Table8 launched today as an iPhone and Android app that reserves tables at a city’s hottest restaurants and offers them up to last-minute diners for a fee. The service is San Francisco-only for now, but the startup plans to quickly expand to Chicago, London, Los Angeles and New York.
The top restaurants in a city like San Francisco need to be booked months in advance, but planning ahead to that extent is often out of the question for most diners. Table8 deals only in primetime bookings from 6:30-8:30pm, Thursday-Saturday. Pricing changes depending on demand and availability, but fees are in the $20 range for a table of two.
According to Table8 co-founder Santosh Jayaram, who was Twitter’s first business operations hire, Table8 offers three promises to its users: 1) If it’s on the list, it’s a fabulous restaurant; 2) It’s sold out 3) Guaranteed seating.
While paying for a reservation feels odd when sites like OpenTable offer free bookings, Table8 acts as a concierge-like service for the food-obsessed. In fact, hotel concierge desks served as part of the inspiration for the app.
After he left Twitter, Jayaram created Daemonic Labs with Pete Goettner to come up with a startup idea centered on the social and mobile space. While working on an app for a brand, the pair interviewed concierges that described last-minute bookings at celebrity chef restaurants as one of the biggest problems they faced. Jayaram and Goettner decided to go all-in on the Table8 idea and are planning on changing the name of Daemonic Labs to reflect that.
Table8’s mission is to democratize the “VIP table” that high-end restaurants keep for celebrity guests in the same way that Uber consumerized private black car services.
Interestingly, Jayaram doesn’t feel that Table8 is a direct competitor with OpenTable.
“OpenTable’s done a terrific job. They’ve survived and thrived. Initially, they were walking into restaurants with no internet access and selling them boxes,” he said. “What we do is completely different. They’re all about restaurants and reservations. We’re in the business of selling access, not excess.”
While I’d gladly pay a fee to dine at those SF restaurants that I can never seem to book when I’m in town, this solution feels like a stop-gap measure. Once enough users find out about the app, Table8 will become just another sold-out option. One area where Table8 could shine, though, is helping restaurants cut down on losses from no-shows and cancellations, similar to what HotelTonight is doing for the hospitality industry.
The grand experiment is on: Will diners pay for access to restaurants that would otherwise take months of advance planning? For now, I’d answer with a hesitant “Yes,” but I have serious…well, reservations, about whether this can scale.
Image credit: Yellowj / Yellowstone