The company was incubated at Expa, the startup studio created by StumbleUpon and Uber co-founder Garrett Camp. The app launched on iOS last fall.
To use Reserve, you provide the time window when you’re looking for a reservation, then the app gives you a list of recommended restaurants in your area. Once you’ve chosen one or more restaurants from the list, the app will work to get you that reservation — if it can’t find something at the location(s) of your choosing, it will come up with openings at similar restaurants in your time window.
Co-founder and CEO Greg Hong noted that despite the app’s name, it doesn’t just handle reservations. It takes care of payment, too, using the credit card information that you’ve entered into the app. That can save you an awkward wait at the end of your meal — and Hong said that even when you don’t have to wait a million years for your check, all the social cues around fighting over the bill and filling out the tip can take “a delightful experience” and make it “very transactional.” (Plus, adding a bill-splitting feature is at the top of the team’s to-do list.)
At launch, Reserve was available in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. Since then, it launched in San Francisco, added more restaurants (bringing the total to more than 110), and released its Android app just last week.
The round was led by Human Ventures Capital (a new firm created by Reserve co-founder Joe Marchese, whose ad tech startup True[x] Media was acquired by 21st Century Fox in December) and by Expa. Also participating were previous backers First Round Capital, Lowercase Capital, Advancit Capital, and Sherpa Ventures, as well as new investors SV Angel, Venture 51, and Visionaire Ventures. And there were a few celebrities who put money in, too, namely actor Jared Leto, musician Will.i.am, and Chef director Jon Favreau.
One of Hong’s goals is to expand beyond fine dining: “We want to give that experience to people in their everyday lives.” That seems like a worthy goal, especially since I currently feel like I don’t eat at enough fancy restaurants to be a regular Reserve user.
I wondered, however, if the app’s $5 fee for diners, which may not seem like much when you’re paying $100 or more for the meal, starts to seem more costly when it’s added to the bill at a more affordable restaurant. (Reserve doesn’t charge restaurants anything.) Hong countered, “We feel like the value has proven itself,” with Reserve not just tackling reservations and payments, but also adding little touches that improve the overall experience — for example, the restaurant staff can greet you by name when you arrive, making you feel like a regular.
“We’re always asking, ‘How do we continue to deliver a lot of value in exchange for that $5?'” he said.
Reserve has now raised a total of $17.3 million.