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This article was published on September 21, 2011

TablesReady is the affordable alternative to OpenTable for small restaurants

TablesReady is the affordable alternative to OpenTable for small restaurants
Drew Olanoff
Story by

Drew Olanoff

Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for onlin Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for online charitable movements. He founded #BlameDrewsCancer. You can follow him on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, or email [email protected]

TablesReady is a new company that realizes a restaurants biggest struggle is competing with larger restaurants, especially when it comes to seating people in a timely manner. If you’re TGIF’s, you can use OpenTable. OpenTable provides online reservation systems, table maps, payroll management and more. However, it charges restaurants a monthly fee to use it in addition to $1 per person seated. TablesReady, however, offers a solid alternative.


The typical experience at a restaurant, especially a good one that is busy, is you check in and have to wait for a table. Sometimes it can be a 45 minute wait. You’re given a large pager with a range of 100 feet, and that means you’re stuck sitting in the lobby of the restaurant. Personally, I leave for another place if the wait is that long.

Andy Ellis and Bill D’Alessandro realized that there was a huge opportunity here, so TablesReady was born. It is built entirely on top of Twilio‘s text messaging service. I asked D’Alessandro if it had any reservations about using a 3rd party text messaging system for such an important function at a restaurant and he said:

We are very happy with Twilio, and we’ve delivered 10k notifications and not had not had a single fail, 100% delivery for them

In fact, TablesReady has no interest in building its own messaging infrastructure.

Twilio is a service that lets you build applications on top of SMS and Voice services. Basically, it lets you focus on applications rather than having to figure out or pay a lot for messaging.

How it Works

TablesReady is simple. You sign up and you access via a web app on your tablet of choice. When someone comes into your restaurant you can check them in right then and there. You ask the customer for their name and cell number, and let them know that they’ll get a text message no matter where they are, when their table is available. When the table is available, you can text the customer with a simple click or tap.

If you own a restaurant, like Cheers in Boston, with whom the company is test piloting, with much success, here’s all you need to get started:

– Anything that gets on the internet, any browser, or an iPad. Most customers like iPad for looks
– One flat fee, $70 monthly (no variable pricing model), no contracts, month to month (with a free one month trial)
– Customizable text messages to send to customers when their table is ready

Cheers tripled the number of likes on Facebook by adding an additional note to the text notification saying with “Your table is ready, please like us on Facebook!” and included a link. Cheers also suggests that patrons “Don’t forget to check in on Foursquare”.

TablesReady also provides analytics that can tell a restaurant “how many tables did you turn on Friday, last Friday, what’s the wait time at lunch?” It’s professionalism and data that smaller restaurants usually can’t afford.

The Business

The company currently has 3 customers in Texas, and a handful in Pittsburgh and Denver, and are just starting to work with a restaurant in Charlotte. The company plans to grow all over the country. To that end, it shared with The Next Web that it has just signed a partnership with Performance Food Group, the largest food distributor in the USA. And TablesReady is the only “startup” that Performance Food Group works with. TablesReady onsiders their main competition to be “Textaurant” which is a Twilio program funded company. I found TablesReady to be unique because the company is testing out their system with a very popular and public restaurant, and are taking feedback on the fly from them.

TablesReady is entirely self funded and profitable, and the company told us that it has a lot of features coming soon, such as a VIP status system that will recognize when you’ve been to a particular restaurant 10 times, so that you can receive VIP treatment.

When asked “Why TablesReady” by The Next Web, D’Alessandro responded

We’re excited about this because we really want to improve the dining experience and make it fun to go to a restaurant again. Restaurants like interacting with customers, and it’s an opportunity to bring technology into restaurants.

I wondered about privacy, and was assured by the company that TablesReady doesn’t give out customer numbers, in fact the company encrypt the numbers and restaurants are only allowed to contact a customer until their table is ready and the customer is seated.

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