A few months ago, the Hot Dish reported on several local restaurants that were unhappy with their electronic reservations provider, Open Table. More recently, a couple major players, Hell's Kitchen and Meritage, switched their service to Open Table's biggest competitor in Europe, Eveve, in order to save money and avoid the possibility of having potential bookings cannibalized by Open Table's discount-heavy marketing program.
After Hell's Kitchen and Meritage joined Eveve, the company decided to focus on the Twin Cities restaurant market. In the past few weeks, Eveve has secured several other prominent local eateries and seems to be gaining a foothold.[jump]
Making the assumption that the most reviewed restaurants on Open Table are its most booked, just this week, Eveve launched online reservations services for several of the metro's top 20 restaurants, including the top 5 Bar La Grassa, which typically books about 4,000 covers online each month. (Isaac Becker and Nancy St. Pierre's other restaurant, 112 Eatery, has never offered online reservations.)
A few other major eateries with substantial online monthly bookings have also recently joined Eveve, including Al Vento and Rinata, along with Rock Bottom Brewery, Jake O'Connor's, and Lola's Lakehouse.
Eveve's director and co-owner Timothy Ryan says he believes that Hell's Kitchen and Bar La Grassa were Open Table's number one and two most-booked restaurants in the Twin Cities, which brought the company tens of thousands of dollars worth of annual revenue. For large restaurants not in need of online marketing services, Eveve's $200 a month flat fee can be much lower than Open Table's per-cover fee, and in talking to several local restaurateurs, Ryan was surprised to discover the substantial size of that gap. Hell's Kitchen, for example, was previously paying up to $3,000 a month. "We didn't realize just how much these busy restaurants are paying Open Table," he says.
Ryan estimates that, so far, Eveve has captured some 20 percent of Open Table's business in the Twin Cities market by booking about 18-20,000 monthly covers. And the company is already in talks with several other major players, including the Parasole group, which owns more than a dozen restaurants in the metro. Ryan says the biggest concern that restaurateurs have about switching from Open Table to Eveve is the possibility of lost bookings, but he quickly notes that Hell's Kitchen, which switched a few weeks ago, has actually seen its bookings increase.
Eveve's play for Open Table's business won't come without a fight. Open Table has reportedly been trying to win its former clients back, offering extra discounts and incentives. Still, Eveve feels it can compete against the Goliath of online restaurant reservations by offering a lower-cost alternative. "Open Table abused its market position in America," Ryan says.