Fact Check: 5 Myths of Restaurant Reservation Apps

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5 min read

Jul 20, 2023

Fact Check: 5 Myths of Restaurant Reservation Apps

If you’re running a restaurant, you need to face the facts — the reservation industry is broken.

For years, restaurateurs have relied on third-party reservation apps like OpenTable to drive business, but the way consumers discover and book restaurants has changed.

It’s time to shift the narrative on what it takes to fill a dining room.

In this article, we’re going to dispel five common myths about legacy reservation apps to help you make a better, more informed decision when it comes to choosing a restaurant reservation system

Myth #1: If I Don’t Use a Third-Party Reservation App, I Won’t Get Any Business

Legacy reservation apps like OpenTable want you to think that you need their services to drive business. It’s easy to buy into the idea that guests only book through these apps when you base your thinking on such rhetoric — but the data tells a different story. SevenRooms’ 2023 Dining Discovery & Booking Report revealed several telling statistics: 

45% of people call restaurants directly to make a reservation 
35% book through a restaurant’s website
61% believe that booking directly is better for the restaurant (and they’re right!)

This data shows that fewer people use third-party apps than you might think. Even though they can help drive business, using their services isn’t a requirement for a consistently booked dining room, especially in light of how restaurant discovery is changing

While the majority of people (61%) still rely on friends, family, and co-workers to discover new dining destinations, avenues like Google (33%) and social media (29%) also help customers find new options. 

reservation app discovery breakdown

Compare this to the 9% of people who use OpenTable to find restaurants and the 3% who use Resy, and it becomes clear that you don’t need third-party apps to capture new business. It also becomes clear that optimizing your marketing strategy to work across different platforms to create an omnichannel experience is key

Myth #2: Third-Party Reservation Apps Are a Profitable Marketing Channel

Reservation apps try to capture business by positioning themselves as the marketing mavens that will help your profits soar. It’s important to understand that these apps can drive revenue — but it’s at the expense of cutting into your overall profits due to the fees and cover charges they impose on your business. 

Third-party apps levy a monthly fee for a system that lacks flexibility and takes away from your brand’s autonomy AND a fee on every cover you book using their platform. For example, OpenTable’s basic plan charges $1.50 per network cover. This pricing might seem nominal, but the cost quickly becomes a huge financial implication when you combine the monthly flat rate with the per-cover pricing (not to mention add-ons for more advanced features).  

Myth #3: Third-Party Reservation Apps Help Me Drive Brand Awareness

It’s easy to fall victim to this myth because third-party online restaurant reservation apps do in fact put your brand in front of customers. However, it’s crucial to realize that relying on outside entities to drive brand awareness isn’t in your best interest because your brand will always come second, clouded by their own. 

Third parties put their branding in all messaging, email marketing, confirmations, notifications and reservation widgets, so your own voice gets lost — even in materials that are meant to promote your restaurant. Creating a customizable, robust omnichannel marketing strategy that focuses on consistency across multiple, independent channels is a better way to make your mark and create a unique restaurant identity.

FYI: The best way to drive brand awareness is to take control of the guest experience by pivoting to a direct, white-labeled reservation solution. This way, guests can get a sense of what your restaurant is all about from the moment they click “book now.” 

Myth #4: Third-Party Reservation Apps Help Me Build Guest Loyalty

It’s no secret that when you foster guest loyalty, you build a stronger business and a more reliable source of revenue. However, this rings true for both third-party apps and restaurants. Services like OpenTable work to build their own base of loyal users at the expense of promoting your business. They also promote your direct competitors, which is extremely detrimental. Take a look at how OpenTable pushes THEIR guest loyalty agenda by promoting other restaurants: 

restaurant reservation app diluted branding examples

Pro Tip: Going the extra mile to build a better guest loyalty program can do wonders for your bottom line. Small details like ensuring the voice and tone of your loyalty program communications matches your other marketing efforts can make a big difference 

Myth #5: Third-Party Reservation Apps Give Me Ownership Over My Guest Data

Personalization matters. In fact, 71% of consumers expect businesses to deliver personalized experiences. Personalization also requires data, and if you’re relying on third parties, you’re handing over one of your most valuable resources to an outside entity. 

Pivoting to an omnichannel approach means you’ll be able to collect more data from more sources, which translates into understanding your guests on a deeper level and being able to provide them with the kind of tailored guest experience they want. 

Fact: Direct Reservation Solutions Give You More Control Over Your Business

The best way to combat these myths is to switch to an omnichannel marketing approach that leverages the power of direct booking. You need your customers to be able to find you anywhere and everywhere on the internet, and elevate your own brand across channels, especially your reservation and online ordering systems

SevenRooms provides you with a white-labeled, direct reservation solution that can do what third-party apps can’t. With SevenRooms:

You’re the sole owner of your guest data
You won’t pay cover fees
You’ll have access to deeper customer insight that helps you offer personalized experiences
You can capitalize on end-to-end white-labeled branding that isn’t clouded by outside messaging
You can cast a wider marketing net instead of being limited to a single, third-party channel
You’ll reap the benefits of a user-friendly system that allows for easy POS integration

The Power of Making the Switch

restaurant discovery

Playbooks & Guides

A Guide to Taking Back Your Business from Reservation Apps

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Altamarea Group, a global hospitality icon with outposts in New York, Washington DC and beyond, reduced their third-party costs by an incredible 50% when they began using SevenRooms. By switching to a system designed for direct booking, they also increased their brand-direct bookings by 300%.  

Switching to direct online booking means that you aren’t subjecting the health of your business to the practices of an outside party. Not only does this translate to more money in your pocket, but it also means more access to guest data, stronger branding and greater functionality. Don’t let reservation apps fool you — they’re not the only solution to a fuller dining room.  To learn more about how a direct reservation solution can benefit your business, book a demo today.

Restaurant Reservation App FAQs

Why are Reservations Important for Restaurants?  

From an operational perspective, reservations are important for making decisions on everything from staffing to inventory to your floor plan. Good reservation management translates to a better experience for guests since it reduces wait times and helps make service flow smoothly. 

What are the Disadvantages of Third-Party Restaurant Reservation Systems? 

Third-party online reservation systems can be financially detrimental since they charge fees per cover. They also dilute individual restaurants’ branding and promote competitors’ businesses. 

What is the Best Restaurant Booking System? 

The best restaurant reservation apps focus on bringing you business without prohibiting you from achieving your overall goals. Using a direct booking system like SevenRooms offers the most white-labeled reservation widget experience, the most control over guest data, and the most omnichannel marketing integrations and opportunities. 

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