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Opentable.com

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Any chowhounders find Opentable.com useful. What are your thoughts on this. I used it two nights ago in Las Vegas, when I called a restaurant for reservations I wanted to go to,and they wouldn't take my reservation. So, I went there and saw where I could get a reservation at the time I wanted that evening, worked great and really simple to do. I think we got better service that way too.

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  1. Lots of people have posted questions about opentable.com and my response has always been the same: it's a terrific tool and I've never seen a drawback. So much easier to go online and find all the places that have tables when you want to dine, rather than to try to decide on a restaurant, then get on the phone and call, and be placed on hold - if you even get through - just to find out there's no availability, then have to choose someplace else and go through the drill again.

    Others have wondered whether making their reservations through opentable.com has a negative impact on service at the restaurant. I've never experienced any difference in attitude from hosts or servers.

    One other nice thing is that you get 100 points each time you reserve through the service and, eventually, can cash in your points for a savings certificate that can be used at any restaurant that's included in opentable.com. It takes a while to accumulate enough to get yourself a $25 certificate, but what the heck.

    1. I must confess I did beta tesing for them in their early days but have been a member every since. I hardly ever make a reservaton any other way. As was pointed out, a simply great tool, no drawbacks at all. Have done birthday and anniversary dinners using them and used the "speical instruction" area and it's never failed either.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rtmonty

        I've used opentable several times over the past year, and its mostly worked out just fine; with the exception of the special instructions. When I requested a certain type of seating arrangement, for instance patio dining, or window seat, or by the band, etc... usually I get my party there a few minutes before my reserved time slot and I'm told "if you want to be seated now, you can have this table here, but if you want your window seat it will be another 30 minutes".

        On one occasion when this occurred, I told them we will take a walk and wait for the window (this was by the water). Upon our return at the 30 minute mark, they began to lead us to the table only to find it still unbussed. So we were led back to the lobby, and it was another 20 minute wait... almost an hour after our reserved time slot.

      2. I love using Opentable. I usually go there first to try and make a reservation and only call the restaurant if they don't have a desirable time slot online. I've heard that some restaurants only open a certain number of tables or time slots for Opentable, so they might have an opening that the site doesn't show.

        I don't know if it affects service, but I've never felt it made a negative impact because I made a reservation through Opentable. I like how easy it is to change reservation times or party sizes, too.

        It's very nice to be able to look at reservations for other cities when we're traveling.

        1. I've been using Open Table pretty regularly since late summer. I just wish more Sacramento restaurants were listed.

          1. Thanks for opening this thread, potbelliedkiln. I'd never heard of opentable, but I just checked it out and signed up. There aren't that many Toronto restaurants on it yet, but I'm sure it will come in handy in the future.

            1. If there are many restaurants for your city listed, and you are the type that waits until Friday afternoon to find a table for a party of six, then it's particularly useful - you can specify a desired time and party size and get a list of places with a table, rather than calling around for an hour.

              I used to live in Phoenix, and with no real mass of places listed on the site - none of my favorites anyway - I didn't find it very useful. Having moved to San Francisco, it's a different story and I have used it multiple times. It's a bit chicken-egg... many listings for a city encourage more people to use the site, but restaurants might not see the advantage to signing up if not many customers are using or demanding it.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Pincho

                Opentable has recently opened a Phoenix office and has greatly expanded the number of local restaurants covered. There are still some glaring omissions, but it's getting better all the time.

                1. re: silverbear

                  They may stay as glaring omissions for a while. We have OpenTable where I work, and can tell you the way OpenTable makes their money is by selling the reservation system package. If the restaurant is perfectly happy with pen and paper, you won't be seeing them on OpenTable any time in the near future.

                  1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                    That's not necessarily true. One of my favorite local restaurants, Gilmore's in West Chester, PA, is on OpenTable, even though is virtually impossible to get a weekend reservation there without a 2-month wait. I'm guessing that most of their customers make their reservations the old fashioned way, by phone. With the local acclaim Gilmore's has won, I don't think they "need" to use OpenTable; it's my personal belief that they do it as a courtesy to their customers.

              2. I've used opentable for about two years, love it. I should use it more often, I sometimes forget. Using it when traveling is great too, not just in my hometown.

                1. I use it a lot, especially for other cities than where I live. Las Vegas comes particularly to mind. It works well and love the points. I've been using them for several years now.

                  Recently I made a reservation for Valentine's Day at a local restaurant near home. I was surprised to find a message from the restaurant on my machine when I got home that night. Apparently, right after I made the reservation they had decided to go with "seatings" for the evening so they called me to ask if I minded changing the time of the reservation.

                  It's nice to know that the information is received that quickly. While I wasn't thrilled with the new time for dinner (and I mentioned that I might in the end cancel the reservation, as I wasn't sure I wanted to eat at 8:30 pm, instead of 7:30pm), I was impressed at the efficiency of the system.

                  I also have been able to snag reservations online sometimes when I couldn't get them directly from the restaurant. They do allott a certain amount to Open Table, so if you're lucky, you get them.

                  All in all, a good way to go. Wish more NJ restaurants would sign-up with them.

                  1. I use Open Table often. One of the features I appreciate is being able to send a message to the restaurant with special requests. For example, I used O.T. to make a reservation for dinner last Friday. We were celebrating my daughter's birthday, and I noted that on the reservation form. I didn't have to excuse myself to hunt down our server to ask for a special birthday dessert; they just brought it when it was dessert time, and, even better, they comped us for that dessert.

                    I've only had one bad experience with O.T. I'd made reservations for eight of us for Father's Day brunch on O.T. When we arrived at the restaurant, it was closed, and we learned that this particular restaurant had stopped serving Sunday brunch over a year ago. Apparently the restaurant had never updated their info on O.T. Both the restaurant and O.T. apologized and did their best to make up for the blunder; O.T. added a bunch of "points" to my account and the restaurant offered us a free entree on a future visit.

                    1. I've had outstanding experience with them, both here in Portland and traveling to SF & NY. More Portland places are joining all the time, but is still very small compared to larger cities.

                      The only not-so-great time was when they sent me an email accusing me of being a no-show. I promptly responded saying I was there exactly on time, ID'd myself as having a res, and that I have a receipt to prove it. They immediately credited me without again bothering me. So save those receipts!

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Leonardo

                        Alternately, I once didn't show and got credited for the points anyway. That was the restaurant's fault - I guess they figured they messed up somewhere and "lost" me? My win!

                        1. re: sivyaleah

                          On a slightly different tack (and this question is directed to anyone, not just you, sivyaleah), does having an OpenTable reservation compel you to honor reservations you might normally blow off, since there's a sort of "consequence" for not showing? Or has it not changed your behavior to show or not to show?

                          1. re: Covert Ops

                            Yes, there still is a consequence. I believe if you blow off reservations too many times they ban you. This was a one time thing for me, I'm very good at cancelling my reservations if I'm not going to use them. I had totally forgotten that I'd made the reservation, was on vacation and not with a computer to remind me. I was very surprised when I returned home and checked OT a couple of weeks later to see what my balance was. I had to rack my brains to remember if I'd eaten at the place in question or not.

                            1. re: sivyaleah

                              Exactly, your "membership" can be cancelled if you "blow off" too many reservations. They normally notify you if you miss. Had that happen once but I was there, the restaurant failed to mark us in. After I explained the couple that set next to us and the meal we were both served we were credited with our points and the black mark removed from our file.

                            2. re: Covert Ops

                              The computer system keeps track of both cancellations and no-shows, and if you call to make a reservation, the person at the computer can see how many meals there you missed.

                              1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                It keeps tracks of cancellations?

                                Oops, I often book ahead and cancel closer to the date. I hope that won't leave any adverse effects on my account.

                        2. I was running late for dinner as my husband's plane was an hour late at LAS. First I called and cancelled and told them the reason, but then when my husband finally got here, we went on to dinner anyway. I did call again and they said to come on. I didn't get any points though, so I did call the restaurant and left a message for the manager, haven't seen any points yet, but it's only been a week. I did read though in the bylaws, that I may not be eligible for points now, I think it's up to the individual restaurant.

                          1. I have been using open table for years. I find it a pleasure to make reservations online and basically get something for nothing (the open table points). I've used open table throughout the US with no real problems (I not had points posted to my account, but open table customer service credited by account when I brought it to there attention). However, that all changed this past August when my wife decided that she wanted to go to her formerly favorite restaurant in Portsmouth, NH, Pesce Blue (we live north of boston). The plan was to spend the day taking a leisurely drive to Portsmouth . . . shopping, eating and just relaxing. I made a reservation through open table at Pesce Blue in July for the middle of August. I received a very nice email from the owner of the restaurant looking forward to having us dine with them. As my wife's birthday approached, we decided to allow ourselfs more time prior to dinner. The day prior to the reservation, however, I received another email from the restaurant's owner looking forward to having us dine with them. On the day of the reservation, I changed the reservation to a later time. Again, I received a nice welcoming email from the owner as our modified reservation was confirmed. We had an enjoyable day on the way to Portsmouth. We planned on staying overnight so we could really enjoy our dinner. Aside from having good food, Pesce Blue also has outdoor dining, which we were looking forward to. As we were walking to the restaurant, I noticed that no tables were set up outside. Upon arriving at the restaurant's door, there was a handwritten sign "closed for a private party." How could this be? We had previously confirmed reservations and, insofar as it was a corporate function (the private party), I tended to doubt that the reservation was made that day. Needless to say, the manager's response to our plight (frankly, we wouldn't have come to Portsmouth without the dining reservation) was woefully inadequate. He indicated that he tried to contact me. I never heard from him or anyone else from Pesce Blue. Open table has my office telephone number and, being a lawyer, I could easily be found. Why no one had the courtesy of calling, I do not know. Needless to say, we were stuck inside of Porthsmouth at 8:15 without anyplace to eat. We checked out of our motel, drove back down to the north shore, my wife in tears, her birthday ruined and ate tuna fish sandwiches for dinner. Not quite what we were expecting. I contacted open table out this situation. After all, the open table restaurants are supposed to block out the dates and/or times accorded to private parties etc. Why hadn't Pesce Blue? After all, this corporate function had to have been booked when I made my original reservation and surely by the time I modified the reservation on that morning. Open table's customer service had usually been pretty responsive. This time it took over a month to hear back from them. I finally exchanged telephone calls with a open table customer service person. Of course, Pesce Blue should have blocked out the time and never accepted our reservation in the first place. Open table was going to investigate the matter directly wqith the restaurant. Six months later, Pesce Blue is still a member of open table. As a form of customer goodwill, open table credited my account with some points, inadequate considering the inconvenience and cost associated with aborted night out. As for Pesce Blue . . . I never had a response from the welcoming owner to my correspondence complaining about the poor manner in which this matter was handed. If you've read to this point, that's why I referred to Pesce Blue as my wife's "former favorite restaurant" in Portsmouth, NH!

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: barlev

                              Open Table is a service that the restaurant buys... They pay for equipment rental, monthly service charge, and $1 per reservation booked online. It truly is the restaurant's responsibility to use the service, to block out dates and slots. It is really quite easy. Your experience was unfortunate and could have been avoided. Question: Had the restaurant called you at least a few days in advance and apologized for not being able to honor your res., would it still be your wife's favorite?

                              1. re: naughtywaitress

                                Absolutely . . . all it would've taken was a phone call. I understand a place being booked for a corporate party. I just don't think that they tried very hard to get in touch with me.

                              2. re: barlev

                                Of course the restaurant should have blocked that day out, but I doubt your confirmation emails were from the restaurant. Those are generated by opentable automatically when you reserve and then there's a reminder message just prior to the event.

                                Also, a word about special requests, celebrations, seating, etc. If you want something special and it is important that it happens, do call the restaurant and arrange it. Of course we look at the comments/requests, but often not until that night. For example, I've had people make ressies with a note requesting a cake, no one saw it until that day, not cool all around. If you want a particular table or area of the restaurant, it helps to call ahead so you get first crack at the seating chart and won't get lost in the shuffle of everyone else who wants a quiet/romantic/window/birthday table.

                              3. We use OT, but are considering dropping it. It has a terrific data base to keep track of a client's history--no shows, cancellations, notes of likes/dislikes. good tippers, bad tippers. All are taken into consideration when planning the night (needless to say, the guests who are good tippers, never no show and come frequently are doted on).

                                We are having problems because of the latest upgrade which has created a good number of issues that make using the service in house difficult. For one thing, when a web reservation calls to cancel--which is the desired action if you can't keep the reservation--the service still sends the email which is not good for the client. We get the backlash for having "no-showed" them even though that was not our intention nor the guest's. Just one of many problems the upgrade has caused. The only response I get to my calls is that they will look into the problem at the next upgrade--which is at least 6 months in the future. For another problem, a lot of the bells and whistles that have been included are only usefull for very large, theme park restaurants with full time reservation staff who do nothing but stare at the computer all day. For smaller restaurants, there is no way to customize the service to only use the parts of it that are usefull. We've lost many reservations because of a slip of a finger or because it has become confusing to use.

                                As for service--every customer is treated the same regardless of whether they booked through OT, on the phone or walked in. If you preceive better service, its because you are a better customer, not because of how you booked.

                                And, as someone else said, if a restuarant wants to keep more control over their booking, they won't use OT.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Le Den

                                  It's unfortunate then, that I find myself skipping non-OT restaurants entirely.

                                  In NYC there are so many good restaurants on OT that it really is a hassle to pick up the phone to see if there's a table available.

                                2. I use Opentable a lot, but I wish that there were more restaurants on it. I end up going to a lot of the same places because OT is so easy but it's leaving me feeling a bit stuck in a rut.