By Daniel Alexandre Portoraro, MBA in Hospitality Management, Canada/Italy, 2014-2016 2nd Year
Last week, IMHI had the pleasure of hosting Olivier Thierry, ESSEC alumnus, COO and B2B Director of La Fourchette, as part of the fifth installment of the Industry Leader Conferences.
Over the course of the evening, Mr. Thierry’s presentation veered more towards the role his company plays, as opposed to the path that led him there. While the latter would have certainly been interesting to touch upon, this is not to suggest La Fourchette is anything but an incredibly innovative platform in the hospitality industry.
In short, La Fourchette is the Expedia, the Booking.com of restaurants across Europe. However, unlike Expedia, La Fourchette brings services hitherto unused by restaurants across the continent.
For example, while the practice of yield management is a long-standing one within the hotel and aviation industry, restaurants have yet to be fully exposed to it. La Fourchette offers restaurants to take advantage of revenue management by offering guest discounts (sometimes, as much as 50%) during down time.
In addition to this, La Fourchette also replaces the dusty, biblically-sized reservation book. As mentioned by Mr. Thierry, “in this book, you have an incredibly wealth of information; from names to phone numbers to culinary tastes and table preferences. Yet, at the end of the year, this reservation book is often thrown away by the restaurant, or set aside in some dark corner and remains untouched.” La Fourchette seeks to replicate all the benefits of the reservation book while packaging them in a lightweight, easy-to-use digital format.
Naturally, there are a lot of services which can justify the fees La Fourchette charges participating restaurants; they can take advantage of revenue management principles, can reach a new audience, and most importantly, develop an invaluable data bank about their guests.
That said, we’ve heard this before, especially those in the hotel industry. Already, some customers ask themselves why if one week they can buy dinner at a restaurant for 40% off the list price, they must pay the full amount the next week at a more popular booking time. In order to quell this frustration, or rather, confusion (which both the hotel and airline industries went through), La Fourchette is going to great pains to make its system as transparent as possible.
In addition to this, however, it remains to be seen if all the value La Fourchette brings to restaurants will soon pose to be a problem for various eateries. After all, hotels were once happy to have OTAs help them reach out to new customers, but as anyone following the industry today knows, the war is often between operators and these travel agents, as opposed to between the operators themselves. Is it possible that ORAs (Online Reservation Agents) such as La Fourchette will eventually occupy the same invaluable place in the supply chain that Booking.com and Expedia do? It may appear so. And as we’ve seen, the strength of OTAs can incite firms such as Marriott to acquire major hotel players such as Starwood. It will be interesting to see how the restaurant industry will react, and more importantly, evolve.