Tock snags $9.5M in funding, further upending reservation game
- Global reservations platform Tock garnered $9.5 million in an oversubscribed funding round, the company announced this week, with major contributions from Tesla and SpaceX investor Valor Equity Partners and Origin Ventures, one of Tock's initial backers. Famed chef Thomas Keller and Lettuce Entertain You, the Chicago-based restaurant group, also contributed.
- The brainchild of Alinea co-owner Nick Kokonas, Tock launched as a pre-pay reservation platform and has landed $350 million in such bookings, but it expanded to offer standard free and deposit reservations and waitlists, according to the company's website.
- "Tock’s strategic focus on businesses and consumers brings the dining experience into the 21st century, making it a win-win for both the restaurant and guest," Richard Melman, president of LEYE, said in a statement.
Reservation systems have been on the prowl for financial partners this year. This is especially true of New York-based Resy, which gathered $15 million in funding since its 2014 founding, according to Crunchbase. Resy poses the biggest threat to Tock since acquiring fellow disruptor Reserve just last month. It also bought research and secret shopper company Servy last year and the Spanish concierge service ClubKviar in April.
Both Resy and Tock seem to be banking their futures on data about customers and about the restaurant’s internal affairs to maximize table seatings, understand audiences for marketing and curate more customized dining experiences.
Tock has raised $17 million since its 2014 launch in Chicago at Next and Alinea, the three-Michelin star restaurant Kokonas co-owns with famed chef Grant Achatz. Originally built to tackle problems where other platforms failed in his own restaurants, which offers tasting menus for two costing upwards of $700, Tock quickly earned the trust of 167 restaurants around the world by 2016. It posts a no-show rate of less than 1%, a significant advantage in the reservation platform race.
At that point, when celebrity chefs including Andrew Zimmern and Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park invested in Series A funding, Kokonas hoped to double its staff of 21 people and onboard 300 or so restaurants by 2018, according to the Chicago Tribune. It's far surpassed that number, due in no small part to accommodating standard free reservations, a move that likely attracted more casual restaurants looking for more data-driven solutions.
Initial clients leaned higher-end, to say the least, and that makes sense given Kokonas' work at Alinea and Next — not only two of the most sought-after restaurants in Chicago but in the world. Tock handled reservations for Denmark-based restaurant Noma's 2016 pop-up in Australia, processing $1.8 million in payments in 30 seconds, Kokonas told the Chicago Tribune.
The platform runs on Google Cloud, allowing restaurants to access their data on any device. Other upstarts either started that way or have adopted that technology, including OpenTable.
OpenTable has to know the competition is swimming faster and closer than ever before. In a sense, the ouster of CEO Crista Quarles in exchange for parent company Kayak’s leader could signal a tip-of-the-hat to the necessity of being more of a technology company than simply a restaurant company. While Resy and now Tock no doubt have comfortable leads against the industry giant, gaining high-profile clients left and right, smaller upstarts such as SeatNinja are still in the race. Another data-driven platform, SevenRooms, has gained Amazon’s attention to develop voice technology for restaurants.