SevenRooms' Allison Page talks about why direct bookings could be having their moment and how she thinks restaurants can capitalize on demand everywhere
Hang around anyone who works in restaurant tech long enough and you’ll hear them make at least one of two industry comparisons: airlines or hotels. (Honestly, you’ll probably hear both.) They’re held up as examples of where the business could be headed and also where there’s opportunity for change.
Airlines, because they’ve gotten good at charging for incremental upgrades like extra luggage or legroom, and their loyalty programs are hugely successful. And hotels because they’ve effectively worked for years to take back control of their bookings from huge third-party online travel agencies like Expedia or Booking.com that cannibalize guest data and interactions.
I had a recent conversation with Allison Page, co-founder and chief product office at SevenRooms, a booking and customer relationship management platform for restaurants and hotels. She explained the hotel industry comparison as it applies to restaurant reservations:
“If hotels functioned like restaurants, this is what this would look like: I would go to Marriott’s website to book a reservation, and Marriott would redirect me to Booking.com to book. Then I become a customer of Booking.com. That sounds ludicrous, but that is actually the state of the restaurant industry.”
“I think there’s so much that restaurants need to learn from hotels,” Page said. “Hotels understand more than anyone the value of a direct customer. Visit any hotel website today, and you’re hit with a pop-up that says, ‘book direct and you’ll get XYZ.”
I’ve had direct bookings on my mind this week as I’ve thought through changes coming to the reservations business. Big networks like OpenTable and Resy add incremental lift for a lot of restaurant customers because they help to funnel diners to their tables. But plenty of challengers are hoping to take a slice of the booking business.
Page has (obviously) been bullish about the SevenRooms model for years, and right now it seems like people are listening. Here’s more about how she’s thinking through the intricacies of booking and managing guest relationships, and what might come next.
Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.