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Airbnb introduces restaurant reservation in US; What about India?

Airbnb has introduced restaurant table booking, including for prix fixe dinners such as buffets, for about 650 restaurants across New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Miami, Charleston, Austin, Seattle, Hamptons, Denver, Portland, Raleigh/Durham, Atlanta, New Orleans, Nashville, and Napa. Resy, a restaurant reservation app in which Airbnb had invested $13 million in January this year, has curated the list of restaurants. Note that Resy also operates independently and is available on Android and iOS.

Airbnb users will be able to search for restaurants based on cuisine type, meal type, time of day (breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner) or check out the map view to find a restaurant in any particular neighbourhood.

This ties-in with Airbnb’s push to expand its Trips platform, which was launched in November last year. Trips focuses on three aspects – Experiences, Places and Homes – and the company had said that it will be adding Flights and Services in the future. Experiences, which Airbnb has been especially keen to expand, offers a curated list of activities in a particular city or destination, including recommendations from locals. The company has emphasised that it is looking to provide a complete travel experience and not just hotel and homestay bookings.

Side-note: Airbnb’s latest restaurant spending report claims that between September 2016 and September 2017, Airbnb guests spent upwards of $6.5 billion at restaurants in 44 markets around the world.

What about India?

Airbnb had launched Trips in India within four months of its launch in United States. So, will it bring restaurant bookings to India soon? Even if that does happen it will not be in partnership with Resy, because the app isn’t operational in India.

Zomato would be an ideal partner for Airbnb in India. It had launched its restaurant reservation service Zomato Book in January last year. It allows users to book tables, modify and cancel bookings, whether or not the restaurant is open. Users need to place a request to reserve a table, then Zomato contacts the restaurant on the user’s behalf, and informs the user via email or SMS. Note that during a conference call in November 2015, Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal had said that for monetising table reservations, the company charged restaurants a flat fee (of Rs 10,000 per location) on a monthly basis to use the service. However, the pricing was different for different markets.

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Note that Tripadvisor already offers restaurant table reservation in 2,200 restaurants across India through its partnership with online restaurant booking platform EazyDiner. Plus, Tripadvisor-backed restaurant reservation app, Eatigo acquired Ressy to launch operations in India, starting with Mumbai and Pune, in July this year. Eatigo offers users up to 50% discount every day at restaurants booked via its app, which is applicable to every food item on the menu and can be booked sans any payment.

Interestingly, Airbnb’s latest Asia Pacific (APAC) Travel survey laid a lot of emphasis on how travelers engage with food/local cuisine. And it turns out that Indian travelers are particularly keen on sampling local cuisine and open to trying new cuisines, which is a bit surprising because that’s definitely not the impression I had about India travelers.

Airbnb in India

– In June this year, the company tied-up with Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) to list MTDC homestays on its platform. This is a revenue-sharing agreement, which will see Airbnb sharing a portion of its booking revenue in the state with MTDC. However, it’s not clear what percentage of the booking revenue will be shared.

– It also partnered with Self-Employed Women’s Association of India (SEWA) to expand its network of homestays in rural India, in November last year. Initially, Airbnb and SEWA worked with SEWA members in Gujarat to offer their homes to Airbnb’s international and domestic guests.

– The company had entered into a strategic partnership with and raised an undisclosed amount of investment from the Times of India Group, in April last year.

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