A brand-new Twin Cities startup, ReservePerks.com, hopes to provide an alternative to Open Table and daily deal sites for restaurants looking to fill empty seats and diners looking for discounts. In a system similar to the New York-based website VillageVines.com, participating restaurants input reservation times they'd like to fill and diners pay $10 to make a reservation (a fee that's transferable to a new reservation if they end up canceling) in exchange for receiving 30 percent off their bill.
Reserve Perks owner Dave Ostlund, who runs the Twin Cities Food Finds dining guide and the daily coupon site DealStork.com, thought the concept offered a more equitable, and mutually beneficial, opportunity for restaurants and diners. The restaurant can control what they're offering—they choose the number and time of reservations—while paying nothing to become a Reserve Perks member. The restaurant collects 70 cents on every dollar, as opposed to a typical deal site's 25-cent-per-dollar cut, and the diner has an incentive to increase spending. While the diner has to spend at least $30 to start accruing savings, the amount can be substantial on larger bills.
Surely entrepreneurs will come up with new ways to help restaurants fill their tables, and these strategies will work better for some restaurants than others. It's unlikely that any one system will ever be the silver bullet—one that every restaurant has, well, no reservations about.