It was only a matter of time until Yelp outgrew its partnership with OpenTable and stepped up to offer reservations on its own.
Today Yelp announced that it has purchased SeatMe, a startup that lets bars and restaurants offer online reservations, for $12.7 million ($2.2 million in cash and 263,000 shares of stock).
SeatMe’s technology can do things like text guests when their tables are ready, or give an accurate figure for wait times. The company’s 15 employees will be joining Yelp at its San Francisco headquarters (SeatMe was already based in San Francisco).
“By bringing SeatMe to Yelp, we can further enhance the consumer experience by extending the convenience of easy, online reservations directly through Yelp to thousands of currently unserved businesses,” said Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman in a blog post today.
Currently, Yelp offers reservation support for its apps and sites through OpenTable, the largest online reservation service. That partnership was helpful as Yelp sought to add more functionality to its apps, but there’s also plenty of value in owning the reservation experience. It’s unclear when Yelp will begin to integrate SeatMe’s technology, or when its partnership with OpenTable will end.
Yelp also recently announced the Yelp Platform, which will make it easier for local businesses to add purchasing options through Yelp. SeatMe is yet another way for Yelp to fully control the transactional experience of its customers. This was a big topic for Yelp when I interviewed Stoppleman at our MobileBeat conference last week, and it looks like the company will continue doubling down on its independence.
Yelp notes that its current OpenTable partnership may pose a problem for SeatMe’s integration. In a press release today, Yelp noted the OpenTable deal may “restrict its ability to fully integrate SeatMe in the manner or in the timeframe Yelp’s management might otherwise believe to be in Yelp’s best interests.” Additionally, Yelp said there was a risk that SeatMe’s users wouldn’t continue using the service (always a danger for any acquisition), or that it may not be able to grow SeatMe’s user base much.