American Express takes further control of restaurant reservations

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American Express is acquiring yet another restaurant booking platform. It’s a potential gamechanger for cardholders in a world where nabbing a table at a popular restaurant feels like an impossible feat thanks to an insurmountable number of bots and table resellers disrupting the market. 

In major cities, securing a spot at a coveted restaurant can require booking weeks or even months in advance. More often than not, diners also have to know the precise moment when the reservation window opens.

With American Express’ acquisition of reservation, table, and event management technology provider Tock, announced last week, the company will effectively increase the number of restaurants offered through American Express channels. 

With Tock, American Express, which already acquired Resy in 2019, will gain reservation, table management and event ticketing tools to approximately 7,000 restaurants, wineries, and other bookable venues. 

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An American Express spokesperson said while this acquisition will offer diners more options, it will also help drive even more demand for its restaurant and hospitality customers.

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Card members are already benefiting more than others in the race to secure a hot seat with the Resy aquisiton. For instance, Global Dining Access by Resy gives certain card members “insider access to some of the world’s most sought-after restaurants”, such as access to exclusive reservations and Priority Notify, which means cardholders will get a notification before other Resy users when a table opens up. 

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Card members who benefit off this include, but isn’t limited to, holders of its Platinum Card, Business Platinum Card, Centurion Card or Business Centurion from American Express, otherwise known as the “Black Card,” as well as Delta SkyMiles Reserve American Express Card, Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card and the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card. 

From 2019 through 2023, we’ve increased the number of engaged diners by 3 times, increased the number of restaurants by over five times, according to American Express.

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Howard Grosfield, president of American Express U.S. Consumer Services, said restaurants are one of its largest card member spending categories within travel and entertainment, accounting for $100 billion in volume just last year.

“We’ve been offering unique dining benefits, exclusive access, and special experiences to our Card Members for years through Resy and Global Dining Access by Resy,” Grosfield said. “Now, we can connect even more premium customers with the most exciting restaurants.”

Max Chodorow, one of the owners of Jean’s in New York City, told FOX Business that reservations “have really become like social capital in New York.” 

Even Chodorow finds himself “playing concierge to a lot of our investors” given that having money doesn’t guarantee you access to restaurants. 

“I see us getting more and more requests on a daily basis from concierges…working on behalf of individuals of means to secure them hard to get reservations across the board,” he said. 

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He sees American Express’ latest move as a “net benefit” for the restaurant because those cardholders typically have a higher check spend, but it has the potential to make places seem even more exclusive. 

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“You know, if we could fill our book entirely with these people, we would love to. And we do fill a lot of our book with it,” he said. On the other hand, it’s “a double-edged sword to continuously push restaurants into the sphere of deep exclusivity,” he added.

While its good to pull in a “high net worth crowd” that sees the restaurant as a place to celebrate and spend money, it “stands at the exclusion of more normal neighborhood individuals.” 

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