Tech-savvy consumers may soon be able to book lunch reservations, order and pay ahead for their meals using Facebook.
The “wait-free” dining app startup Allset last week launched a bot that allows lunch diners in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Calif., and New York City to interact with local restaurants using Facebook Messenger on their phones or computers.
About 8,500 diners per month use the Allset app, which also allows guests to make reservations, pre-order and pay at about 180 restaurants in those three cities, with more to come.
The idea is that consumers are particularly starved for time at lunch. Ordering and paying ahead allows them to skip the wait for a table, as well as skipping time lost perusing the menu and waiting for a check at the end of a meal.
For restaurants, the app/bot improves efficiency, helps put guests in seats and speeds table turnover rates, Allset contends.
The cost: a 10-percent fee per table, which is taken from the subtotal before taxes and tip.
Chatbot ordering, or ordering through social media platforms, is still new but growing in popularity.
Restaurant chains like Pizza Hut, Wingstop and Taco Bell allow guests to order using their Twitter, Facebook or Slack accounts.
Using social media, guests don’t have to download an app that forces them to give up precious real estate on their smartphone screens.
Most restaurant ordering bots, however, tend to ease takeout or delivery.
Allset’s bot, on the other hand, also allows guests to order ahead for dine-in and includes high-end restaurants, like the French restaurant Bon Marche in San Francisco, or Serafina Osteria in New York.
“Unlike other bots we’ve seen so far, the Allset bot requires less effort than ordering through the native app,” said Stas Matviyenko, Allset’s CEO. “We wanted to bring lunch reservations directly to where people are spending a lot of time chatting with friends and colleagues. Facebook created a great opportunity for us to offer a cross-platform service to our users available both on their phones and computers.”
With Allset, for example, guests can open their Facebook page and use Messenger to find a place for lunch by zip code.
A selection of restaurants pops up, from high-end options to fast-casual chains, with map features that shows the guest how far away the restaurant is and how to get there.
They can book a table for up to six people that day or the next day, and then choose from a selection of 10 curated meals to pre-order.
Guests can order and even pay before they arrive at the restaurant, saving time. The bot also allows guests to give comments or special instructions.
Facebook is the first social media platform Allset is working with, but soon the company plans to allow similar ordering/payment features through Slack, which the company believes will appeal to corporate clients.