Food Network is quite the empire – for nearly twenty years, it has dominated the food television landscape and introduced the world to household names ranging from Emeril Lagasse to Rachel Ray through the small screen. But does it have the chops to expand into new territories? Food Network parent company Scripps Interactive is hoping to parlay its brand appeal into new successes with the launch of CityEats, a restaurant reservation service poised to take on current industry frontrunner OpenTable.
CityEats is already open for business in Philadelphia and Washington, DC; on the websites, users can browse through descriptions, menus, reviews, and photography of the food and the dining room (and, of course, reservation times). According to a press release, it’s all part of giving users everything they need to make a pleasantly informed dinner decision:
Like you, we want to hit just one website en route to a great meal out. We too want a reservation at the hottest spot in town, but we want that process to be entertaining, visual, and yes, delicious. We also want information we can trust. So we went and created that destination, and we did it in collaboration with Food Network. CityEats brings great restaurant experiences – and access to those experiences – together in one place, and takes dining out to a new level.
The Wall Street Journal reports that CityEats is planning to expand outside of its test markets to several new cities, including critical spots like New York and San Francisco, by the end of the year. But, considering that OpenTable already has a presence in all fifty states (and 18 other countries to boot), it’s going to take more than just expansion for the start-up to gain the upper hand – but the lower prices that the WSJ notes will probably also help:
In a bid to lure restaurants away from OpenTable, Scripps is asking for less money to include them in its reservation site. CityEats is charging 75 cents for each diner that reserves through its site, plus $175 to $200 a month for its table-management service, which helps eateries keep track of when and where tables are available.
By contrast, OpenTable charges restaurants between $200 and $700 when they first enroll with it, $1 for each diner that reserves through the site, plus a monthly charge of $199. The upfront charges reflect OpenTable's requirement that restaurateurs purchase its computer hardware in order to use its table-management system.
Will CityEats be a contender? Only time will tell. But competition is always good, and it will be interesting to see what it can do with such an influential powerhouse like Food Network behind it.