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Sep 11, 2009 07:13 AM

OpenTable Reservations. What's Up?

I went to make a reservation on OpenTable for 2 people on a Wed. for dinner on Thurs. Asked for 7PM. Came back with nothing at 7, but 6:30 or 7:30 available. Chose 6:30. Went to the restaurant at 6:30. The place was almost empty. People started trickling in around 7. We left about 8 and the restaurant was maybe half full if that. Why couldn't we get a 7 PM reservation? Were they not making all their tables available on OpenTable. Would I have gotten a 7PM reservation if I called?

I think I'll ask them the next time I go there. But I'm wondering if anyone here who works in the industry has the story. Thanks.

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  1. I have been told by a person who manages a restaurant that only a portion of tables, depending on the restaurant, are available through Open Table as restaurants want to reserve tables for people who call, regulars, walk-ins, etc., and maintain some control over the dining room. So, yes, I think it is always good to call the restaurant if you can't get what you want through Open Table.

    Last weekend, I tried to change a reservation on OT when one member of our party cancelled, making for a party of 4 instead of 5, but OT would not allow me to re-book; presumably it had no 4-tops available at the desired time. I called the restaurant, rebooked without any problem. The restaurant was only half-full when we got there, at 8, and never completely filled during the 2 1/2 hours we were there.

    1. Yes, I tried to make a reservation for a brunch and they told me that two hours before the time requested and two hours after there were no spots available. Walked by the restaurant and the entire place was absolutely empty. If that's the case, perhaps restaurants should not offer the OpenTable service. They lost my money because I thought they'd be full.

      1 Reply
      1. re: canadianbeaver

        i've had this same experience. if restaurants are small (and only giving x% of tables to open table), they should probably not use OT b/c it gives customers a false sense that they will be in for a long wait if they try to go.

      2. That's absolutely the way it works at many places. We were at a very fine place earlier this week that has 16 tables and offers only 2 on Open Table each service. The rest are by telephone only.

        9 Replies
        1. re: Midlife

          I can vouch for this, as well. I use OT for my job, and found out that restos will give 2 OT open times, then once booked OT will say it's unavailable to book. Calling the resto directly will almost always get you your requested time.

          Of course, you don't get your OT points, but ohwell.

          1. re: Midlife

            It's probably because they want the exposure of being on the OT website but don't want to pay the cover for more than a handful of diners. Restaurants don't pay a cover for reservations they enter into the system if you reserve over the phone.

            1. re: hsk

              I was referring to The French Laundry, in Yountville, CA. I really think it's not the cover for them. My wife and I had to dial their reservation number in excess of 600 times (2 lines on auto-redial over 3 days) to get in. In fact, I wondered why they use Open Table at all.

              1. re: Midlife

                So that's the trick. I think I only dialed about 300X before giving up.

                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                  They insist that they don't allow 'insider' reservations or hold any tables except for Open Table. When you're making that many calls to get in it doesn't seem possible, but who knows?

                  We dialed about 300x for the first day( a Saturday), 200 for the 2nd (a Sunday) and got a res (dinner even) after about 100 dials on the third day (a Monday). I'm certain that Monday-Wednesday are probably easier than Thursday -Sunday, but the res we wound up with was 5:45PM (their first dinner res is 5:30) so we JUST made it in.

                  The dinner was an anniversary gift from about 20 couples who had attended a party for us. On the days we were dialing I was hoping it would be worth the work............... IT WAS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                  1. re: Midlife

                    How far ahead were you dialing? A few years ago I tried, calling two months before the planned trip. When I actually got someone on the phone, she said there was a six-moth waiting list! Next trip to the area I used the hours of dialing method many months ahead and then gave up.

                    Does anyone know if it's this hard to get into Per Se?

                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                      Their current res policy is that you have to call two months ahead of the calendar date (ie-the 18th of September for the 18th of November). We got through, eventually, on all three days we called, but the first two days we were told they had booked up and could only take a wait list res.

                      If you're close enough for it to work for you, they DO get cancellations and re-book 48 hours ahead, though I don't know how their wait lists affect that availability.

                      1. re: Midlife

                        About four years ago I used OT to reserve at the FL. I don't recall how many nights I had to try for it, but making the request as soon after midnight as possible seemed to be the key. I.e. starting to try to reserve at 11:58 waiting for it to be the next day.

                        And yes, other restaurants do decide for themselves how many tables they want to offer on OT, so if you have a large party or want a particular time, it is worth calling the restaurant.

            2. re: Midlife

              I've looked on Open Table and seen that there were no reservations available at a given restaurant between 6:30 and 9:30, then walked in at 8 with no reservation and got seated immediately.