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anti-OpenTable bias?

daigle Dec 10, 2006 08:46 PM

[moved from Boston Board - The Chowhound Team]

I apologize if this has been discussed before. Have hounds noticed discriminatory treatment when you book via OpenTable versus calling a restaurant directly? Getting seated at less appealing, high-traffic tables, that sort of thing? I'm trying to decide if it's just my imagination.

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  1. TonyO RE: daigle Dec 11, 2006 12:21 AM

    I have only used Opentable 6 - 8 times but I have had no issues and find it quite useful.

    1. p
      phoebek RE: daigle Dec 11, 2006 12:38 AM

      Had no problem using Open Table to make a reservation at Topolobampo in Chicago. But when I attempted to use it in Boston, I got a screen saying that I had to give credit card info, so I just called the restaurant directly. . .

      1. r
        rtmonty RE: daigle Dec 11, 2006 02:04 AM

        I was a beta user of OpenTable when it started how ever many years ago. I currently have over 30,000 points. Will not make a reservation any way other than OpenTable.

        We live in the bay area where it was started. To date I have NEVER had any problems with OpenTable. In fact, as far as I'm concerned it's the best thing going with regard to making reservatons.

        Have never been given a "bad" table, in fact we're normally ask where we would like to sit. Have used it for a couple of special occasions (birthdays, ets) and all has gone well.

        It's a great service, especially for FREE!!

        7 Replies
        1. re: rtmonty
          susancinsf RE: rtmonty Dec 11, 2006 05:09 AM

          What do you do when you want to eat at a restaurant that isn't on Open Table?

          1. re: susancinsf
            HaagenDazs RE: susancinsf Dec 11, 2006 02:36 PM

            There are these new-fangled devices that all the kids are calling "fones" I mean "phones". They allow you to dial a pre-set series of numbers, and then magically you can talk to someone else - sometimes far, far away. Only teasing! ;-)

            I've used Open Table many, many times and never had a problem.

            1. re: susancinsf
              rtmonty RE: susancinsf Dec 11, 2006 07:15 PM

              Normally don't go. There are over 500 restaurants on OpenTable in SF and it's my guess we aren't even a third through them.

              1. re: rtmonty
                jpschust RE: rtmonty Dec 14, 2006 06:47 PM

                You are depriving yourself of plenty of wonderful restaurants in SF who don't use open table. Eating isn't just about getting reward points or the ease of not having to pick up the phone. I'd be willing to bet most of the wonderful little places in Chinatown don't use OpenTable.

                1. re: jpschust
                  rtmonty RE: jpschust Dec 14, 2006 07:31 PM

                  Actually I've never use a reward point and I have over 30,000. It's purely a matter of ease. And, have eaten at a number of the little places in Chinatown with friends, in fact, R&G just a couple of weeks ago, was great. Basically I'm just lazy, easier to use the mouse than pick up the phone.

                  1. re: jpschust
                    free sample addict aka Tracy L RE: jpschust Dec 15, 2006 07:12 AM

                    One of the reasons I finally broke down and bought a cell phone was so I could make reservations while having fun in the Bay Area.

                    1. re: jpschust
                      Morton the Mousse RE: jpschust Dec 15, 2006 05:48 PM

                      Agreed. None of my favorite restaurants in SF use OpenTable, nor do most of the restaurants that I'm interested in trying. It's taken me two years to accumulate 2,000 points, and I eat out a lot.

              2. Deenso RE: daigle Dec 11, 2006 04:26 PM

                I've been using Opentable for years with no instances of unpleasant attitude from hosts/waitstaff. It's a godsend here in NYC. Just wish there were more places in the Phoenix metro area that were enrolled. Using Opentable is so much more convenient than making separate phone calls to restaurants for reservations. You don't have to be put on hold, negotatiate times with a host/hostess, or hear the unsaid "Surely you can't mean THIS Saturday at 8:00 p.m." that's implicit in the "Hmmmm. I'm not sure we have any availability on that particular evening. How about next month, on a Wednesday, at 5:30 p.m.?" You simply input the date, the time desired, the number in your party, and all the restaurants with tables available show up on the list for you to pick and choose. Great idea.

                1. t
                  taco_belle RE: daigle Dec 11, 2006 04:50 PM

                  Open Table is very useful and convenient. So, it's not perfect, but, IMHO, it's very good. I don't devote lots of time to parsing its flaws.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: taco_belle
                    ML8000 RE: taco_belle Dec 14, 2006 07:27 PM

                    Exactly. It's a tool that can be very handy but it's not perfect. I've noticed more then a few times that it listed a place booked but when calling there were spots. My attitude - it's technology and it has limitations but I can pick up a phone.

                  2. babette feasts RE: daigle Dec 12, 2006 01:33 AM

                    We have Open Table where I currently work, also at a previous employer. Once a restaurant has commited to OT, we use it for all reservations. What OT is on our end is a program showing all of our tables with seat counts and time slots. The people who make reservations by phone, fax, email, stopping by the day before, are all entered into the OT system. There is no separate system for online/offline reservers. Yes, in the 'notes' section, we can tell if the res was made online, or who took it if it was called in, but otherwise, the 'book' is Open Table. We want online reservations so we don't have to answer the phone so much - why would we discriminate?

                    1. CindyJ RE: daigle Dec 13, 2006 03:49 PM

                      The biggest problem I've had with OpenTable was using it to make brunch reservations for 8 of us for this past Father's Day, arriving at the restaurant, and finding it closed. Turns out, the restaurant had stopped serving Sunday brunch many months before, but they never made the appropriate changes with OpenTable. OpenTable sent apologies and credited my account with some compensatory points, but that didn't make up for our last-minute scrambling for an alternative plan (take-out from the local gourmet market). I still use OpenTable from time to time, but I always verify my reservation with the restaurant.

                      1. d
                        dinwiddie RE: daigle Dec 13, 2006 06:57 PM

                        I've never had a ny probelm with OpenTable. I use them all the time and have always gotten a good table. If you don't like the table that is offered, ask for another one.

                        1. m
                          megamalone RE: daigle Dec 14, 2006 12:02 AM

                          I love opentable. Very, very rarely make a reservation any other way. When we're hungry or planning a meal out, it's the first place we look for inspiration (before hitting chowhound, of course) to see what's available.

                          I've never noticed attitude or bad service in three years of happy open table use.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: megamalone
                            eatfood RE: megamalone Dec 14, 2006 04:55 PM

                            Same here.

                            I first use opentable to check what's available. There are just so many great choices on opentable that it's rare that I have to pick up the phone!

                            I've also never noticed any opentable bias.

                          2. Mutt RE: daigle Dec 14, 2006 08:59 PM

                            I've had just the opposite experience. On several occasions I've showed up with an Opentable reservation and was told that I'm getting a comp starter or one time the table received comped vodka martinis. Totally unexpected. Normally, there's no difference in how I'm treated - OpenTable or the old fashioned phone way.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Mutt
                              dinwiddie RE: Mutt May 24, 2007 06:30 AM

                              If you use OpenTable often enough you become a "VIP member" and certain restaurants will comp you desserts, appetizers, drinks,etc. if you make a reservation using it.

                              It also enables me to get in some places without a wait that normally I wouldn't. Once I made a reservation on OT and about 3 hours before we were going to go to the restaurant I realized I had made it for the wrong day (I wanted Saturday and had made it for Sunday). I went on OT, cancelled the Sunday reservation, and made one for Saturday. No problem. When I got to the restaurant, there was a huge crowd waiting for tables, it was Prom Night at the local High School. We were whisked right to our table, everyone else who did not have a reservation was being told that there was an hour and a half wait.

                              1. re: dinwiddie
                                babette feasts RE: dinwiddie May 24, 2007 04:27 PM

                                I don't think the prom night example shows any favoritism towards OT VIPS, just the wisdom of making a reservation, no matter how close to dinner time it may be! You were lucky to make the reservation before all those prom kids without reservations started lining up.

                                1. re: dinwiddie
                                  susancinsf RE: dinwiddie May 26, 2007 03:08 PM

                                  I am a 'VIP member' but rarely get comp'd anything. It has happened, but not often, and certainly not often enough that I can say with confidence that it is related to my VIP status....what it does seem to get me, at least at most places, is a good table with real consideration for my notes about what my seating preferences are.

                                  1. re: susancinsf
                                    eatfood RE: susancinsf Jun 6, 2007 10:19 AM

                                    I'm a VIP member also and I've never noticed any special treatment specifically related to my VIP status.

                                    Then again, I'm in Manhattan, where everyone is certainly a VIP member also.

                              2. s
                                socal boy RE: daigle Dec 14, 2006 09:23 PM

                                I truly believe that I get better tables when I book through opentable.com.

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: socal boy
                                  psb RE: socal boy May 23, 2007 04:46 AM

                                  re: ++treatment via opentable ...
                                  can the restaurant tell anything about your dining history
                                  if you rsvp via Opentable?

                                  if they can see you eat out tons, or go to high end places ... or even if they
                                  dont get the direct info [like the list of restaurants] can they make inferences
                                  [say from your number of OT points]? that could explain going the extra mile
                                  for you compared to the "cold call".

                                  1. re: psb
                                    JK Grence the Cosmic Jester RE: psb May 23, 2007 10:25 PM

                                    We only see your data for our restaurant. When filling out a reservation, we see how many reservations you have (both past times you've been with us and future reservations combined, how many times you have cancelled, and how many times you have no-showed. If we want to, we can also keep track of how much you spend each time you come in.

                                    1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester
                                      MSK RE: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester May 24, 2007 11:42 AM

                                      wow....never knew that..........

                                      I've also never been offered anything because of my VIP status except being seated promptly.

                                      do you find their software helps you to manage restaurant flow more efficiently?

                                      1. re: MSK
                                        nc213 RE: MSK May 25, 2007 01:04 PM

                                        I worked in two different restaurants that used open table and I loved it as both a server and a host. Using open table makes it easy for those taking reservations to easily get a snapshot of the night or of a specific time. Likewise, as JK says above, it's great to have the customer information. In addition to what he mentions, the staff can also make reservation notes--like if you've asked for a specific table or are celebrating--and customer notes (that will pop up each time you reserve)--like if you prefer a specific type of wine or table or have food allergies. A good host can use it to see that the Smiths are coming in at 9 and since they love amarone we should save them a bottle, and the Joneses are coming in at 8 and since the wife has a walker we should seat them somewhere near the front door, etc. Also, we can see that the Johnsons have no-showed three times of the five they've reserved, so you probably shouldn't hold their table if they're late.

                                        1. re: nc213
                                          ccbweb RE: nc213 May 25, 2007 01:58 PM

                                          Its gratifying to hear that the OT system sounds as helpful on the restaurant end as it is from the customer end, in my experience. My wife and I love the OT service and have used it with much success over the years in several different cities and now especially since we live in San Francisco. We don't use it exclusively, but most of the restaurants we're interested in are on the service and we very much like deciding at 5:30 that we'd like to go out to dinner and being able to pull up all of the restaurants with reported availability at 7 or 7:30. It removes the wondering about showing up and having a long wait, which makes for a nicer experience for us.

                                          One question I do have, how much does it cost for restaurants to be on the service?

                                          1. re: ccbweb
                                            JK Grence the Cosmic Jester RE: ccbweb May 25, 2007 03:18 PM

                                            I don't have that information, but since the touch-screen monitor we use to run the host stand has OpenTable printed on it, I would imagine several thousand dollars including the hardware.

                                            1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester
                                              ccbweb RE: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester May 25, 2007 03:23 PM

                                              It sounds like the restaurant may well be paying more for the hardware and reservation management software, and the online reservation piece is just a smart idea on the part of the OpenTable folks. I think I like that setup.

                                              1. re: ccbweb
                                                JK Grence the Cosmic Jester RE: ccbweb May 25, 2007 10:55 PM

                                                You are exactly correct.

                                                1. re: ccbweb
                                                  deangold RE: ccbweb May 28, 2007 05:23 PM

                                                  There is an installation fee that covers the cost of the CPU I am sure. THere is also a monthly fee and then a per reservation fee. If you go to the restaurants website and make your reservation from there, the fee is $.25 per seated reservation. If you go irectly to open table it is $1.00 per seated reservation.

                                                  1. re: deangold
                                                    ccbweb RE: deangold May 28, 2007 07:38 PM

                                                    That's great to know, thanks for the information. I'll be sure to go through the restaurant websites whenever possible.

                                  2. p
                                    ptrefler RE: daigle Dec 14, 2006 09:58 PM

                                    I love open table, it's easy and convenient. Even if you have to call for larger parties at least you can get a good idea of who has reservations available and who doesn't. I, too, was a beta user. Makes things really easy when you are planning a trip. I think your imagination is getting the best of you. I have never noticed any difference in treatment.

                                    1. b
                                      Bookistan RE: daigle Dec 14, 2006 11:38 PM

                                      I use Open Table frequently in NY and have never had a problem. I've even noted that it is a birthday meal (when it really is!) and we've been given complimentary desserts and great tables. No problem, ever, and I love the ease of use.

                                      1. free sample addict aka Tracy L RE: daigle Dec 15, 2006 07:00 AM

                                        One advantage is that you can make your reservation when it best fits your schedule. I used to work a lot of OT and sometimes it would be hard to try to call a restaurant during their regular business hours. I like being able to make my reservation when it is convenient for me or when it dawns on me at 11:00 pm that I have yet to make a ressie for Aunt Minnie's birthday dinner.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L
                                          SusanSDG RE: free sample addict aka Tracy L Dec 16, 2006 01:40 AM

                                          Also, you can make reservations in a city you're traveling to without worrying about time zone differences. And they're a great starting point-with links to the resto's website and better maps than that site usually has.

                                        2. jpschust RE: daigle Dec 15, 2006 01:35 PM

                                          Agreed, and it's maybe the best advantage of OT. A lot of times I just begin to have time during a restaurant's rush. I hate calling them to make a simple reservation during a rush, thus I just try and do it online if I can.

                                          1. a
                                            akaOG RE: daigle May 20, 2007 12:23 AM

                                            Yes. Had reservations that I even confirmed several days prior on the phone to get a window seat. Arrived 15 min early and was seated a 1/2 hour late with walk ins (sat near the check in point) being seated before me and my date. When I arrived home the OpenTable had canceled my reservation 18 min after the time I should have been seated.

                                            1. JK Grence the Cosmic Jester RE: daigle May 20, 2007 01:04 AM

                                              It's completely your imagination. I help out the hostesses at the restaurant where I work, and the only difference between an online reservation and a reservation made on the phone or in person is that the guest card that the system prints out has "Web Reservation" on it. As OpenTable *is* the reservation book, if you call me on the phone it goes right into OpenTable anyway.

                                              1. MSK RE: daigle May 20, 2007 04:56 PM

                                                Not only do I find that Open table is extremely helpful for me as a patron, but I think that restaurants who use their software are actually better at managing their traffic and table seatings.

                                                It may be a coincidence (although I think I've had cumulative over 40,000 points), but it's rare that I have to wait for a table with an OT reservation. Can't say that otherwise.

                                                I'm not really sure what the VIP designation really gets you though.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: MSK
                                                  eatingatthebar RE: MSK May 21, 2007 05:06 AM

                                                  Just as an FYI, when a reservation is cancelled, this is done by the restaurant, not Opentable. Opentable is just the vehicle for the restaurant to communicate to guests.

                                                2. jinet12 RE: daigle May 28, 2007 07:25 AM

                                                  I use Opentable frequently, especially when I travel..What I HAVE noticed, is that sometimes when it says that there are no tables available, if you call the restaurant there ARE tables available...Another time I did not get credit for my kept reservation, but a quick email to them, cleared that up...Overall, my experiences have been good...

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: jinet12
                                                    nc213 RE: jinet12 May 28, 2007 07:12 PM

                                                    the restaurant decides how many tables to "unlock" to open table. if ot says they have none, it can never hurt to call the restaurant to see if they can still fit you in.

                                                  2. m
                                                    MIKELOCK34 RE: daigle May 28, 2007 07:38 AM

                                                    We have used Opentable many times and have always been seated well.

                                                    1. c
                                                      Claudette RE: daigle Jun 4, 2007 10:50 AM

                                                      I've been seated at bad tables more often w/o OT reservations than w/ OT res.; conversely, I don't get better treatment, either, but I love the convenience of using OT.

                                                      1. p
                                                        phoebek RE: daigle Jun 4, 2007 02:36 PM

                                                        A local restaurant asked for a credit card number when I tried to reserve via Open Table, but not when I called directly. I don't think that's necessarily discriminatory, but perhaps shows that some places have gotten burned by no-shows using OT.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: phoebek
                                                          ccbweb RE: phoebek Jun 4, 2007 03:07 PM

                                                          My experience was exactly the opposite. I made a reservation on OT for a restaurant, no credit card required. When I later called and made a reservation at the same place, same number of people, same time in fact just a different week, they requested a card number. I'd already dined there, honoring the previous reservation, so they weren't responding to a no show.

                                                          1. re: phoebek
                                                            Kbee RE: phoebek Jun 5, 2007 01:39 PM

                                                            According to Open Table, the opposite is true. In their marketing materials they claim the no-show rate is significantly lower with Open Table than without. Apparently after you no-show a few times with Open Table they give you the boot from the program.

                                                            1. re: Kbee
                                                              ccbweb RE: Kbee Jun 5, 2007 02:32 PM

                                                              I expect that part of it is also the ease of cancelling and the fact that you needn't speak to anyone in order to cancel. You make the reservation and get an email confirming. Then you get an email about "your upcoming reservation at X restaurant" a coupe of days before the reservation which gives you the opportunity to remember to cancel and all you have to do is click a link in the email. So, they may well cut people out of the program for abusing the system...but they also made the system in such a way as to increase the chances that someone will cancel rather than not show at all.

                                                              1. re: Kbee
                                                                nc213 RE: Kbee Jun 11, 2007 02:55 PM

                                                                I wonder how many no-shows that would take. I've seen guests with as many as five or six no-shows just for one restaurant (you can't see data from other restaurants).

                                                            2. zorra RE: daigle Jun 5, 2007 12:15 PM

                                                              I wondered about that last weekend. The hostesses seemed to do a lot of peering at the monitor and muttering to each other when they pulled up our reservation, then they took us upstairs and seated us way in the back (in a restaurant where they seem to consider the big picture windows downstairs in the front a selling point). But we were comfortable there, and the food and service were fine, so who can say...

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: zorra
                                                                Kbee RE: zorra Jun 5, 2007 01:41 PM

                                                                Nope. Your reservation is in Open Table whether you make it via the web, phone or in person. It's a reservation/guest management system for restaurants, not just a consumer portal for making online reservations. So the question makes no sense when you consider that.

                                                                1. re: Kbee
                                                                  psb RE: Kbee Jun 5, 2007 04:30 PM

                                                                  maybe the restaurants just google everybody and make up their
                                                                  minds how to treat people based on what turns up ... "bob smith is
                                                                  either a high school track star or a bigwig at Goldman Sachs" ...

                                                                  1. re: psb
                                                                    veeva RE: psb Jun 5, 2007 05:28 PM

                                                                    LOL! I'm sure that's true. I mean, after all, they have nothing else to do, right? yeah, right...

                                                                2. re: zorra
                                                                  JK Grence the Cosmic Jester RE: zorra Jun 5, 2007 11:40 PM

                                                                  That usually happens when your reservation is right before a big rush of people who all asked for seats in that area, or when the people in that section just got more tables than they should have (or both). I know I've done it before myself.

                                                                3. psb RE: daigle Jun 18, 2007 03:52 PM

                                                                  Somebody already left a link in the FoodMedia section, but NYT article on
                                                                  Open Table maybe also appropriate here:

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