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anti-OpenTable bias?

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

    1. 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. 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

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

          1. re: susancinsf

            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

              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

                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

                  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

                    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

                      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. 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. 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

                    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. 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. 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. 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. 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

                            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. 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

                              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

                                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

                                  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

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

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: socal boy

                                  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

                                    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

                                      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

                                        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

                                          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

                                            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

                                              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

                                                You are exactly correct.

                                                1. re: ccbweb

                                                  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

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

                                  2. 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. 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. 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

                                          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. 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. 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. 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. 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

                                                  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. 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

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

                                                    1. 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. 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

                                                          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

                                                            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

                                                              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

                                                                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. 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

                                                                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

                                                                  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

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

                                                                2. re: zorra

                                                                  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. Somebody already left a link in the FoodMedia section, but NYT article on
                                                                  Open Table maybe also appropriate here:
                                                                  http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/18/bus...