If two new mobile apps pan out as their creators envision, restaurants will soon be monetizing their social media followers as never before. One app, a collaboration between Facebook and OpenTable, makes the act of getting a restaurant reservation even more convenient than it already is. The second, a social gifting app dubbed Gratafy, promises to create an as-yet-untapped revenue stream by letting users purchase specific food and drink items for their Facebook friends without ever stepping foot in the restaurant themselves.
The new Facebook app is the result of a partnership with restaurant reservation service OpenTable. Mobile users can now check out a restaurant’s Facebook page and then make an instant reservation at any of the 20,000 restaurants that are part of the OpenTable lineup.
"The update represents a new way of discovering and booking great dining experiences, all within the Facebook mobile app," the company says in a blog posting. "There's no need to visit a separate mobile site or open a separate app."
Making a restaurant reservation can’t get much easier than this. The app should help bring in business for restaurants that are part of the OpenTable network. A potential downside: It’s now equally easy to for mobile users to cancel their confirmed reservations with a quick tap on their smartphone screen.
The deal was seen as a win-win by those who follow the stock of these two publicly traded companies. OpenTable shares jumped nearly nine percent as soon the arrangement was announced. Facebook will benefit financially, too, presuming this partnership is extended to the company’s web-based platform.
The idea behind Seattle-based Gratafy is that smartphone-equipped users can order and prepay for specific food and drink items their friends will consume on a future visit to a restaurant. Here’s how the company describes its service to potential consumer participants, emphasizing how this app simplifies the act of gift giving while simultaneously making it more personal.
“Never miss the opportunity to tell a friend or loved one ‘congratulations,’ ‘happy birthday’ or ‘sorry about your cat’ no matter how much you've procrastinated (we all do it). Send gifts any time, from anywhere with your smartphone.
“Show 'em you know 'em by choosing a restaurant or bar they frequent. Then start showing off: choose their favorite bottle of wine, beer, shot, dessert or specialty cocktail and watch as jaws drop and minds are blown by your perceptive, thoughtful acts of benevolence.”
For example, a Seattle-based gift-giver could purchase a mimosa cocktail ($9) or Theo chocolate ganache ($11.25) from chef Maria Hines’s excellent restaurant Tilth. Or maybe gift a starter of Palace olive poppers ($8), some wood-grilled chicken wings ($12.50) or a glass of St. Julia Malbec ($10.25) to be consumed at a later date at chef Tom Douglas’s Palace Kitchen in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood. Other options abound; restaurants offer a short list of items, not full menus.
So what’s the redemption process like? “Rest assured, your gifts are immediately delivered via email, text, or Facebook wall post—you can be as social or private as you'd like,” Gratafy says. “When it comes time for them to redeem their gift, they simply order like normal, whip out their phone, and give the server the three-digit code they see in the app.”
Gratafy provides a well-thought-out service from the gift-giver’s perspective. But it may look even better from the restaurant operator’s point of view. Not only does the restaurant get cash up front for an item that may or may not ever be consumed. Even better, the gift recipient has a strong incentive to visit the restaurant where the gift awaits, likely bringing a friend or two or more along for the occasion. It’s no wonder many top Seattle restaurants have become part of the Gratafy network.
Gratafy is currently expanding in Los Angeles and plans to launch in other markets later this year.