When Zia Yusuf traveled all over the world for work, he always searched for great restaurant experiences in a short amount of time. But to him that proved to be difficult. Hotel concierges could be incentivized to send him to certain places he may not enjoy, reviews on other sites listing all restaurants in an area could not always be trusted, and often he couldn’t make reservations to get into where he wanted to go.
Those experiences inspired Yusuf to co-found Velocity, a platform that uses an in-house team to curate what they think are a city’s great restaurants, allowing guests to also make last-minute reservations at many popular places.
“We really cater for that 21st century diner who is time poor but wants that next great experience, and really help them achieve that seamlessly,” Yusuf says. “Because of the sorts of restaurants we work with, which is very much the hot restaurants, the hidden gems, the really high-quality restaurants, it has resulted in creating this marketplace where quality is a real marker on both sides, not just on the restaurant side but also on the guest side.”
Velocity launched in early 2015, and is operating in New York City, San Francisco, Miami, Los Angeles, and London, with plans to expand to 29 more cities in the U.S. and abroad over the next three years. Yusuf says the platform now has hundreds of thousands of users.
Velocity also partnered with restaurants that previously didn’t offer reservations but now do through the app, such as the New York-based Japanese restaurant Ippudo, known for its long wait times.
Recently, the app added Chef Daniel Boulud’s Dinex Group, which includes Boulud Sud, Bar Boulud, DB Bistro Moderne, Daniel, and DBGB.
"We have been aggressively implementing the latest hospitality technologies to drive better yield and make up for some of our tables with slower turns," says John McDonald, owner of Mercer Street Hospitality, which is included on the Velocity platform. "From partnering with Velocity, we have easily utilized last-minute table openings and we have attracted an audience of trendsetting, global jetsetters that tend to spend more than our average cover."
But Velocity is not only focused on high-price restaurants and reservations, Yusuf says. Actually, it’s all about the experience.
“Not all of the restaurants have to be expensive … they don’t all have to be Michelin starred, although we do have over 90 Michelin stars on our platform,” he says. “We have a lot of restaurants which are hidden gems that wouldn’t even be on Michelin’s radar, but are extraordinary dining experiences.”
The app is free to download for users, and also includes a special events feature that allows them to get access to culinary events and purchase tickets through the platform. Users can also pay their restaurant tab through the app and split the check with other guests sitting at the table.
Velocity allows user to rate their experiences through the app, which the company reviews privately and also shares with the restaurant.
“We are all about being a brand you can trust all around the world. That trust is really lacking in the dining vertical,” Yusuf says. “And when you look at some of the brands that have really changed the way that we interact with the world, like Uber, they’ve become global very quickly, and that’s because we as a generation are more likely to travel than ever before as a species. And travel is so much more accessible.”
By Alex Dixon