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Danny Meyer Just Single-Handedly Made the Apple Watch Relevant to the Hospitality Industry

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A partnership between Union Square Hospitality Group and reservation startup Resy is about to shake up front-of-house service


NYC restaurateur, Shake Shack founder, and millionaire Danny Meyer is having a good week. He’s invested in a home-cooked food delivery start-up, introduced paid parental leave for all of his employees, and today almost single-handedly made the Apple Watch — a very expensive trophy gadget at best — relevant.

In an announcement made moments ago at the TechTable Summit, representatives from Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group and Resy — the reservation system start-up founded by (Eater co-founder) Ben Leventhal, Michael Montero, and Gary Vaynerchuk — confirmed a partnership that would integrate the Apple Watch into front-of-house restaurant service.

When Meyer’s 30-year-old Union Square Cafe reopens in Manhattan next month, every floor manager and sommelier will be wearing an Apple Watch. And when a VIP walks through the front door, someone orders a bottle of wine, a new table is seated, a guest waits too long to order her or his drink, or a menu item runs out, every manager will get an alert via the tiny computer attached to their wrist.

The last night of service at the original Union Square Cafe, December 2015, New York City
Daniel Krieger/Eater NY

It’s a forward-thinking approach to technology in hospitality that’s never been tried before. Regional chains like Bareburger and independent restaurants across the country use point-of-sale (POS) applications designed for mobile phones so servers can take and immediately place orders at tables; this eliminates the need for a free-standing computer kiosk. Some restaurants have even installed tablets at tables, rendering human servers all but useless. But so far no restaurant has asked its staffers to don a wearable during dinner service. In fact, for most restaurant employees, mobile usage is banned during service hours.

Maureen Cushing, co-founder of TechTable and Union Square Hospitality Group's VP of Technology, says she first heard of Resy’s plans to create a business-to-business operating system that integrated reservations, mobile payments, a POS system, and on-the-floor service communications about 10 months ago.

ResyOS is the resulting app. Its control center is an iPad at the restaurant’s host stand; the Watches pull info from the back-end system housed on the iPad app. Cushing sees ResyOS as “another way to listen and respond to our guests... [the app gives employees] real-time communication from guests, similar to Uber feedback.”

But Cushing is quick to note that the Apple Watches will not replace communication between servers and management. “Right now, servers will not be wearing watches, only management and sommeliers,” she says, which means guests won’t have to worry about their server being distracted by a vibrating watch while taking their order for a half-portion of gnocchi.

But when a guest has finished dining, a manager can ping the coat room attendant to fetch the guest’s coat; when a diner orders a bottle of wine, a manager need not print a ticket for the order — instead, ResyOS will ping the sommelier’s Apple Watch, eliminating an extra step in the often time-consuming process. “It’s important that we think of tech as a solution to replacing operational hiccups,” Cushing says.

ResyOS is getting more sophisticated for diners too. Diners will soon be able to invite other members of their group into the reservation so a restaurant can know all of the names in a given party. And if a diner is running late to their reservation, they can text that information to ResyOS and the restaurant will be alerted — no awkward phone call or hold music necessary. Union Square Cafe will also make use of Resy Pay when it reopens, a feature that allows members of a party to split the check, pay individually on their phones, and leave at will, without waiting for everyone in the party to pay up.

Cushing, with Meyer’s backing, has lead the way on this charge, but the consistently innovative and progressive Union Square Hospitality Group ethos keeps these ideas afloat and pushes them into adoption. Meyer was the first to announce a company-wide elimination of tips and a broad restructuring of employee benefits at his multi-concept restaurant group last year. Neither servers at Meyer’s fine dining establishments nor bartenders at casual restaurants, nor cashiers at Shake Shack accept tips. Diners are all paying just a little bit more for each menu item, but this means staffers know exactly what their take-home pay will be each week. They also receive benefits like paid vacation, sick days, and profit-sharing — rare perks for those in the restaurant industry.

USGH’s partnership with Resy is a boon for the fledgling reservation app. Because ResyOS was designed for and with USHG, members of the restaurant group’s leadership will join Resy’s Hospitality Board to provide ongoing product feedback. If successful, the app and Apple Watches could be implemented into other USHG restaurants.

“We’re thrilled to partner with one of New York’s most iconic restaurants to continue to make strides in the advancement of restaurant technology,” said Ben Leventhal, co-founder of Resy. “We all see the potential for new technologies to catapult restaurants into the future.”

Resy's Ben Leventhal and Gary Vaynerchuk on Their New Reservations App [E]
All Union Square Cafe Coverage [ENY]
All USHG Coverage [E]

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