Though Anthony Bourdain championed the idea that reservations aren’t necessary, at most popular restaurants, you still need them. For five years, Resy has built out a platform helping diners secure seats at some of the most coveted restaurants around the globe, while helping restaurateurs manage their dining rooms through a series of back-end products that use data to reduce no-shows and allow restaurants to more efficiently run the books and engage customers. Today, Resy is used by some 4,000 restaurants in 154 U.S. cities and 10 countries, and says it seats 2.6 million diners a week. But it remains a minor player compared with restaurant-booking behemoth OpenTable, which is in more than 51,000 restaurants.
Now, Resy is poised to enter the dining big leagues: It’s being acquired by American Express. Neither would disclose the terms of the deal. To date, Resy has raised a total of $45 million, at a valuation of more than $53 million, from investors including Airbnb and Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. The reservation platform says that, for now, business will continue as usual–the brands will remain separate and Resy employees will keep their current jobs. For Resy, this is an opportunity to be introduced to a broad new swath of customers, both American Express’s 114 million cardholders as well as the card company’s restaurant partners.
Ben Leventhal, Resy’s CEO and cofounder, says the acquisition is a natural fit. “The way that we think of hospitality is very closely aligned to the way AmEx does. We take inspiration from them,” he says. The two companies have worked together in the past: Resy, for instance, has helped American Express offer tables at exclusive restaurants to card members. The booking platform is also known for creating special events for its power users (think: a series of ticketed events with beloved chefs), which fits nicely with American Express’s focus on offering exclusive benefits and special access for cardholders, especially as it pushes back on upstart rewards cards, like Chase Sapphire Reserve.
Chris Cracchiolo, American Express’s SVP of global loyalty and benefits, is also focused on what Resy can offer merchants. “What Resy brings is world-class software [to help restaurants] better power and operate their businesses,” he says. According to Cracchiolo, American Express won’t require merchants to use Resy’s technology. The acquisition, however, could help increase the card company’s merchant portfolio, given Resy’s rising brand cachet.
Resy is certainly not alone in the reservations technology space. But over the past few years it has carved a special space for itself, with its sleek design and focus on building out its technology offerings. This has helped it win over some of the most popular new restaurants and boost its revenue 200% year-over-year, according to Resy.
Its biggest competitor, OpenTable, meanwhile, has begun leveraging the other brands associated with parent company Booking Holdings to keep Resy at bay. For example, OpenTable recently launched a loyalty program in conjunction with sister website Kayak. Resy has announced similar cross-brand integrations; it already has an API implementation with Airbnb, which led its last round of funding.
Both American Express and Resy maintain that the road ahead will remain relatively the same.”You can expect us to focus on the things we’ve been shown to care about,” says Leventhal. That includes partnerships with restaurants, new experiences for customers, and updates to its platforms to make the back end of dining more seamless.
“Our plan is to continue to have Resy be open and to the public so anyone can use it to book restaurants,” Cracchiolo says. “Over time, we will look to bring some of those capabilities into the AmEx ecosystem.” But he insists the service will operate as a separate property, pointing to American Express’s recent acquisition of LoungeBuddy–an airport lounge booking service, which remains an independent entity. Both acquisitions are signs of the credit card company’s ambitions to offer premium services–such as dining, traveling, accommodations, and more–to cardholders and beyond.