Israel-based website building tool provider Wix.com is acquiring OpenRest, another Israeli start-up that specializes in on-line ordering and mobile solutions for restaurants. The acquisition is Wix’s second in an industry-specific vertical in recent months. OpenRest’s technology will be integrated into Wix’s web authoring platform to further expand the company’s already considerable reach, and giving a boost to smaller restaurants looking for ways to attract hungry customers.
With 55 million users, Wix, now a public company, is the first firm to turn web authoring into a routine activity for anyone, even those without technical skills. Wix offers a drag and drop method to build HTML5-based websites. Users can choose among hundreds of templates to build upon, and add basic web interface services as well as advanced apps like music, shopping forms, and social media. Wix operates on a freemium basis, with basic and some advanced services free, and additional services, support, and hosting of sites available for a price.
Among the unique features Wix offers its users is an App Market, which includes specialized modules that users can add to their sites to expand functionality. The apps allow Wix users to integrate features like e-commerce, social networking functionality, marketing, and others into their sites, without having to spend endless hours trying to tweak code in order to get it to work with existing objects and features.
With OpenRest, Wix will be able to add services like order forms, menus, maps, and social media connections that restaurant and cafe owners will be able to integrate into their sites. Those services are aimed at independent restaurants, either single establishments or small chains in limited geographic areas usually owned by locals, who run the chain themselves, which are struggling to survive against major chain restaurants over a shrinking pie of customers. Restaurant patronage has been declining in recent years, especially among underemployed millennials (18-24 year olds) who can’t afford to eat out as much as previous groups of youngsters, like the baby boomers and Gen X’ers.
Many independent restaurants already have websites, but they are unlikely to have their own on-line or mobile menu/reservation/ordering system. For that, they turn to established sites like Grubhub and Seamless, which have apps that provide on-line services for small restaurants. But those apps take a hefty commission, as much as 20% on each order, making the proposition a less than winning one for many small restaurant owners.
With the addition of OpenRest’s services, Wix customers will be able to integrate those services onto their websites – and even create their own web apps for smart devices. That’s because earlier this year, Wix acquired Tel Aviv-based Appixia, which developed a no-coding authoring platform for mobile devices. With Appixia’s technology, Wix website authors can convert their sites into a format compatible with mobile devices.
The process of building a mobile app using Appixia is similar to the experience of building a website with Wix. Both supply drag and drop tools, dialog boxes and installable code snippets to enable inexperienced users to build sites, along with more sophisticated tools for more experienced users. Apps developed with Appixia can take advantage of smartphone features like push notifications, barcode scanning, location-based services (GPS), credit card scanning and others. With the added OpenRest services, restaurant owners will be able to create their own smartphone apps with ordering and reservation features, allowing them to keep that 20% commission for themselves.
OpenRest isn’t Wix’s first entry into verticals. In August, the company launched WixHotels, a complete booking engine that is fully integrated into a Wix website. Aimed at not just hotels and motels, but also at B&Bs and vacation rentals, WixHotels allows smaller operators to develop their own site and app with reservation and booking services, so they can avoid the fees charged by services like Hotels.com. and AirBnB.
The OpenRest solution will be integrated into Wix’s services as soon as possible, the company said, with services coming on line in 2015.
“OpenRest perfectly complements our strategy to further enhance the Wix platform with tailored industry-specific solutions. There’s no industry more deserving of this focused attention than the restaurant industry,” said Avishai Avrahami, Wix co-founder and CEO. “With Wix and OpenRest, restaurateurs will have a technologically advanced and cost effective solution to better manage their business and their customers’ experience.”