How To Become A Regular

Austin-based service brings some of the city's best restaurants to your table

Austin-based service brings some of the city's best eats to your table

A bowl of macaroni and cheese, wine, hummus, and green risotto.
Table22 aims to make restaurant "superfans" out of local eaters, like this make-at-home subscription box by L'oca d'Oro. Photo courtesy of Table22

There’s always something romantic about being a regular at a local restaurant. But with so many new Austin spots opening left and right, how do you commit to just one? For Austinites who love commitment but just haven’t been able to commit, there’s Table22.

The app is like a love child of the creative subscription service Patreon and the national food delivery service Goldbelly, setting foodies up with monthly subscriptions from some of their favorite local joints, so they can build that regular customer relationship around just about any lifestyle. Plus, on the business side, the curated deliveries mean low operational costs and much higher profit margins. Based in Austin and New York, Table22 provides a platform for around 400 partner restaurants in more than 60 US cities.

Austin has been with the service since its beginnings two years ago, when Bento Picnic launched its wine club. Now, other area restaurants include L’oca d’Oro, the Peached Tortilla, Glou Glou Girls, The Meteor, Abby Jane Bakeshop, and Leroy & Lewis. Table22 recently added one San Antonio partner, Cured at Pearl, and other Texas locations like Houston and Dallas are in the very beginning stages of launching.

Founder Sam Bernstein, based in New York, tells CultureMap that from where he sits at Table22, foodie devotion looks much the same in every city.

“People really celebrate quality," he says. "They celebrate independent restaurants [and] chefs and owners with a purpose. Restaurants that have a purpose in the world tend to attract and be a magnet for consumers.”

Bernstein mentions long consumer loyalty to L’oca d’Oro, which tends to embody progressive values in the service industry and sourcing ingredients. And despite his feeling that trends are nationwide, an emerging trend that favors natural wines is doing especially well in Austin, led by Bufalina, Glou Glou Girls, and The Meteor. Some common subscription types sitewide are butcher boxes and make-at-home kits with high-quality local ingredients.

Unlike on-demand food delivery services, the Table22 web platform dedicates sprawling spaces to restaurant bios, high-quality photography, and testimonials (like one quote from CultureMap praising the Peached Tortilla). Subscriptions are about more than just the food, too, with in-house and digital perks such as educational materials, first looks at new menu items, and free coffee and pastries at Abby Jane Bakeshop.

Eight partners offer nationwide shipping — nonperishables from Che Fico, Saba & Safta, Stranger Wines, Lost Creek Farm, Huertas, Saltie Girl, Alimento, Cork Wine Bar — but the heart of the service is fostering organic connections between community patrons and beloved local restaurants. Although it may not be easy to go on a national food tour through deliveries, Table22 partners are worth noting when visiting a new city; if locals are paying $80 a month to stay in touch, there must be something special going on.

The typical user, according to Bernstein, does operate more through loyalty than curiosity. Many users have stuck with the platform since its first days. They commonly stick with one restaurant for nine or more months, enjoying the continuity of the experience as it only grows deeper, and “a growing percentage of those” are adding a second or third subscription, or rotating through trying new subscriptions on the side.

“It's really important if you're a restaurant to have a base of loyal superfan customers who come in frequently, who bring friends, who celebrate every milestone in there. And so part of what we want to do is productize that, and create a way for people…to come under the tent,” says Bernstein. “What we hear from our restaurant partners is that, you know, [once] people participate or begin to participate in these subscriptions, they actually start to do those things.”

Partners have noticed not just an uptick in on-premise visitors, but the amount they’re spending while there. One of the many beauties of the restaurant industry is how quickly technology for buying food can change, and how reliably foodies will be at the forefront with demand. The key is keeping independent restaurants along for the ride.