Expa, the startup accelerator founded by Uber co-founder Garrett Camp and Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai, has led a $15 million venture investment in Reserve, a startup that wants to combine reservations and payment into a seamless end-to-end dining experience. The round includes a laundry list of celebrity investors including actors Jon Favreau and Jared Leto as well as rapper Will.i.am.
Here’s how it works: The company, which currently operates in New York, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, equips merchants with an iPad pre-loaded with the company’s application. Restaurants use the application to accept or decline reservations, and then process the check when a diner who made a reservation with Reserve finishes a meal.
For diners, the app eliminates the need to wait for a check. When a person uses the Reserve app to schedule a reservation at a participating restaurant, they store their credit card information and tipping preferences. At the end of a meal, a server simply selects the reservation, processes the payment, and provides the diner with a small business card reminding them that they paid via Reserve. The company charges diners a flat $5 rate for all transactions.
One of Reserve’s more more novel features is its muted take on surge pricing. The company allows restaurants to accept bids for highly-sought-after reservations, creating a more organic way for businesses to profit on moments of intense demand.
Greg Hong, chief executive at Reserve, said that the company has focused on working with higher-end restaurants as a way to diminish the impact of the startup’s relatively small fee but also as a way to ensure the product was used correctly by restaurants.
“Our goal was to create a methodology to improve that experience from start to finish,” said Hong. “We worked on this for a year before we launched and the restaurants we partnered with really knew what it meant to deliver hospitality.”
Hong said the early success caused many of the initial investors to urge him to get the Series A financing under way. Hong believes their support along with Reserve’s restaurant partners are going to allow the company to make a significant impact on the hyperlocal marketing landscape.
“It’s really the aggregate of all that that allows us to curate experience on a local level for an individual,” he said. “If we do it right, everybody wins.”
Hong says the company plans to expand into Chicago next.
Mason Lerner is a contributor to Street Fight.