For years, we have set out to identify quality online reservation tools for restaurants. These reservation tools are a key force in the migration of restaurant marketing from traditional marketing to internet-based marketing. But since OpenTable has swallowed up half the market and has bought out competitor after competitor, the search has become more difficult.
Reservation Genie, however, presents an intriguing and powerful alternative that we can recommend to restaurant managers and owners. Originally, Reservation Genie started as a concierge tool but has evolved into a full blown online reservation tool, complete with a table management system.
Although the number of restaurants using Reservation Genie is in the hundreds, it has an abundance of features and responds to many of the grievances restaurant owners have with OpenTable.
What differentiates Reservation Genie is that they operate entirely under a subscription model, develop innovative loyalty programs, integrate concierge relationships, and is structured so that customers remain loyal to the restaurant (rather than the reservation tool).
Reservation Genie is an online tool that allows restaurants to receive reservations online. Unlike OpenTable, Reservation Genie does not list restaurants willing to pay a premium first like Open Table does with its 1000 point table system. Instead they list restaurants based on leaderboard score which measures customer loyalty at individual restaurants.
Restaurants mostly receive reservations through by either putting a link on their website or using Reservation Genie’s widget on their website. Either way, customers are not directly funneled to other restaurants that use the service, nor does Reservation Genie cultivate a greater brand allegiance to the app over the restaurant.
With a responsive design that adjusts to screen size, customers can book easily from all online devices, whether a smartphone, tablet or desktop. The dashboard for a restaurant to track and manage reservation is equally straightforward and most staff will not have difficulty learning it.
The customer enters all the basic information to book a table, such as party name, date, party size & time. They then create an account with contact details such as name, email and phone number. They also have the option to log in with Facebook to save time creating an account.
While booking the reservation, customers are invited to participate in the Reservation Genie based loyalty program called VIP Perks if the restaurant offers a VIP Perk. These perks reward the 10 most active customers over the last 90 days at individual restaurants and the program is optional.
Dashboard and Settings
Reservation Genie notifies restaurant in several ways that they have received a reservation, even if they aren’t using the Reservation Genie table management system. The notification settings include phone, email and SMS (text message), but do not replace the real time features and reliability that comes with using a labtop or tablet connected to Reservation Genie through the internet.
Reservation Genie is flexible. With the redundant notification features, website based portal and the ability to manually enter a reservation, Reservation Genie is compatible with other reservation tools such as OpenTable. For a restaurant who believes it will hurt their business to opt out of OpenTable, the optimum combination is to put the Reservation Genie widget on the website. By doing this, a restaurant can avoid being charged covers through the website and encourage customer loyalty through the VIP Perks program.
Table Management and Shift Tracking
It would be inefficient for a reservation tool to not be paired with a table management system. Additionally, the ability to keep track of server assignments and workload is essential to customer service and employee morale.
The table management system for Reservation Genie permits laying out your unique floor plan and assigning bookings to specific tables. Therefore, a restaurant manager can get an accurate view of the status of different tables and make the necessary booking and employee decisions. Equally useful is the ability to specify which server is handling which table. This way a shift can be set up as efficiently as possible.
Business Model: Subscription & Website Based
Reservation Genie is a subscription system and doesn’t expect a cut of your business. Obviously, this only makes sense as Reservation Genie relies on the restaurant’s website (outside of concierge recommendations). If we compare that to OT, which charges a cover on everything AND a monthly fee, Reservation Genie offers clear advantages. Reservation Genie has a setup fee but it isn’t exorbitant and easily beats competitors in that domain.
A restaurant’s website is still its home base for online marketing, and therefore, it is the place customers should come for restaurant reservations. A restaurant has little control over a third party’s ability to change the marketing capabilities for a restaurant. Facebook can change the rules, Instagram can change the rules, Seamless can change the rules, OpenTable can change the rules.
But a restaurant can do what it likes with its website, and having a financially sensible reservation tool is being a must-have. Yet, you don’t want that tool to eventually send customers elsewhere as OpenTable does and that’s why Reservation Genie is a step up when it comes to business model.
Reservation Genie’s particular strong suits lie in the breath of marketing tools. They were created with an eye for a restaurant maximizing its bookings. The three marketing elements that stand out are the loyalty program, the concierge program and the email list tools.
Nearly every restaurant wants travelers and tourists. Reservation Genie’s concierge program gives hotel workers a reason to send referrals your way, with special settings for concierges that that help you ensure you take care of concierges and their guests. A concierge bonus tool helps you offer extra motivation and they even mail you fliers you can pass out to concierges inviting them in to try the restaurant.. The system is easy to setup and receives heavy traffic.
Lastly, Reservation Genie has an email list tool. While not the most advanced part of their system, some restaurants are in dire need of doing some restaurant marketing. If a restaurant has only a minimal investment in email marketing (a lot better than nothing), this can be very helpful.
Where Reservation Genie Fits
While it does not have the cleanest interface of the reservation tools we’ve reviewed, Reservation Genie performs very well and can benefit a restaurant looking to expand into online reservation. Indeed OpenTable has no advantages in regards to interface (unlike the intuitiveness of the defunct RezBook).
Reservation Genie is a worthy alternative to OpenTable and as far as we know, the best on the market when you take into consideration what you get for what you pay for. From what I can tell, Livebookings/Bookatable/Freebookings has not truly committed to the U.S. market. Using Yelp’s SeatMe opens up a terrible conflict of interest, similar to OpenTable.
With Reservation Genie, much of OpenTable’s big drawbacks are addressed and you could describe it as restaurant friendly. We all know that OpenTable is a source of anxiety for restaurant owners, as they are unashamed at directing customers away from the restaurant they are looking for and to the highest bidder.
Nonetheless, online restaurant reservation has gone mainstream, and customers are beginning to expect to be able to place reservations online. Reservation Genie should be on every restaurant owner’s radar who has any interest in offering restaurant reservation online.