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Do you get crummy table if using Opentable?

m
meinNYC Jul 26, 2008 10:00 PM

We have found that if I make a reservation on Opentable, we automatically are given the worst table in the house. This has happened so often that I think it is not just bad luck. If you make the reservation by phone, the tables are always good. Does this happen to anyone else? Do restaurants pay to be listed on Opentable? Curious.

  1. Seth Chadwick Nov 11, 2011 06:44 PM

    A week ago, my husband and I returned from New Orleans. Before our travels, I booked reservations via Open Table for the following restaurants: Dante's Kitchen, Emeril's, Dominique's on Magazine, and Couchon.

    In every single instance, we received arguably the best table in the house. I noted on the reservations that we were big guys with broad shoulders, so a spacious table would be appreciated. Not a single problem as we were take to four-tops instead of two-tops and all of them were perfect for people watching and comfortable.

    Similarly, there were two other restaurants we had made reservations with online through their own reservations system (i.e. not OT). Again, both restaurant (Commander's Palace and K-Paul's) gave us what I would consider premium seating. In the instance of the former, we were seated in the middle of the lush garden on Halloween Day with brilliant sunshine, a soft autumn breeze, and the occasions fall leave twirling down to our table. For K-Paul's we were seated on the second story balcony at a four-top overlooking the parade of people in costumes for Halloween.

    With all online reservations, we discovered that we were treated quite well despite the fact that until we arrived, we were merely digital representations of ourselves.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Seth Chadwick
      Bill Hunt Nov 11, 2011 07:21 PM

      Seth,

      Good news. That has been my personal experience too - except when I request "table # 27," when I really want "table # 26... " Have never had so much as one problem with OT.

      Hunt

      PS - Welcome back!

    2. j
      josephnl Nov 10, 2011 12:41 PM

      I have made hundreds of reservations through OT, and have not once felt discriminated against. In fact, I sometimes think I am treated better because the restaurant can see that I dine out frequently. I don't know how often one must use OT for this to occur, but frequent users get VIP status on OT, and restaurants can see this. In general, I think most good restaurants give somewhat preferential table choice to those guests who they recognize as frequent patrons or friends, and otherwise it's simply the luck of the draw. If I'm shown to a table I don't like, I usually ask for another table, and most restaurants will comply if possible.

      1 Reply
      1. re: josephnl
        Bill Hunt Nov 10, 2011 08:59 PM

        While I might not get preferential treatment, all OT restaurant reservations have been great. While I have had OT "VIP" status for years, I often worry that some restaurants read that as "food critic?" The manager, the owner, the chef, and usually the sommelier, stop by the table, and inquire on how things are going. In a few cases, it has been tough to have an intimate conversation with my lovely wife, as the table is visited so very often.

        Even when dining solo, which happens all too often, I feel that I am being treated in a special manner, when I have booked through OT. Heck, I am but a "pedestrian" diner (see other CH thread), and ONLY when dining with my wife, is there someone "special" at the table.

        Going way back, I had used OT for maybe five solo reservations at a particular Washington, DC restaurant. When my wife could finally join me, for the first time, I mentioned that in my reservation. The entire staff was lined up in the hallway, and each greeted my wife, as though she was a dignitary. I guess that they had tired of me, solo, and were just glad to finally meet my lovely, young wife. Somehow, I cannot blame them!

        In the last calendar year, I have probably use OT 50 times, both solo, and with my wife, and have only had great tables, great service, and wonderful welcomes. Maybe I have just been lucky?

        Hunt

      2. Miss Needle Aug 10, 2008 11:01 AM

        I haven't had that issue. In fact, I've had the opposite thing happen to me. On Opentable, we've reached VIP status (by honoring 12+ reservations over the past year). At one restaurant, our check was labeled that we were VIP. We got free bottled water and a complimentary glass of champagne (Veuve Cliquot).

        1. h
          hsk Aug 9, 2008 11:56 PM

          "Do restaurants pay to be listed on Opentable?"
          Not specifically, but they do pay for a) the computer system (which they usually use for all their reservations), and b) a per-person fee to Opentable for reservations made through their website. Reservations made over the phone are not subject to the latter fee, but obviously there are labour costs associated with ensuring that phone-in reservations are handled propery without errors.

          I've never noticed I got a bad table reserving through Opentable, but I'm not that fussy about where I sit (other than the "near a waiter" comment which is absolutely right) and I usually only reserve that way if I just want to go out on the spur of the moment on a weekend night and I want to get a reservation after calling a few places with no luck. On weekdays I usually just show up.

          1. mrsfury Aug 7, 2008 01:58 PM

            Maybe whether or not you get a crummy table depends on how far in advance you make a reservation? We set our reservation about two weeks ahead using Opentable and we had a great table. I will use it again.

            1. steve h. Aug 7, 2008 01:57 PM

              i like opentable. use it a lot both east coast and west coast. never had a problem with the table. still, i try to stack the deck a bit by dining early or late.

              1. MsAlyp Aug 7, 2008 01:52 PM

                I also use Open Table all the time and never felt I got a specifically crummy table through them. I have had it happen twice that somehow the restuarant did plug me in as showing up for the reservation so I had to fight with Open Table regarding points. I have found that when Open Table grants you a certificate it came very promptly.

                What is everyone's take on asking for a better table when you are placed at a crummy one and there are better ones available? Assuming you did infact have a reservation to begin with and weren't a walk in.

                1. m
                  MrsT Jul 31, 2008 06:20 PM

                  I remember an old Mad Magazine "Lighter Side" a customer was asked where he would like to sit, near the kitchen, the salad bar, the dance floor. The customer's reply. "It doesn't matter, as long as it's near a waiter."

                  BTW, I just used Open Table this past week. We did not have a bad table.

                  1. b
                    boltnut55 Jul 31, 2008 01:32 PM

                    I just made a reservation on opentable, so we'll see. I indicated that I was there last week and was returning w/different people to celebrate a birthday and asked for a booth. Unless the table is under a speaker or where the sun shines at me, I don't really notice my table's pros and cons.

                    1. m
                      MIKELOCK34 Jul 29, 2008 09:26 AM

                      We have always been seated at good to great tables using opentable.

                      1. p
                        purple bot Jul 27, 2008 06:46 AM

                        This topic has already been beaten to death:
                        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/370644

                        In summary: it's not true that you get the worst table with open table. Please read the thread.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: purple bot
                          m
                          meinNYC Jul 27, 2008 08:55 PM

                          Thanks for answering the "beaten to death" topic. I didn't realize it had been a hotly debated issue in the past. The suggestion to add requests for specific types of tables is good.

                        2. jfood Jul 27, 2008 04:14 AM

                          jfood has never seen a difference either. OpenTable, phone, when the jfoods arrive they are escorted to a table, if one looks better, they will nicely ask for that one instead. Rare does anyone say, "I'm sorry that one is booked." So the poster who stated thatthe 8PM'ers have less of a selection is the result of people like jfood.

                          1. JK Grence the Cosmic Jester Jul 27, 2008 04:07 AM

                            If a restaurant is listed on OpenTable, that means they use OpenTable to do *all* of their reservations. If you call in your reservation, the person at the host desk punches in the reservation on a dedicated OpenTable computer. On the computer, the only difference between a phone reservation and a web reservation is a little note that the reservation was made online. If you frequent a restaurant that uses OpenTable, the best thing to do is to put a comment on your reservation saying specifically where in the restaurant you want to sit; i.e. "We like to sit at the booths along the north wall away from the restroom". It's much easier for the hosts to fulfill table requests before the shift starts! Better still, if you get a table you absolutely love, ask the host to put a note in the computer that you want that table every time.

                            1. l
                              Le Den Jul 27, 2008 04:05 AM

                              We make no distinction between OT bookings, regular web bookings and call in reservations. I do find that those who call in are more likely to leave the correct phone number and show on time than OT bookers so perhaps its fall out from bad experiences that are finding you seated by the kitchen. We also get a lot of demands from OT bookers for "only the best table," "only a quiet table" etc that often can't be provided to the satisfaction of the booking guest.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Le Den
                                p
                                plaidbowtie Nov 11, 2011 02:39 AM

                                This is one of the inherent problems with opentable. Because the guest is completely removed from the restaurant when making a reservation, guests come in thinking that their requests on the reservation are automatically golden. Yes, we saw that you "Would like the best table in the house, with a view, a booth, and a view of the chef." (these usually have the notation "First time diner.") Invariably, it is one of at least 15 reservations with the exact same (or similar) request. When the restaurant isn't able to accommodate that, and never could to begin with, we get threads on CH, or reviews on yelp, talking about how the restaurant "didn't even TRY to accommodate our *simple* request.

                                My advice? If you feel so strongly about a request for seating/views/etc, call. Why on earth would you gamble something so important to you, on indirect communication? Or, you could always slide a $20 to the hostess ;)

                                1. re: plaidbowtie
                                  Bill Hunt Nov 11, 2011 05:34 PM

                                  Great points, and the suggestion to call is a very good one.

                                  In my CH history, I have had few specific requests. It's usually about the "chef's tasting menu," and my wife's bi-valve allergy. Even then, I will follow up, and make my request known.

                                  Now, and as a table example, there is one San Francisco restaurant, that we dine at often. As we usually go with the "sommelier's pairings," we have a lot of wine glasses, even for a party of two. I had asked about the # of a particular table, and requested it on the very next trip. It was ready for us, BUT I had been off by one table #. My bad, but with OT, the restaurant had furnished me with the exact table that I had requested. In the end, it worked out fine, and I learned a lesson - be careful what you ask for... [Grin]

                                  With most restaurant bookings, and especially with hotel bookings, I follow up with a call, and often a few FAX'es. I like for things to be in line, prior to my visits.

                                  Good points, and well worth remembering.

                                  Hunt

                              2. hill food Jul 27, 2008 02:24 AM

                                yeah and sorry to be ticky - but maybe just call and talk to someone. people are generally nice. gentle dialogue will often get you somewhere. (I know weird huh?)

                                ok airlines and certain telecoms excepted.

                                1. r
                                  Ricky Jul 27, 2008 12:16 AM

                                  I' ve used Opentable for the following places recently and not one bad table:

                                  Klee
                                  Cookshop
                                  Greenwich Grill
                                  Zenkichi
                                  wd-50
                                  Matsugen
                                  Perry St
                                  Perilla

                                  1. p
                                    picklesister Jul 26, 2008 11:39 PM

                                    Where I work, we try to save the better tables for reservations, whether they are booked online or by phone. It is difficult, however, to save the best tables for the 8pm bookings. Generally the first seatings get the best tables (it is tough to say no to the "can't we sit there --> ?" requests at 6:00pm when the restaurant is empty).
                                    We particularly like Open Table bookings because we know that people don't always go to Open Table specifically wanting to go to My Restaurant. Sometimes they just need a table for X people on Xday at Xtime, and My Restaurant happens to be available, so we want to show them an "xtra" great time.
                                    Similarly, we like to show appreciation for those who have booked at our restaurant ahead of time. Walk-ins are great, bookings are great, everyone who wants to eat at the restaurant is great! Most restaurants don't have the luxury of having every table a "great" table, so some guests have to deal with lesser tables.
                                    Keep in mind, some people's favorite tables are other people's least favorite tables, and it's impossible to predict who is going to love the table by the bar and hate the quiet table, or who is going to complain about the table by the bar and request the quiet table. Your "crummy" table might be another guest's idea of perfection.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: picklesister
                                      Bill Hunt Aug 10, 2008 09:08 PM

                                      In many years of using Opentable, we have never experienced this. We always get a great table, or will request it, should our table not be the best available. Usually, we are seated at a prime table. In the few instances, where we were not, a simple request has taken care of it. Wife is short, and sometimes a booth is not really good for her. If we're shown to one, we usually request a 2-top, but also point out our propenisty for doing many wines, and are most often seated at a 4-top.

                                      I'd guess that it is up to the restaurant to decide, but have been 90% pleased, and never denied a change. Go figure.

                                      Hunt

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