We didn't know Apple wanted a foothold in the restaurant business, but it looks like they do! They're in the process of patenting an all-in-one reservation, wait list, ordering, and menu recommendation software system that would integrate the functionality of OpenTable with the added functionality of a Seamless, as well as some other stuff. They say it could have uses for museums or movie theaters too, but clearly this is aimed at overhauling the way restaurants do business.
iRes, or whatever it will be called, is a mobile-device-enabled reservation and wait list system that builds on the reservation-availability search functionality of OpenTable by adding wait-list functionality for restaurants that don't take reservations. The software would, as the patent application uncovered by Eater National describes, empower customers to compare estimated wait times at nearby restaurants, and even place orders once there.
Per the application:
"In one embodiment, a system is described that is capable of providing recommendations for restaurants in response to a search query for a particular restaurant type, cuisine, ethnicity, price point, rating, or a combination of a few of these factors. The recommendations provided to the customer can be based on the wait time for the next available table at the restaurant. For example, the recommendations can contain only restaurants with a table available within a predetermined period of time. As another example, the recommendations can contain only restaurants capable of providing the customer with a table within a period of time after the customer arrives at the restaurant. These examples can take into consideration the wait list at the restaurants and the distance between the customer and the restaurant when recommending restaurants. In another embodiment, a customer can request to eat at a specified restaurant."
The software would help front-of-house staff insofar as it would likely make more accurate estimates about wait times table by table based on what the customers ordered at each table. But it could also end up eliminating the need for so much front-of-house staff. And it would necessitate putting more iPads in kitchens, probably, to be on the receiving end of orders.
And now that many bars and restaurants are already using point-of-sale software designed for iPads, like Square and others, this type of thing seems like the logical next step.
Many restaurateurs, including Incanto owner Mark Pastore, have complained over the years about OpenTable cutting into their profits on the one hand they now need the system to be competitive and bring people in the door, but OpenTable charges significant monthly fees for the privilege. As of earlier this year, OpenTable's growth was looking to be slowing rapidly.