Resy, the upstart that took on OpenTable and became the largest privately held reservation service in the country, reaching 4,000 restaurants in over 200 cities, has been acquired by American Express.
Resy co-founder Ben Leventhal (Disclosure: Resy’s Ben Leventhal was one of the co-founders of Eater, but is no longer involved in its operations) told the New York Times, “Putting Resy and American Express together will give Resy valuable scale.” The company has a valuation of about $53 million, with investors including AirBnB and Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group, and had recently acquired Reserve, the reservation app launched by Uber co-founder Garrett Camp’s incubator, Expa.
The Resy acquisition fits into AmEx’s campaign to reclaim its place in the hearts (and wallets) of power diners since the launch of Chase’s Sapphire Reserve, which became the overwhelmingly preferred credit card of millennials who spend everything they earn on avocado toast and Airbnbs abroad. Last year, AmEx launched a revived (rose) gold card that offered quadruple points on dining, and a $120 credit toward meals at Shake Shack or via GrubHub and Seamless.
While Resy has moved away from requiring users to pay for reservations, it had already offered exclusive deals to AmEx holders, like special tables and early access to ticketed events. “Our plan is to continue to have Resy be open and to the public so anyone can use it to book restaurants,” Chris Cracchiolo, American Express’s SVP of global loyalty and benefits, told Fast Company. “Over time, we will look to bring some of those capabilities into the AmEx ecosystem.”
Looking at other recent hospitality acquisitions by Amex — in the past year, it’s acquired LoungeBuddy, PocketConcierge, and the UK-based restaurant billpay startup Cake — it’s possible things could go the other way; after the LoungeBuddy acquisition, booking services became available only to cardholders. Whether AmEx curbs Resy’s aggressive expansion or makes it members-only, it’d be an unfortunate retreat, given that it had become an important check on OpenTable’s absolute dominance in the reservation space, forcing the 20ish-year-old company to actually compete again. Now, it appears that OpenTable might be able to rest easier, leaving most diners to contend with two less-than-ideal options: navigating its impossible UX, or, you know, actually picking up the phone and calling a restaurant.