Delivery / Curbside Innovation, May 2020

of two

COVID-19: Small Restaurants and Technology, May 2020

Small restaurants are using technology during the COVID-19 crisis to manage their reservation systems to be in compliance with new reopening guidelines, to encourage social distancing with virtual waitlists, and to revamp their entire dine-in service to be contact-free.

While examples were plentiful, since the technology solutions described below focus on restaurants using technology to reopen safely during the Coronavirus pandemic, and restaurants have only just begun to reopen, data on the frequency of use of these technologies was very limited.

Adapting Reservation Systems

  • As restaurants are allowed to reopen, many restaurants are being required to collect more information on guests in the event that contact tracing needs to be carried out. Additionally, most restaurants are requiring reservations for all types of dining — including bars and wineries — which typically did not require reservations prior to the outbreak. Lastly, reservations are being more limited due to seating capacity limits.
  • As these new reservation requirements emerge, online reservation platforms are expanding to add new services that meet these requirements. For example, Resy, a reservation platform owned by American Express, is offering a new feature, Automated Capacity Monitor, that "allows restaurants to set a capacity limit — say 50% — on their dining room to help ensure they don’t exceed occupancy regulations."
  • Ben Leventhal, the co-founder and CEO of Resy, states that there has been an increase in the number of restaurants interested in using the Resy platform "both as a means to operate more safely and at limited capacity and for more visibility."
  • Another example is from Juliet Italian Kitchen in Austin, Texas, which now requires reservations for all seats in the restaurant, whereas before they only required reservations for some sections. General Manager Emily O'Connor describes the reason for this change: "Reservations also help us regulate the amount of people we have at the restaurant at one time and allow us to ensure we are maintaining social distance."

Virtual Waitlists

  • As restaurants reopen with social distancing guidelines in place, allowing customers waiting for a table to congregate near the door is no longer an option. Thus, some restaurants are turning to technology like virtual or mobile waitlists, so customers can leave or sit in their cars to wait for a table, and be automatically notified.
  • Reservation platforms like Resy are adapting to this new requirement by adding Mobile Waitlist features, which "allows diners within close proximity of a restaurant to join a live waitlist and reduce host stand + bar area crowding."
  • In quarter 1 of 2020, Yelp saw growth in their Yelp Waitlist and Yelp Reservations subscription services: "service revenues rose 28% to $7 million on growth of Yelp Waitlist and Yelp Reservations subscription revenues."

Contactless Dining

  • The Hawaii state Department of Health encourages restaurants to "consider allowing customers to pre-order while making reservations to decrease the length of time they are in the establishment."
  • Touchless payment operators are hoping to attract new clients by capitalizing on the desire for contactless transactions. For example, OneDine is offering their "Touchless System of Tap & Order and Tap & Pay for free to all restaurants in response to the pandemic."
  • Many restaurants are going cashless, for example, Call Your Mother, a restaurant in DC, added "a new card reader so that guests can pay without handing over their credit cards."
of two

COVID-19: Small Restaurants and Technology Case Studies, May 2020

OpenTable, Tock and Resy, three online restaurant reservation platforms, have all created new services and reduced or eliminated fees to help restaurants during the Coronavirus pandemic.


  • When OpenTable, an online reservation platform for businesses, saw that restaurants were shifting their business models to act as grocers during the Coronavirus outbreak in order to stay open when they were otherwise mandated to close, OpenTable added a grocery feature that allowed shoppers reserve a time slot for grocery shopping.
  • OpenTable is offering the service for free during the outbreak, no matter if the business has worked with OpenTable in the past or not. The hope is that clients will continue using OpenTable when the pandemic has passed and the company begins charging again.
  • Additionally, OpenTable is suspending all gift card fees for restaurants when a consumer buys a restaurant gift card through the OpenTable platform. Previously, restaurants had to pay $25 per month to use this service. These fees will be suspended through June. The company also allows restaurants to list their fundraising efforts on the app.
  • These services by OpenTable are helping restaurants continue to make sales, either by shifting business strategy or by selling gift cards, throughout the Coronavirus pandemic. At least 1,500 restaurants have added their fundraising efforts to the OpenTable app. One restaurant owner stated: "It has been nice to see that for the most part they’ve been doing what they can to support us."


  • Tock, a reservation platform for fine-dining establishments, created a new service during the Coronavirus outbreak — a tool "that allows customers to book 15-minute increment slots to pick up or receive their delivery."
  • This helped their fine-dining establishments, which do not typically serve takeout or delivery, implement these dining methods quickly during the outbreak. Additionally, "Tock’s To Go system has allowed restaurants to sell completely new, exclusive-to-takeout offerings, something that’s proven useful for the kind of fine dining and higher-end establishments that Tock has become known for." Restaurants such as Dan Barber’s Blue Hill in New York, Tosca Cafe in San Francisco, and Bestia and Bavel in LA are selling out of their exclusive to-go options by utilizing Tock, which restaurants are using to maintain employee healthcare even while employees are laid off and even to re-hire some staff members.
  • Tock also waived their regular monthly fees for restaurants to use the service, however, they are still charging a 3% fee per order to remain in business.
  • As a result of this new service, Tock has added "over 1,100 international restaurants since March" and is generating about $2 million in takeout and pickup sales daily.


  • Resy, the online reservation platform by American Express, created multiple new tools for restaurants during the Coronavirus outbreak. The Automated Capacity Monitor allows restaurants to manage capacity limits; the Mobile Waitlist allows customers in the area surrounding the restaurant to join a virtual waitlist in order to maintain social distancing while they wait; and Resy at Home expands Resy's services to include meal ordering and contactless pickup. Resy also has increased the communications between restaurants and customers by allowing customers to subscribe to their favorite restaurants to be alerted when the restaurant sets a reopening date.
  • Additionally, Resy announced that it will not charge restaurants to use their service through 2020.