Capital One is partnering with Chef José Andrés, the MICHELIN Guide and the James Beard Foundation on a new dining portal that combines curated restaurant recommendations and tables set aside for Capital One rewards cardmembers. They’re no longer relying on OpenTable for ‘Premium Access’.
The producthas now launched with over 350 restaurants in 11 cities: Boston; Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Miami; New York City; Philadelphia; San Francisco; Washington DC and is bookable through the Capital One mobile app and at capitalone.com/dining.
There are two key elements to this:
- Restaurant curation. There are plenty of good recommendation sites, for instance Chase acquired The Infatuation which is quite good this past fall. Capital One’s version is ‘expert recommended’ (with big names) rather than being review-driven (such as Yelp).
- Special access. American Express used to promote this but it’s hard, I’m thrilled to see Capital One deliver reservations at prime times in top spots dedicated to its rewards credit card customers. If this scales to meet demand it’s reason enough to hold a Capital One rewards card if you consider yourself a foodie.
You can expect José Andrés restaurants to be a part of this, including minibar where I first experienced molecular gastronomy 18 years ago before going on to experience El Bulli, Fat Duck, Bo Innovation and others.
There are some excellent spots in the preview list of restaurants they shared with me – good restaurants, some with limited availability, and some that can even be quite tough to get into on peak nights like Rezdôra and L’Artusi in New York City.
Cardmembers using Capital One Dining will be asked to confirm contact location the first time they use it, and can customize their profile with preferences (e.g. birthdays, anniversaries, dietary preferences) which get shared with restaurants when making a booking. Bookings are made with the SevenRooms platform.
It’ll be interesting to see how consistently preferences are acknowledged, I’ve never seen this done consistently when entered into a booking portal but perhaps things have improved over the past couple of years at some of the better places.
Special reservation inventory for Capital One customers will be available to all rewards cardmembers. Capital One wouldn’t speak to whether some customers (such as premium Venture X card customers, or dining-focused Savor cardmembers) would have greater access.
They do say they plan to continue to add features and benefits after the initial launch. Hopefully that includes more cities. Since they’re not (yet?) going to be in my home town of Austin, it’s one more tool I’ll need to keep top of mind for travel rather than something I likely build into muscle memory.
Ultimately the mount of value that the Capital One Dining platform delivers depends on the extent to which their curation is really differentiated and better than what’s in the market, and whether they’re able to deliver restaurant access at top places cardmembers want to dine when they otherwise couldn’t get in.
That’s hard but Capital One tells me, while the specifics will vary by restaurant, there will be real set asides at prime times and they will be available when a restaurant’s booking window opens. To get the best shot at a tough table they advice booking more than 24 hours in advance and “not necessarily an hour in advance.”
Their bet is they’ve done enough work with restaurants, and integrated this well enough technologically with the reservations platforms, that they can deliver smoothly both to customers and to restaurants in a way that’s easily managed.
Capital One has also been holding special experiences available for cardmembers with top restaurants and chefs, and I’m told those will continue. In a sense the dining platform is an evolution and next stage of a broader strategy rather than something completely new.
Chase has their dining hub. American Express for its part acquired Resy which used to be a Capital One partner. Major players in premium credit card rewards want to build an experiential relationship with customers. The bet here on dining is cardmembership goes beyond just a payment platform, creating a stickiness that transaction-based rebates along can’t match. Meanwhile here are some of the greatest dining experiences around the world.