousands of restaurants. Yelp found “92% of consumers make a purchase after searching Yelp for a restaurant.” Why not make those restaurant reviews immediately actionable? One of the main benefits of using Yelp Reservations is that restaurants can help diners book them right from the Yelp app or site. This takes several steps out of the process, making it possible to browse reviews on Yelp and take action right away.
After diners book your restaurant, Yelp Reservations helps with table and waitlist management, table assignments, and more. One particularly helpful feature is SMS enabled communication with those with a wait time and reminders for diners with reservations. This helps cut down on no-shows, as they can confirm or cancel their reservation with a simple reply to the message. That way, you can keep tables free for reservations and make room for others in the event of a cancelation. Since your restaurant staff won’t have to be fielding calls from diners about reservations, they can focus on giving diners the best possible experience when they come in.
Since Yelp is so well used, your restaurant’s Yelp presence should be taken into consideration when thinking of a restaurant reservation software. If your restaurant has a high rating, excellent reviews, and many pictures from diners, then Yelp Reservations might be a good choice. Restaurants will have to lean heavily on diner content because there are limited opportunities for branding on the site, and of course reviews can’t be taken down.
What restaurant reservation system has the largest reach?
OpenTable claims to have the largest network of loyal diners, but that seems to matter less than it once did. For its part, Yelp Reservations also claims to have the largest reach, in part because so many people use Yelp to search for restaurants.
Ultimately, all of the systems above are integrated with Google Maps, so a reservation button will appear next to your restaurant’s listing in Google Search — which likely has the greatest reach of all.
You’ll need to some marketing on your own, regardless of what restaurant reservation platform you choose. Make sure you’ve included links to book a table in your restaurant social media profiles and on your restaurant website.
Should I take reservations at my restaurant?
It depends. Restaurant owners often liken running a restaurant to throwing a party every night- except you don’t know who is going to attend. Reservations can give you a little predictability.
If you’re already accepting reservations by phone, adding an online booking option seems obvious. Even if you’re not worried about the diner network (and getting more diners), and you just want to implement an onlinereservation service as a convenience to your guests, you have plenty of options.
Once you choose the right restaurant reservation software, take a good look at how effective your employee scheduling strategy is. Need to upgrade your scheduling process? Homebase can help.
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Angelica Valentine Angelica Valentine is a content strategist and champion for small businesses. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Barnard College of Columbia University in New York City. When she isn't busy writing, this Oakland native can be found exploring music, food, and culture around the world.