San Franciscans were aghast at the launch of ReservationHop, a service that scrapes plum restaurant reservations and sells them back to diners who can pay a premium. But the inspiration for inserting a middleman into fine dining may have arisen in New York, a city with more experience in separating the haves from the have nots.
In May, serial self-promoter Gary Vaynerchuk, Eater cofounder Ben Leventhal, and CrowdTwist cofounder Mike Montero launched Resy, an app that lets you pay extra for primetime reservations at the types of places New York startup bros frequent (Balthazar, Minetta Tarvern, Lure Fish Bar, and more). Strictly VC was first to note that the Resy just picked up at least $1.9 million in debt funding, with the first date of sale earlier this month:
Resy Network, a months-old New York-based company whose app invites users to pay for restaurant reservations (yes, another one), has raised $1.9 million in debt, shows an SEC filing that lists co-founder Ben Leventhal and investor-entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk. BusinessInsider had written about the company in May.
Resy and ReservationHop are among the many startups applying Uber's convenience economy ethics to various minor annoyances. Last week, for example, Uber investor Shervin Pishevar announced that his fund SherpaVentures had raised a sumptuous $145 million to fund "on-demand services," like Shyp, so there's even more instant gratification (for a fee) coming your way. Sherpa's cofounder Scott Stanford, an ex-banker at Goldman, told the San Francisco Chronicle:
"Shyp is transforming the 'first mile' of shopping," Stanford said. "You can take a picture of something — anything — enter an address where you want it to go and in 10 or 15 minutes, someone shows up and takes it. They handle everything to get it delivered." The cost is $5 on top of standard shipping fees.
Unlike ReservationHop, which invoked the ire of restaurant owners for cutting into their "razor thin margins," Resy has a relationship with the restaurants themselves. In Vaynerchuk's mind, he's advancing "democracy" by letting anyone (who can afford it) pay extra:
Vaynerchuk, founder of WineLibrary.com and an investor in several successful startups including Uber, addresses some of the concerns about Resy, especially the fact that a pay-to-play system might feel "elitist." He tells Eater, "I actually think it's the reverse. I think there's a gross misunderstanding of how hard it is to actually get into these places and that the minimal cash expense...is actually going to allow for more democracy, not less."
Leventhal also argued that Resy was a populist invention, telling Eater:
"What Resy is doing is creating another store of value that's giving the restaurants an opportunity to actually offer the tables to more people. When you buy a table on Resy the restaurant knows you're going to show up. They're going to know who you are and they're going to have an opportunity to create a relationship with you as a customer. Those things as an apparatus don't exist other than at each individual restaurant which are doing those things to some extent or another but largely, they're not doing them themselves. There's pricing obviously, I mean … there's a price on every table, right? But there's a much bigger idea here around us unlocking inventory that was never before available to the general public."
Don't despair for the definition of democracy, dear readers. What you're witnessing here is a game change. The industry has graduated from "solving all the problems of being twenty years old, with cash on hand," to solving the problems of being in your thirties with money to burn.
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[Top image via Getty, middle image via AppAnnie]