Changing the model for restaurant visits
A great read on changing from reservations to ticket sales for restaurants by Nick Kokonas, partner at the restaurant Alinea in Chicago: Tickets for Restaurants. This is really about product design…designing the product experience around attending a restaurant. What I like about this is that Nick has touched not only on the obvious improvements in efficiency (like drastically reducing telephone calls) but also on things like the social implications of purchasing a ticket vs. making a reservation. Those two activities do the same thing in the end but are very different conceptually…the way we think about them is different.
Nick mentions several positive outcomes from the change to ticketing. The first one, creating transparency of process for customers, is all about following a basic tenet of design: keep the user in control. When customers can clearly see and choose the table they’re getting at the time specified, and don’t have to deal with slow tables or overbooked restaurants, their trust in the restaurant naturally increases.
Another positive outcome is one that is a larger issue with SaaS in general: their software creates a direct connection between restaurant and patron. I think this is an incredibly important issue for anybody doing product design because it shows the weakness of using 3rd party software solutions that don’t give you access to actual customers. In my opinion if you’re doing business without a direct connection to your customers you are in a very weak spot…consider all the book publishers who have no idea who their readers are. There is no way for them to create a relationship with their readers if Amazon is the one who owns the transaction. Same with restaurants. If OpenTable owns the relationship, the restaurant suffers because they can’t provide as personal a service. This might not be apparent most of the time, but long term I think a lot of software will come back in-house for this very reason.