Efficiency from OpenTable

OpenTable is the “world’s leading provider of online restaurant reservations” with over 47,000 restaurants in 20+ countries. It was created in San Francisco, USA in 1998 by entrepreneur Chuck Templeton after witnessing his wife’s frustrations making restaurant reservations by phone. According to the website, since inception OpenTable has seated more than 1.7B diners and generated $69B at restaurants. Users are heavily and increasingly mobile, with 708M mobile diners seated to date and 58% of diners coming from a mobile device.

The platform allows diners to browse restaurants by cuisine, location, rating, and availability, and then to make a reservation, for free. Restaurants are charged a flat monthly service fee and a fee per diner for each reservation; in turn, restaurants have access to the reservation management system, enabling bookings via their own website, popular partners (eg, Yahoo, Tripadvisor, Zagat), or the OpenTable website and mobile apps.

OpenTable is a digital solution that dominates its analog counterparts through important benefits. First, it is affordable: OpenTable is free to diners. While fees aren’t insignificant and competition is growing from competitors such as Resy and Bookenda, OpenTable’s total cost to restaurants is still less than traditional solutions, including paying Reservationists and/or implementing other software or databases to manage reservations.

Compared to lesser-known competitors, OpenTable is a reputable brand: its name is recognized by diners and it brings authority and credibility. The name and logo have equity and bring visibility to restaurants.

Similar to other crowdsourced or user-generated platforms such as Yelp and Facebook, OpenTable offers diners opportunities for “conversability”: diners are encouraged to leave ratings and reviews after their experience, and may also send private comments to restaurants. These features lead to public and private digital conversations that influence future decisions.

Finally, OpenTable requires that diners have an account to make a reservation or to leave comments: this creates tracked interactions and reduces the likelihood of fraudulent reviews or “no show” cancellations. With these details, OpenTable can track search and reservation trends to best pair diners and restaurants, and restaurants gain insight into expected diner volume and timing.

In addition, OpenTable offers significant efficiency in time savings. Diners save time by searching one platform for all available restaurants meeting their criteria (cuisine, location, price range, etc.) compared to traditional models through which they would need to contact each restaurant individually, likely by telephone. Restaurants save time in capturing diner information and from confirming callbacks.

Already the industry leader, OpenTable could further grow its market reach through these marketing strategies:

  • Better promote its loyalty program, which provides points and discounts to diners for successful reservations
  • Offer incentives for diners to review restaurants, discouraging false or inadequate comments.
  • Integrate with Facebook and Google to simplify invitations to co-diners
  • Integrate with Instagram and Pinterest to publish and tag images for sharing (potential for virality)
  • Integrate with Yelp to save restaurants or read reviews
  • Email personalized restaurant lists (eg, Top Indian Restaurants, Recently Opened)
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