Guide Michelin and TripAdvisor join forces - what this means for restaurant operators

Klaus Preisner
December 27, 2019

Bang! The two online giants Guide Michelin and TripAdvisor are working together. One with professional food testers, the other with the crowd intelligence of guests. Both companies have associated online reservation systems that are brought together in the same breath. Michelin sells Bookatable to The Fork/La Fourchette. In short, a huge online platform where restaurants can be rated and recommended, and guests can book a table. There are good reasons for this. Reasons that also have a major impact on restaurateurs - both positive and negative. An overview.

The platform economy is in a state of imbalance

Online restaurant platforms used to be the gateway to the culinary world, signposts in the World Wide Web.  Restaurants were listed, rated, recommended, and guests were directed there via online reservation tools. But this system no longer runs like clockwork - on the contrary. 


Today's guests can find restaurants online even without restaurant platforms such as Guide Michelin or TripAdvisor. Thus for example Google shows restaurants with a Google MyBusiness account as first search results, even before the platform restaurants.


Gastro blogs and newspaper articles are also listed first. Last but not least, the homepages of the restaurants themselves can receive better rankings in the search results - as long as they meet the requirements of Google in terms of user experience, home page loading times and, of course, provide appealing content. See for example the restaurants Zeitwerk in Wernigerode, Germany below. In short: Restaurant platforms have turned from local guides into unnecessary detours.


Closed doors instead of gates to the world

The gastronomy platforms do not show the whole wide world, but only their customers - including unreliable ratings and continuous advertising. Those who rely solely on a platform such as The Fork or Bookatable for their restaurant search will experience many strange reviews, and will miss out on a lot of exciting restaurants.


The merger of the two reservation portals The Fork and Bookatable does nothing to change this. The guest will be lured from one restaurant to another with expensive advertising, always within the platforms network where users should stay. In addition to the lack of numerous established companies, there is a lack of pop-ups, innovative lateral thinkers and amazing restaurants off the beaten track. For the guest, this means: few restaurants, lots of advertising.

Costs instead of customers - the "who ate from my plate" effect

For restaurateurs, online platforms are no longer funnels that flush guests into their restaurant. Long gone are the days when guests only consulted one portal when searching for a restaurant. Many turn away because of the limited selection of restaurants, odd reviews, and constant advertising. For the restaurateur: lots of advertising costs, few guests. 


And of course the service of online reservations via platforms is by no means free of charge. The restaurant has to pay good money for every reservation - up to four euros commission per guest. Worst case: The platforms take the commission even if Google leads the guest to the restaurant. Namely, if the restaurant is linked on Google MyBusiness directly with the portal. So, for restaurateurs: High costs, low performance.

Protectionism instead of productive cooperation

When it comes to optimizing workflows, transparency about their own business and harnessing good data, restaurants that rely on online restaurant platforms are at a disadvantage. When booking a table, guests provide their data to the platform. The portal uses those data  for their business, that is: targeted advertising, which can be expensive for the restaurants.


It is precisely this business model that prevents platforms from allowing restaurateurs to freely access and use their guest data. As a rule, platform reservation systems cannot be connected to other systems such as cash registers. How can restaurateurs automate their administrative processes and optimize costs if they cannot freely connect the digital data of their systems? Here, too, closed doors instead of open systems.

New appreciation of open systems

The liaison of Guide Michelin, TripAdvisor, The Fork and Bookatable gives the companies strong market power - which is still not enough. Google will simply bypass the restaurant platforms, and with Google guest will bypass, too. Isolation and data protection will not bring the triumph of integrative restaurant management systems like aleno to a halt. As this comparison shows, there are to many disadvantages of the platform business model for guests and gastronomers. 


In the course of the merger of The Fork and Bookatable, affected restaurateurs should seriously consider switching to an open reservation system.


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