By Maya Bornstein
In an age ruled by immediate gratification, waiting for a good thing can be pretty agitating. Thus sprang the concept of reserving a table at a restaurant, right? As consumers, we just want to get in there quickly and get to the best part: the beer. For brewpubs across the country, restaurant reservation apps are becoming a popular way to meet customer demand.
Mile-long waitlists, the delicate balance of reservations versus walk-ins and impatient guests with perilously low blood sugar are longstanding concerns of any successful restaurant, though. To that end, more and more brewpubs have opted to utilize the bountiful offerings of the tech age in order to streamline the service aspect and make it easier to do what they do best—brew and serve beer.
Apps: The Future of Restaurant Reservations
It’s probably redundant to mention the steady annexation of society by Apple and their unbelievably ubiquitous products, but let’s take a moment to do it anyway. Within the industry of service and hospitality in particular, the iPad is gradually becoming king, with a full army of ever-updating applications ready to assail the mildest hiccup in any of a business’s countless moving parts. In brewpubs nationwide, the category of apps designed to make the process of putting guests in chairs more efficient is booming.
One at a time, brewpubs are recognizing that the transition into computerized business interactions and solutions is pretty inevitable; moreover, the liberating value of such apps is becoming evident.
Publicity over the competition among these apps has also skyrocketed accordingly. Restaurant owners were abuzz with the news that OpenTable had purchased the Rezbook operation from Urbanspoon in July 2013, and again when Yelp announced their acquisition of the SeatMe application around the same time.
Both Rezbook and SeatMe boast a user-friendly, iPad-compatible interface that enables hosts to manage the front of the house smoothly, rotate servers and sections, ensure that tables are ready and waiting for those guests with forethought and limit the wait time for more spontaneous beer fans.
Apps in this category also aid in communication with guests by texting their cellphones directly when their table is available. What seems to set these two apart is the apps’ respective links to an online reservation site that allows guests to book their tables in advance without having to pick up the phone. OpenTable and Yelp also utilize the marketing angle, offering a reformation of customer outreach and public presentation to bring in more business.
However, where OpenTable’s products are notoriously costly (sizeable fees are included for installation, monthly subscription, cancellation, web access and for each individual cover), many companies are marketing themselves on the basis of affordability. This was Yelp’s angle with the SeatMe app, selling a contract-free subscription for $99 a month and no additional levies.
Other, more start-up-based operations like BuzzTable, NoWait and NoshList offer varied pricing for different accounts. Basic memberships tend to run between $49 and $100 per month, with premium accounts getting into the $200 range.
For brewpubs with less seating and lower traffic, there are free versions of these latter apps available, with somewhat limited options. This is good news for breweries that hesitate to upgrade from the old-fashioned method due to cost. However, a pen and paper-laden host stand still seems to be a fairly pervasive habit even among larger public houses like Red Rock and Deschutes, both of which take down guests’ names by hand and dole out LRS pagers that buzz when the table is ready.
In the end, no system is infallible. The gift of brewing beer in the age of technological leaps and bounds is being able to worry far less about the minutiae of those enduring and regular restaurant glitches. One at a time, brewpubs are recognizing that the transition into computerized business interactions and solutions is pretty inevitable; moreover, the liberating value of such apps is becoming evident. After all, less time pacifying impatient beer drinkers equals more time brewing the beer they love.
Maya Bornstein is a Cicerone-certified beer server working in an innovative Southern California brewpub. She has written extensively on a wide variety of cultural and sociological topics since 2011 and has published several pieces in local literary journals. Bornstein currently resides, writes, and imbibes in Los Angeles.