Japan’s Pocket Concierge fills cancelled restaurant reservations with eager customers



Read this story in Japanese.

When you go for a night out on the town, how do you find the best restaurant? In Japan, most people rely on internet resources such as Tabelog, Gournavi, Naver Matome, or even blog posts. But with Japan’s high internet penetration, many people in your area are probably doing the same thing. As a result, it can be even the harder to reserve a spot in the restaurant you want.

Pocket Concierge was recently launched with the aim at solving this kind of problem, allowing you to book even popular restaurants that might be wait-listed for several months.

How does it work? You bookmark the restaurant of your choice by clicking the ‘wish-to-go’ button on the Pocket Concierge website. When the restaurant finds any unexpected vacancy in their reservation list, they will e-mail you an invite through the site. You will be requested to enter what day and how many people are in your party. Pocket Concierge will then e-mail you confirmation of the booking after finalizing with the restaurant.

While popular restaurants are tough to reserve, when they experience sudden cancellations they could be wasting food – and it’s useful for them to be able to invite other customers instead. Interestingly, the service is not PC dependent as it is also available to use via fax.

Pocket Concierge was founded by Kei Tokado who was has experience in the restaurant business, including time as a restaurant chef. His unique background and insight made it possible to come up with such an idea, having seen the need for such a service first hand.


Early insights

Pocket Concierge has been operating in closed beta since the beginning of this year. And so far they have intriguing insights, finding that sales professionals in their 30s often dined with business partners, and male business owners in their 40s were also very responsive. Kei Tokado explains:

We previously intended to provide users with an alternative way to book ‘hard-to-reserve’ restaurants. But from the closed beta program, we found that customers using our service were very satisfied because participating restaurants provided them with extra rewards when the customers dined. In comparison to existing restaurant-related online services, we believe we provide more value, even offline.

We heard from many restaurants that it’s possible to learn in advance the sort of occasion a customer might have, or if they have certain ingredients they dislike or might be allergic to. This information makes it possible to provide a service which fits the customer very well.

For users, it’s free to make a reservation more than three days in advance of your visit, but otherwise you will be charged. The service started in Tokyo but expects to expand to other major Japanese cities including Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, Kobe, and Fukuoka.