With tens of thousands of tourists expected to attend the Eurovision song contest in Israel next month, an Israeli startup called Order.Chat is set to help them patronize local restaurants through a website that offers users a free chat-based table reservation service in English and in Hebrew.
Order.Chat says the service is “the first of its kind in the world” using smart technology “to solve the frustration and complexity of booking a table at restaurants.”
Using the website, diners “can easily place a reservation via chat at any restaurant, in less than 60 seconds and without making any phone calls.”
The service helps find an available table and make the reservation, or identify recommended alternatives in case the restaurant is fully booked. Order.Chat is available only in Israel, in English and Hebrew, but the startup plans to expand globally in the future.
“The masses of tourists who will come to Tel Aviv love recreation and leisure activities, and we believe that demand for restaurants in the city will be high,” said Alon Schwartzman, the co-founder and CEO of Order.Chat. “We’ve decided to launch the service in English at this time, with the aim of helping tourists get familiar with local restaurants, find and book a table just like locals do, with top speed and convenience.”
He said he hopes the service will help make the visit to Israel more enjoyable and allow tourists “to get a taste of our amazing ” local cuisine.
An average phone call to book a table takes 5.5 minutes, and often involves waiting on the line and a noisy environment with lots of distractions. An average chat conversation with Order.Chat lasts about 50 seconds, with zero hassle, the startup said in a statement.
The technology uses a phone bot, a chatbot and artificial intelligence. To book a table using Order.Chat, users can go to the website or send a message through Facebook Messenger, specifying the reservation details including the restaurant’s name. Alternatively, they can let Order.Chat find a venue by food style and location, for example, “Italian restaurant in Tel Aviv” or “Vegan restaurant in Herzliya.”
Order.Chat’s bots then help users find an available table and complete the reservation, or recommend other alternatives if necessary. If the specified restaurant doesn’t have a website for reservations, a phone bot calls up the restaurant to make the booking by phone. Booking confirmation is received directly via chat, and a reminder is sent in advance.
The service is available 24/7, the company said, and has been available in Hebrew since last year, first as a pilot and then nationwide. So far, the service “has received table reservations for 300,000 diners, at 1,800 different restaurants, and from today we’re happy to make it fully accessible to English speakers,” said Schwartzman.
This reporter tried out the service for a reservation at a restaurant in Tel Aviv later this week. On the website, the chat bot asked for the name of the restaurant and the date and time of the requested booking. When I typed 19,30 (using a comma by mistake), the bot said “I’m sorry, but I didn’t get you, let’s try again. At what time do you want to book?” So I typed 7.30pm but again it didn’t get me, and after a few more trials I typed 19.30 (this time with a period, not a comma) and it said: “Thanks. How many diners please?” I went on from there to specify my “special requests” — I wanted an outside table — and, when asked, provided my name and phone number. Then it said: “Almost done. Checking table availability with the restaurant. Will update ASAP!” and also “Pls note your reservation is not approved yet.”
A few minutes later, I got a message on the website saying: “I booked a table” with the name of the restaurant, date and number of diners. At the same time I also got a text message about the reservation. It seems to have worked.
The firm was set up in 2018 and has received funding from private investors including Israeli entrepreneur Uri Levine, the co-founder of the Waze navigation app that was sold to Google in 2013 for over $1 billion.