Lessons From App Experts: How Reserve is Aiming to Change the Way We Dine Out


Greg_standing-1In this new series, we chat with leading app owners, creators and marketers to get their insights into what app success looks like and how they're engaging users. Plus: what do they see working when it comes to app messaging tactics, and how do they use analytics to inform marketing? If you want to participate, please email badler@localytics.com

For this installment, we chatted with Greg Hong of Reserve about how they are revolutionizing how mobile users approach restaurant reservations and handling the check. 

Greg is Reserve's CEO, Co-Founder and Board Director, responsible for setting and executing the vision for the company. Prior to starting Reserve, Greg was a small business consultant and the Director of Business Operations at true[X], where he ran their ad operations team from pre-revenue to $20 million.

reserveWhere did you guys get the idea for the app? What need do you see it filling?

One night in late 2013, and my friend Joe Marchese and I were thinking about going out to eat. We were in the mood for a delicious meal at a nice restaurant with a few friends. After a little research, we picked a place that looked good and started checking around to see if we could get a table. When we couldn’t, we researched a new spot and tried again. After the first few attempts, it became clear that this simple meal out was becoming way too complex. There had to be a better way.

So we got this idea to create an app that makes every part of dining better — both for guests and restaurants.

The Reserve app makes it easy for you to go out for a great meal by curating a list of the best restaurants in each city to make sure that no matter where you go, you'll have a great time, and helping you effortlessly pay when the meal is done.

How do you plan to expand over the next year?

We continue to focus on growing our presence in New York, Boston, SF, LA and Chicago — both in terms of bringing Reserve to more hungry diners and partnering with more great restaurants. We also plan to continue expanding, bringing Reserve to more people and more partners in more cities. Lastly, always working on new features and plan to introduce even more ways you can enhance your dining experience with Reserve.

How do you acquire new users and promote awareness?

Given that dining out is a very social behavior, we see a lot of great organic growth simply from Reserve users dining out with their friends, who then want to use the app themselves. We also try to forge fruitful partnerships with organizations whose users who might be interested in the idea of a personal dining concierge and all the convenience and personalization we offer. And we are very active on social media. Instagram and Twitter have been huge for us, largely because our diners are sharing their great Reserve experiences with those communities.

How important is push and/or in-app messaging to your marketing efforts?

Messaging is a core part of our product - as a dining concierge, communication between us and our diners is very important. We use in-app messages, as well as text and push notifications, to communicate with diners about the status of their reservation requests, alternative options that a restaurant might be offering them, customer service issues and more.

chi-reserve-app-greg-hong-bsi-photos-20150413-001What's the most popular feature in your app?

Certainly the most buzzed about feature on social media is our effortless payment system at the end of the meal. The end result improves hospitality in a restaurant and is an experience our diners love.

We’ve worked particularly hard on creating a more seamless payment experience at the end of the meal — automating payment so that the check arrives already taken care of. When the bill arrives, it comes with a small black and gold card letting you know the check is paid, and we’ve seen shots of these go viral on social media. [Image featured from a Chicago Tribune article profiling Reserve].

How do you determine your feature roadmap?

When thinking about new features and updates, we’re always working to make dining better for both our diners and our restaurant partners. Speaking from my experience with Reserve, balancing the needs of two sides of a marketplace can be difficult, but incredibly rewarding for all involved when done right. As a dining concierge service, the reason we’ve been successful is directly related to the value we place on prioritizing problem solving for restaurants. We talk with our partners daily and are always asking for feedback from our diners to help us prioritize our product roadmaps. We try to balance the work that we do for both parties to make sure that updates and new features for both diners and restaurants are rolling out consistently.

How do you garner and respond to user feedback?


We actively ask for and listen to feedback from our stakeholders — both restaurants and diners — on what we can be doing better and what pain points we should be addressing. We analyze the data and the research and then prioritize, test and roll out the features that matter most to people — the things that are going to have the greatest impact.

Specifically with our restaurant partners, we’re able to take their feedback and create solutions that can enhance their businesses, allowing them to provide exceptional hospitality without cutting into the very slim margins that many restaurateurs face.

Do you use app analytics to run new marketing campaigns? If yes, how so?

At Reserve, we’re very data-driven and as we grow we’re increasingly focused on using analytics of all kinds to help us improve our marketing efforts. Although with marketing there will always be some intangible elements, we’re always trying to track our campaigns back to hard numbers  — to downloads and key metrics in the app.

Where do you see apps and mobile going?

We’re living in an increasingly on-the-go, busy world, so more and more services will be taking advantage of mobile and starting mobile-first. We’re also increasingly seeing mobile apps that try to help you spend less time with technology, providing you with a service quickly so you can get on with your busy day and spend time on the people and things that are important to you. For everything from rapid food delivery to photo sharing to finding a place to stay during an upcoming business trip, it’s all about reducing friction — providing services easily, with the click of a button.