New Restaurant Reservation Site UReserv Offers an OpenTable Alternative

The locally based site allows diners to book online while saving restaurants money.

A view of the cloud-based UReserv software from an iPhone. (Photo courtesy of UReserv.)

If you dine out regularly, or even semi-regularly, chances are you’ve used OpenTable to book your spot. For years, the ubiquitous online-reservations system has been the way to book a table in Boston and major cities around the world. What many people don’t realize, though, is that the convenience comes at a cost: Restaurants shell out 25 cents for every per person who books through the OpenTable app on their own website, $1 for reservations made through the main OpenTable site, and as much as $7.50 per person for “1,000-point” bookings, which help restaurants fill seats at off-peak times (like 5:30 on a Monday). There’s more: It’s $100 a month for the OpenTable equipment lease, plus another $100 for the software lease. All together, Catalyst chef/owner William Kovel told us he pays “about a couple thousand a month” — a figure that’s just not financially feasible for many smaller restaurants, putting many at a competitive disadvantage. At Jason Bond’s sub-30 seat Bondir, his team must personally field hundreds of reservation calls each day — time and money that could otherwise be better spent.

Enter UReserv, a program making that made its official debut yesterday. It was created by Aquitaine Group partner Jeffrey Gates and business partner Van Garrett as an alternative to OpenTable, which cost his restaurant group a small fortune. (“I think at the worst we were hitting between 13 and 14 thousand a month,” he says.) The new program, which offers an online reservations system as well as well as the valuable back-end table management data that OpenTable provides, is designed to be effective for large restaurant groups as well as small, independent restaurants. The price? A mere $30 a month.

Instead of making money through consumer use, the site instead profits from advertising that caters to the restaurants using the site (think: a promo for a restaurant supply company) and consumers (an ad for Winston Flowers). UReserv runs on computers, tablets, and smartphones via a cloud-based system, which eliminates the need for module or software leasing. There will also be a Craigslist-esque equipment sharing component to the site for restaurant professionals; it’ll cost $10 per posted item. While it just officially launched, UReserv has been in beta testing for the past 10 months and already has several local clients (130 total including additional clients in Providence, New York, Atlanta, and Philadelphia), ranging from the Burton’s restaurant chainlet to gems like Massimino’s in the North End (which gets about 20 percent of its reservations through Ureserv) and fine-dining bigwigs Troquet and L’Espalier.

Interestingly, UReserv is not the only OpenTable alternative in town. Seattle-based restaurant-guide site Urban Spoon launched RezBook, its own booking/table management service, 18 months ago; local spots Trade and Casa B are among its clients. There is no cost to the restaurants for reservations made via the RezBook app on the restaurants’ own sites, and $2 per person for a booking made through the UrbanSpoon site (a smaller per-person amount can be paid if the restaurant also pays a monthly fee around $150).

Ultimately, Jason Bond of Bondir went with UReserv. Whether Kovel and other local restaurateurs will follow suit remains to be seen. Either way, it’s great to know that there’s additional — and affordable — options for the many chef-driven, independent restaurants in Boston.

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