- Seated, a restaurant booking app that launched in 2017 and offers rewards for users who show up for their reservation, has acquired events booking platform VenueBook. The terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but the purchase rounds out Seated's offerings to three distinct channels: dine-in, pickup/delivery and private events, according to a news release.
- The VenueBook deal comes as Seated launches Seated Events, enabling restaurants to offer consumers and businesses rewards for booking their private events on site. Users of Seated, Seated at Home and Seated Events can redeem the rewards for gift cards to brands like Amazon, Starbucks and Sephora, per the release.
- The company has also raised $30 million in funding led by Insight Partners, with participation by Craft Ventures, Greycroft and Rho Capital Partners, which will go toward bolstering its platform and improving its performance and capabilities to develop new products.
Private events typically generate 10% to 15% of a restaurant’s revenue and 20% of its profit, according to the Seated release, but that stream has come to a screeching halt throughout the past few months due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Seated said in the release that its Events platform “provides a seamless way for restaurants to begin rebuilding this critical revenue stream, allowing families or smaller groups of people who would like to take extra precautions while dining out to book private rooms.” Offering socially distanced options for small groups may be the best strategy for the event booking space right now as infection levels hold steady or climb across the country.
The CDC updated its guidelines for events last month, though it continues to recommend a low number of attendees, maintaining that virtual events continue to present the lowest risk. Indeed, the events forecast remains somewhat murky as states grapple with lingering COVID-19 cases, and as major companies like Microsoft and Facebook have paused their events until July 2021. According to Event Manager, the likelihood of event booking making a comeback is "somewhat likely" from October to December 2020, but bookings in this window come with "moderate risk." This timeline could be upended by a second wave of coronavirus, however, which Morgan Stanley predicts could arise in late November 2020.
Still, though they generate a big chunk of revenues, events bookings may not be the panacea restaurants need whenever things stabilize. The restaurant industry is on pace to lose about 25% of its locations, based on reservations data from OpenTable.
This makes the timing of Seated's VenueBook acquisition interesting, particularly since the overall mergers and acquisition market has slowed significantly. Some analysts, however, have argued that now is a good time to move forward on acquisitions as deal premiums are lower and companies with strong liquidity have an opportunity to generate long-term shareholder value. VenueBook expands Seated's geographic footprint into tri-state New York, Denver, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. as well.
This move can also create a point of differentiation for Seated in a crowded reservations space. With such a large swath of restaurants expected to close, that space could experience a shakeout. For now, however, the market remains crowded with the likes of OpenTable, Yelp, Resy and SevenRooms. Like Seated, OpenTable is also trying to differentiate, encouraging restaurants to communicate what sanitation protocols are in place and is also providing takeout and grocery reservations, for example.