Thinking about online restaurant reservations

Is the next wave restaurant booking applications for Malaysia? For that, the scene has to change much from restaurateurs.

In London, I had lunch at Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental in Hyde Park. This restaurant has one Michelin star, and is generally booked out up to three months in advance. People clearly want to eat there.

But on the off chance something opens up, a service like OpenTable (not just for online restaurant reservations; is a restaurant management system too) can inform you that an opening exists and it could be great to visit. Foodies love this as there’s no wait, and restaurants love this as there’s revenue coming in.

From what I gather, when seasons are low at other OpenTable restaurants, you even snag discounts to eat there. No group buying involved, the restaurant genuinely wants to fill a seat, and everyone should leave the transaction happy.

Malaysia has no Michelin starred restaurants (Mandarin Oriental is the only user of OpenTable so far in Malaysia). That aside (who’s to say the ratings mean much), there isn’t a restaurant I know in Malaysia that has a need for a booking. I can almost always just walk in, leaving a reservation only for a special occasion if I wanted a preferential seat or something on the menu that requires pre-preparation (herbal chicken soup, beggar chicken, etc.).

There are restaurants that require you to queue though. Its culturally acceptable for us to queue and wait for something good (see Line Clear nasi kandar in Penang, the recent myBurgerLab frenzy in PJ, and probably Krispy Kreme doughnuts when it first came to our shores). I’m not saying its culturally unacceptable to queue in Europe (just look at the queues outside Laduree on Champs-Elysees in Paris). Everyone queues everywhere if something is good.

So it comes back to the type of dining. If its fine, you’re likely to take time to eat. Some 1.5-2 hours to get thru an appetizer, main course & desert. Its not fast food. You’re unlikely to queue for 1.5-2 hours under any circumstance just to get food, are you? So a reservation makes sense.

How many such restaurants are there in the Klang Valley, warranting a reservation?

There are times where reservations are invaluable. The whole month of puasa, where Muslims break fast in fancy locations, is probably a good time to make a reservation.

Overall I think the market isn’t ready for something that involves reservations. There just doesn’t seem to be a need for it. We have a foodie culture, but visiting many places almost never requires pre-planning.

I remember in Melbourne, a weekend dimsum (Hong Kong style at a place like Plume) works in 1.5h cycles. You got that much time to eat, and then head off. A reservation system there made sense. A multitude of restaurants could also be booked out for months, so again reservations made sense (try getting a booking at the then hot Fifteen restaurant by Jamie Oliver).

So, what do you make reservations for when casually dining in Malaysia?


  1. colincharles says:

    Let’s see if embedding a twitter comment works:

    For Malaysian entrepreneurs: Thinking about online restaurant reservations | Colin Charles Agenda— Colin Charles (@bytebot) March 15, 2013

  2. colincharles says:

    Maybe not. Kamal mentioned:

    kamal ‏@kamal16 Mar

    @bytebot I think you nailed it. @azizikhalid’s found general malaise and tech unsavvyness

    Azizi Khalid ‏@azizikhalid18 Mar

    @bytebot @kamal @tablefourus is semi active :) working on next version based on feedback from 1.0.

  3. Benson Chang says:

    Hi Colin Charles,

    You can try, we already have signed up more than 50 restaurant in Klang Valley.

    Love to hear your feedback :)