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Sep 19, 2007 06:29 AM

Larger Tip left for OpenTable Data - Was Jfood too paranoid?

Jfood has a question for people in the know on OpenTable. If you leave a mediocre tip because of serving issues, does that go into your profile for other restos to see? The only reason jfood left a good tip last night was because he did not want a bad “tip report” placed in OpenTable for a couple of bucks in a tip.

M&M jfood and little jfood saw Wicked last nite and reserved a pre-theatre resto through OpenTable, and jfood placed pre-theatre in the comments section. When the three of them arrived and handed the menus jfood told the waiter they were only interested in the PT. This resto’s PT is price-dependent on your entrée and includes app/entrée/dessert. Price ranges from $22-30 with 8-10 choices so basically a good deal in Manhattan.

Then the fun began when they went to order. Little jfood ordered the soup and the filet medallions, sauce on the side. Server asks “would you like me to bring some extra vegetables with that?” Jfood responds “we’ll just keep with the PT”. Server to little jfood “we can make you a nice little side dish of pasta.” Jfood, “we’ll just keep with the PT”. Then onto Mrs jfood, she orders Tomato/Mozzy, trout almandine, light on the oil. Server cranks up the upsell. “Would you like to substitute a different fish for the trout?” Jfood, “will that be at the same price as the PT?”. Server “No, that would be under the a la carte menu.” Jfood “we’ll just keep with the PT”. If mrs jfood would have switch the fish type it would have increased the price of her meal 50%.

Apps went fine. Fish arrived swimming in butter, steak arrived covered in sauce. Jfood told the runner that the sauce for the steak was ordered SOS. He removed and returned to the kitchen. Server comes to table and say “I saw the steak had the sauce on it.” Jfood’s thinking then why didn’t he do anything, as there were only three other people in the resto (very early). Steak returns and little jfood eats half. The she looks at me and says that she tried but she just can’t eat it. So jfood tastes it. The kitchen merely washed off the sauce and patted dry, threw back on the plate and put some sauce in a sauce boat. The steak had no flavor.

As they’re cleaning the dishes the server returns for dessert orders. Mrs jfood orders one, jfood orders one and little jfood says “No thanks.” Jfood looks at the waiter and says, “since we’re paying for three desserts can you also bring a flan.” Then he explained the watered steak situation, the server smiles and leaves.

Desserts arrive and then the server comes over and tells jfood that he spoke with the manager and they will only charge for the app and dessert. Jfood left a 20% tip. If not for the OpenTable aspect, the tip would have been at the 10% level.

So the questions are (1) how others would handle this tip, (2) should more that the water steak been comped especially since the dessert was only ordered since it was “included” and (3) does OpenTable data-mine this type of info (i.e. left 10% tip w no explanation) for other restos to see?

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  1. I would bet that 99% of restaurants are not organized, or thorough enough to report a tipping issue to Open Table if that is even an option. If Open Table does do this that would just add another reason for me to not use them other than for research.

    With the above said, I only use Open Table for researching dining options in a time frame in which I am looking for a reservation, basically to see what may be available. I then call the restaurant directly and make a reservation with them directly(no need for a middle man in my humble opinion). I used Open Table once for a reservation, and found the seating location less than desireable. I also looked at a reservation this past weekend for a restaurant in Chicago where Open Table was going to require a credit card to hold the reservation. So I called the restaurant diretly, and that was not their policy.

    8 Replies
    1. re: swsidejim

      I think this issue has gotten discussed a lot here, but FWIW I have had *better* luck getting the tables I want using OT, than when I call the restaurant directly, if I am not known at the restaurant.

      1. re: swsidejim

        I have quite a bit of experience using Open Table now and have been very pleased. As I understand it, restaurants can see via the number of Open Table points that you're someone who uses the service a lot, but can't track your personal history outside of their own restaurant as far as where and when you dine and any notes that individual restaurants might keep.

        Open Table doesn't require credit cards to hold a reservation; the restaurant implements that requirement. Some restaurants may well require a credit card via Open Table and not via telephone for whatever reason, but it's not an Open Table policy.

        We ate at a restaurant in San Francisco last night with an Open Table reservation (the restaurant did require a credit card to hold the reservation) and we felt we actually had the best table in the place. We've never found any significant difference or pattern in the quality of our tables or service at restaurants we reserve through Open Table vs. through phoning a restaurant directly. If anything, we've found that the single dietary restriction we have between us is more consistently understood when we reserve via Open Table because we can add it to the notes field ourselves.

        As to jfood's issues; I would have tipped what you'd normally tip regardless of how the reservation was made. Given how the meal went, the restaurant would have been ahead to comp little jfood's meal entirely.

        1. re: ccbweb

          I wonder why this restaurant, or any would require a credit card when a reservation is booked through Open Table, vs dealing directly with them. Is it because perhaps alot of bogus reservations are placed with Open Table vs customers they deal with themselves?

          1. re: swsidejim

            I would have to think that that's either the experience or the expectation on the part of the individual restaurant. In the case of this restaurant (Range, in San Francisco) they just in the last couple of weeks joined Open Table, so I don't think it could have been based on experience (what I don't know is whether they were on Open Table previously and left for a while, so it could be based on experience before I came to town). It was the first reservation I've made on Open Table that required a credit card.

            I can't think there's too high a rate of bogus/non-canceled reservations on Open Table or the service just wouldn't survive very long.

            1. re: ccbweb

              Thanks for the input, the place we went to eat where I made a reservation directly with the restaurant was Saloon Steakhouse, which has been around a while.

              1. re: ccbweb

                I don't know if it matters, but actually Range has been on OT for quite a long time. Perhaps they took a break from it, I don't know, but I made reservations there on OT when they first opened, and every time I have eaten there with a reservation (at least four or five times) I made the reservation via OT.

                So, they might indeed have had the experience of more no shows with OT than phone reservations, and I could see this happening: IMO at least, making an on-line reservation is MUCH less hassle than via phone (you can do it anytime day or night, you can see what is available vs asking and getting responses, and you have immediate written verification of it). So given that, I could see the temptation to make multiple reservations and then just use the one I want. (Though I don't do this myself, and I think if you don't cancel on line OT will suspend your account after a certain number of unexplained no shows. Then again, cancelling on line is also much easier than cancelling via phone, and there is less of an 'embarrasment' factor about cancelling at the last minute, since there is no actual human interaction......)

                as always, YMMV

                1. re: susancinsf

                  Probably doesn't matter; but it's still interesting. Thanks for the history lesson. They were definitely off of Open Table (or at least not taking reservations via the online system) for a time because I was bummed about it since my wife and I were keen to eat there but a reservation proved elusive via the telephone the few times I tried. I was pleasantly surprised when they turned up in an Open Table search recently.

                  Open Table does prevent making multiple reservations too close in time to one another (I believe it's within 2 or 3 hours). That is, it won't allow you to make a reservation on any other Open Table restaurant through the online system once you have one for a particular time/date until you cancel the first.

                  Couldn't agree more about the ease of making and canceling reservations online.

              2. re: swsidejim

                if they do a heavy pre-theatre turn, they likely get a lot of no-shows, because people multi-book.

          2. to answer question number three, sort of, it is my understanding that any customer notes would only be available to the restaurant in question (not generally), so, if I am correct, it doesn't sound like an issue, since it doesn't sound to me like you will be going back to that particular restaurant any time soon. If a restaurant is on OT, it becomes their reservation software (and they also use it to make your reservation when you call them); doesn't seem to me that they would want to share all that info with competitors. Perhaps others will chime in if they know more than I about this.

            1. The brain isn't functioning enough yet to digest the whole situation, but in regards to whether it will be noted in OpenTable if you tip less, the answer is: Not in my experience. I wouldn't worry about it, you should tip as you see fit. I don't think most places use it for stuff like that. Now if you came to the places I've worked, I would expect to get a note that says "jfood does not drink alcohol, please remove wine glasses" from the host as you were seated. Even if they did put a note in their system, other restaurants would not be able to see it, it would stay in-house.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Kbee

                Open Table's customer notes *are* only available to the restaurant where the notes are made; however, most servers have access to the computer (as they need passwords for reservation checking, etc.) and I can attest that at least one restaurant, those notes are, in fact, used to forewarn servers about quirky or annoying customers and also about bad tippers. I used to work at a place whose servers would put in whatever notes they wanted -- from "bad tipper" to "smells bad." It's almost like it's the one place they feel like they have power, and they're going to use it. (I don't work there anymore.)

                1. re: ctscorp

                  Do you think the fact of the Open Table service had anything to do with that or was it emblematic of the way the restaurant was run?

                  1. re: ccbweb

                    Sounds like the restaurant. I can't imagine working in a place that would allow that kind of nonsense to be entered into the system (very classy). I can see why ctscorp left. Most places utilize that for helpful info: "likes to eat quickly", "wife dislikes butter", "prefers corner table" etc...

                    1. re: ccbweb

                      Totally the restaurant. A bunch of juvenile servers, poor managers and a huge jerk of an owner. Definitely not Open Table's "fault" -- although I wouldn't be surprised at all if it were used similarly at other trashy and/or poorly run restaurants, which are, sadly, pretty easy to come by.

                2. Jfood, even if they did share the info (and as the restaurant I work at has OT and I've never seen that info) you should not have left that tip.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: Missmoo

                    restaurants do not have access to data in other restaurants' open table accounts. period.

                    you get dinged for no-shows though open-table, that is all.

                    occasionally, we will make a discreet note for ourselves, like "tc" for tough customer, but that takes a lot of bad mojo from the patron.

                    that heavy up-selling would have driven me mad.

                    1. re: hotoynoodle

                      that's the answer jfood was looking for.

                      and wrt the upselling, even mrs jfood was peeved and that is a very rare event.

                      only good news is little jfood got a major lessonin how to order and upselling. It was she who told the server that her dinner was merely washed. gotta love it when the kids actually listen. :-)))

                      1. re: jfood

                        I would have been livid if someone had washed the sauce off of the steak. I am not normally one to make a scene, but I would have gone directly to the manager and demanded an explanation - ask the manager if he or she would like to eat a steak that had be "cleaned"

                        1. re: john

                          it was one of those kodak moments where we were teaching little jfood how to handle bad situations in restos. it was actually her who told the waiter with her million dollar smile what happened. That alone was worth the price of admission. she handled it in a perect "10" fashion, very politely, very matter of fact, w/o any malice and totally professional.

                          Jfood will give her her own handle here and she can teach many of the youger CH'ers how to act. Jfood loves that kid. :-)))

                          1. re: jfood

                            :-) You crack me up. I LOVE children who can tactfully handle themselves. You two are doing well. DD is 10 and is finally willing to order her food, but only in familiar restaurants. For her to say whatever your little jfood said would be too difficult still. Honestly, I think they take it more seriously when she spoke up; otherwise it's "those overprotective parents over there who don't want to pay for the food they ordered."

                            Yeah, that upselling would have made me nuts and never to return.

                          2. re: john

                            I am genuinely curious -- and maybe this is a topic for a new thread -- but would you have preferred to eat your entrees while little j waited for a recook? I have worked places that have rinsed off sauce and then refinished the plate -- reseasoned, regarnished. The whole "clean" entree was back on the table in fewer than 5 minutes. A full recook would take as many as 15 to 20, and by that time, everyone else is done eating.
                            Truly asking -- from a service/boh perspective, what's the best way to handle this sitch?

                            1. re: ctscorp

                              great question ct and jfood struggles with this and if you do not start a new thread jfood will because he is curious as well.

                              in this instance the re-fire a new entree would have taken less than five minutes because the fillet was butterflied, don't ask jfood why just reporting, so they should have re-fired a new dish.


                              1. re: jfood

                                You start that thread, jfood. I think you'll get better responses than I would --

                            2. re: john

                              not only is it dishonest, it's downright dangerous! what if little jfood had been ALLERGIC to something in the sauce??? i know it was requested on the side, but that doesn't matter. perhaps jfood or mrs jfood simply wanted to use it.

                              it's appalling. and jfood, you definitely shouldn't have felt obligated to tip more than you thought the server deserved. rest assured, noodle was absolutely right. there's no way for all opentable restos to share that kind of information, so all the service can do is track/earmark habitual no-shows.

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                if it was an allergy it would not have been ordered, not to worry there. it's just that many restos oversauce and the SOS is almost SOP.

                                but washing meat that's been sauteed with a little flour onit started out bad and then got really worse.

                                live and learn


                      2. First, you should have tipped normally. This server doesn't even deserve 10% in spite of what happened. 2- the meal for the little one should have been comped. 3- even if they do, so what. if you tip well elsewhere it will balance out. 4-can you name the restaurant? not sure where else wicked is playing besides chicago... and it would be useful to know for the chicago folks or wherever this might be.