- Restaurant reservation platforms trail behind other online discovery methods, according to BentoBox’s Diner Discovery Report, which surveyed 2,000 diners.
- Online platforms are almost as widely used as personal recommendations, with 86% of diners saying they use online research to find new restaurants, compared to 89% who take in-person recommendations. By contrast, 75% of diners like chance, in-person restaurant discovery, per the report.
- However, some online discovery tools outperform others, 61% of diners who find new restaurants online do so through search engines, compared to 22% who use reservation platforms. Delivery platforms also saw low utilization for discovery, with only 27% of consumers using them.
Reservation and delivery platforms are trying to remedy this search gap and increase their utility for restaurant discovery. Many efforts to improve searches have partially relied on integrations with search engines.
Yelp’s newest product updates make it possible for consumers to join a Yelp waitlist or secure a reservation through Google Search and Maps, which blends the reservation site’s functions with a search engine’s reach. Resy, by comparison, has opted for exclusive deals with in-demand restaurants to boost its profile, betting that the attachment consumers have to restaurants will draw them to the reservation system.
Uber Eats is working to make its platform more useful for restaurant discovery by removing duplicate virtual brands. BentoBox itself launched a waitlist and reservation system to accompany its POS, marketing and communications platforms in January.
The ease of digital search engines can still be bested by feedback from a diner’s community, however. The BentoBox survey found that most consumers who use social media for restaurant discovery are actually using it to seek recommendations from friends and family, rather than recommendations from influencers, sponsored ads or keyword searches.
A full 56% of those who use social media to find new restaurants do so through recommendations from people they know, compared to 30% who pay attention to influencers. Facebook remains a powerful driver in restaurant discovery, with majorities of millennial, Gen X and Baby Boomer consumers using it. Majorities of Gen Z and millennial consumers use Instagram (54% and 52%, respectively), and TikTok is most popular among Gen Z, 43% of whom uses the platform for restaurant discovery.