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Rethinking Resy’s Acquisition: Does American Express Care About Restaurants?

By Jay O'Sullivan

The restaurant technology world cheered when we learned mid-May that American Express was acquiring Resy, a restaurant reservation app used to make 2.6 million weekly bookings. It validated the hard work and value of reservation tech—and in our celebration, we forgot to ask an important question.

Who does this really benefit?

Amex wants to make things better for their card holder customers, but do they care about the restaurants?

Chris Cracchiolo, Amex’s SVP of Global Loyalty and Benefits, explained the deal, stating, “We look forward to working with the Resy team to continue to grow the Resy digital platform, and develop new ways to further connect our Card Members and restaurant partners through unique access and experiences.”

Amex wants to grow Resy, as well as make things better for their card holder customers who use the platform—but do they care about the restaurants?

Amex’s Purchase History Reveals Their Goal

It doesn’t take mountains of data and machine learning to see what Amex is working towards.

In March, Amex announced its acquisition of LoungeBuddy, an app for booking airport lounge access. Chris Cracchiolo explained that the goal was to “develop additional ways to become an essential part of our Card Members’ digital lives.”

Sound familiar?

By April 1st, LoungeBuddy bookings were available exclusively to Amex cardholders.

This move cut loyal LoungeBuddy users who didn’t have an Amex card off from the platform entirely, undoubtedly resulting in fewer bookings for the lounges over the last couple of months.

And the writing’s on the wall for Pocket Concierge, a restaurant booking service for over 800 premium restaurants in Japan. Amex acquired the platform in February, saying, “Pocket Concierge plans to continue providing all existing services to its current customers and restaurant partners for the time being.”

For the time being.

It’s clear that Amex is working on enhancing services for their cardmembers, but will non-Amex cardholders who are Resy users get left behind if Amex transitions their newly purchased platforms to cardholder-exclusive benefits?

Is Resy Still Good For Restaurants?

Resy provided a much-needed alternative to OpenTable when it was founded back in 2014 and refused to nickel-and-dime restaurant partners for each booking. But now that it’s owned by one of the largest financial services corporations in the world, its future as a guest acquisition alternative for restaurants is unclear.

Amex doesn’t need to create a better platform for consumers and restaurants. It benefits more by farming consumer data.

Some have made the argument that even if Amex pursues a cardholder-exclusive platform, it could still find a way to keep bookings from falling. But what if Resy’s most valuable asset isn’t the booking platform itself, but the data it collects?

As we’ve seen from the recent OpenTable scandal, consumer data is becoming more and more valuable, and Resy is rich with it. With a giant like American Express, it’s likely Resy’s data will eventually be monetized in one way or another.

It’s why Resy bought Reserve. It’s why CapitalOne purchased WikiBuy. It’s why Amazon invested in SevenRooms—not to help the restaurants, but to help Amazon gather more data on consumers.

And that’s the kicker.

Amex doesn’t need to create a better platform for consumers and restaurants. It benefits more by farming consumer data.

We’ve long respected Resy for challenging OpenTable, but we fear Amex won’t have the same passion for giving restaurant owners a choice in reservation technology like the founders of Resy did. That will inevitably stall innovation and make restaurants less of a focus for Resy going forward.

It Is Worth Staying With Resy?

Unlike with LoungeBuddy, Amex probably won’t dramatically change Resy’s platform right off the bat. Instead, we may just see a slow decline in restaurant-focused updates over the next few months and years as consumer data becomes the focus.

We can’t say if it’s worth sticking with Resy. As a restaurant owner, you should look at your personal ROI and monitor over time if staying continues to make sense.

All we can do is offer an alternative that focuses on restaurant innovation and focusing on your brand, rather than hoarding and monetizing data.

Your restaurant isn’t merely a pipe for collecting consumer data. It’s to continue to grow and provide exceptional guest experiences. My advice? Find a front of house software solution that helps you do just that…and doesn’t break the bank. You might start by going here.