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Why Use Open Table?

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  • Gail Feb 28, 2012 03:13 PM

I'm curious as to why one uses Open Table. If I know the restaurant, I want to request a certain table or area. If I've never been to the restaurant, I want to talk to someone there who can help me decide on an area or table to request. I guess I just want the person to person connection rather than leaving things to chance via electronics.
Now, am I missing something regarding Open Table and it's advantages?

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  1. Easy. Electronic confirmation of the time and date that I can file away in my email folders. Ability to email the reservation to whomever I'm dining with. Ability to easily modify it and not worry that the person I'm talking to screws it up. Points (that's last; I don't really eat out often enough for that to make a difference). And I don't particularly want to wait for the right time to *call* and talk to someone. I want to do it on my time (which is more often than not, 6 am, when I do my "personal" stuff before heading off to work.

    7 Replies
    1. re: DGresh

      Ahh, sounds as if you are making business dining reservations. I see how the expedience of it works for you. I'm doing it on a personal basis now. Mostly hubby & me or occasional guests and I confess, I'm darned particular where I'm seated...full disclosure.

      1. re: Gail

        not at all. I'm just a plain old person making reservations for me and DH or sometimes including our daughter if we're visiting her at college. I guess I'm not so particular where I sit, once I decide it's a restaurant with food I want to eat. Because that's what's important to me.

        And yeah, DH and I communicate a lot by email. Weird? Maybe. But it lets him know what I'm up to :)

        1. re: DGresh

          "DH and I communicate a lot by email. Weird? Maybe."

          Nowadays, that is not all that uncommon. We often do the same, as we might not really see much of each other, for a few nights. Also, and in my case, there are at least two assistants, who can plug in the details, with both wife's iPad and IPhone, plus her Outlook.

          Hunt

        2. re: Gail

          Tell the restaurant WHERE you want to be seated. I have never had any issue with that. We also do a lot of wines, so request a larger table, where a 2-top might look OK for a party of two.

          Only issue that I have had, was when I messed up, and asked for Table 36 at Farallon (SF, CA), and I meant Table 37. My bad.

          In a few OT threads, some have complained about bad tables. I have never had anything like that. BTW - Table 36 was not bad, though Table 37 would have been better. I got, what I requested, and have gotten Table 37 a dozen times afterwards.

          I do both business, but also private, and they have never let me down.

          I have been so relieved that most restaurants seem to actually read the input, and when we arrive, after having stated that we hope to do the Chef's Tasting, and wife cannot do bi-valves, they already have an alternative for any dish, with bi-valves, just for her.

          Cannot say that ALL restaurants read the requests, and honor them, but, in my experience, the good ones certainly do.

          Enjoy!

          Hunt

          1. re: Bill Hunt

            I like the Notes section on OpenTable just for this reason. I've actually set my account to automatically note that one diner has a gluten allergy on all of my reservations. If I make a reservation over the phone, I might forget to mention my allergy, but when I make a reservation on OpenTable, I know it's already taken care of.

          2. re: Gail

            I agree with all the points DGresh made and I am not making business reservations either. Also, we do eat out often enough that we like the points system and just received a $50 GC to be used at any Open Table restaurant.

          3. re: DGresh

            Ah, I forgot the easy e-mail notification to my wife (or one of her executive assistants), or to our guests.

            Good one,

            Hunt

          4. Well, I find many reasons to use OT.

            First, I have never had a bad experience, when using them, and often have special requests, though not THAT big a set of requests.

            I can book an entire week, in moments.

            I can book overseas, without having to wake up at 3:00AM and place a series of international calls.

            I can state my requests, and any details (do wish that they allowed a few extra characters), and, to-date, all restaurants have read and honored those.

            As I might have 5 - 10 trips on the books, at any one time, I can look on the OT site, and see every reservation.

            I get the e-mail, confirming each reservation, and that helps, when I type up the itinerary.

            I do get points, but have never used any.

            I can filter the restaurants by location, by expense, or a few other criteria, on their site.

            They have never let me down.

            That's pretty close to IT for me, and others might not have had the same excellent results, as I have.

            Hunt

            10 Replies
            1. re: Bill Hunt

              ditto everything Bill Hunt said, plus OT reviews are SO much better than yelp reviews!

              1. re: Claudette

                You know, in my years using OT, I have not read a review, though do fill them in. Gotta' look at a few.

                Thanks,

                Hunt

                PS - for my reviews, I usually rely on CH, and have never been impressed by Yelp, but then do not look that often.

              2. re: Bill Hunt

                I see the advantage of using OT when you know the restaurant and can request table # such & such, but when the restaurant is new to you, I prefer to discuss table location person to person. I don't want a "table harangue" at the restaurant.
                BTW, maybe I'm old fashioned, but I also book hotels via phone so they *and* I are clear on the room size, location, rate, etc. No Expedia for me.

                Bill Hunt, just realized you are the person who helped us discover that little wine shop in Maui. You saved us from having the hassle of shippping....again thanks!

                1. re: Gail

                  Gail,

                  I had forgotten that wine shop. Thank you for remembering!

                  Now, while I use OT, and many hotel Web sites, if there is any detail, that I am concerned over, I send FAX'es, with the details. That *usually* works well, though there have been some slip-ups (always on the hotel's end).

                  When I do not know the restaurant, I just tell them what I want, and almost always get it. For table descriptions, I DO wish that OT had a few more characters in their "Comments" box.

                  Predicated on this thread, I have been thinking back to all of our OT requests, especially for seating, and cannot recall one, where they missed my request, or we did not get a great table. OK, there might have been another, and if I had known the number, would have chosen it, but that is pretty minor.

                  Even knowing the restaurant, the table number and calling, plus several FAX'es, is not a guarantee. We celebrated my wife's birthday, for 10 years, when we lived in New Orleans at what was Table # 8, in the tower, upstairs, at Commander's Palace, right across from the cemetery, where her father is buried, in the family crypt. Then, we dined with them for about 5, out of 9 years, at that same table, after we moved to Denver. She was speaking at a major healthcare event, and it was over her birthday. I called, and booked table # 8. I sent three FAX'es, to confirm, and made two calls, from Denver. When we arrived in New Orleans, I called again, as that was a very special birthday. All was OK. We arrived, and were told that "more important patrons" had arrived and requested that table, so we would have to be seated elsewhere. So much for communication, and other than some culinary events, and one reunion dinner, have not been back since. To some, 30 years of patronage is not worthy of notice. I have never had such happen via OT, though I suppose that it could.

                  Just some observations.

                  Hunt

                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    The Commander's Palace, yes I remember way before OT making res for myself and a couple of clients far enough in advance to, I thought, be safe. I was specific and yet upon arrival, we were seated in a not-so-nice area. The place was jammed and not wanting to create a scene with clients in tow, I settled. Now, I wonder if this might be their attitude. They certainly should not treat their regulars this way. Apparently the manager wasn't there or you would have been treated better. Entry level people on duty?
                    Interesting to note that you do, on occasion, follow up OT with a fax...fail safe.
                    Considering moving into the new century with OT but not with hotel res...no way.

                    1. re: Gail

                      Gail,

                      Once, it was much different. I once got 13 seated, during a really high-traffic time, just by calling, and mentioning my name. However, things DID change, and drastically. I am not sure why, but was a "victim" of that change. Well, "stuff" happens.

                      Maybe it was the number of Conde-Nast, T+L, or Southern Living accolades, that made their choice easy? I will never know, but was really peeved.

                      As far as hotels, I have had great experiences, but also very bad ones. It just depends, and on what, I am not sure.

                      Hunt

                  2. re: Gail

                    Interesting....I couldn't care less where I sit 95% of the time.

                    I like manipulating the times on OT to see what's available when, how it changes depending on how many are in the party, etc. I have time to go all OCD about deciding between 7 and 7:15 without some poor person on the other end of the phone listening to me think.

                    1. re: danna

                      You sound like me! I really appreciate not feeling like I'm bothering someone on the phone as I dither!

                  3. re: Bill Hunt

                    Agree completely with everything Hunt says. I use OT at least 2x/week...pretty much for all of our dining out, and it has never let me down. One other reason to use OT...is when on some rare occasion you are trying to book a table at a really popular restaurant...the kind that opens their books for reservations at 9:00:00 EST precisely 30 days in advance. If you try phoning them at that time you might well get a busy signal and by the time you get through, the reservation you are trying to snag may be unavailable. If you call in advance and find out precisely when their books open, you can go to OT at exactly the right time, and you'll probably get what you want.

                    1. re: josephnl

                      The closest that I have come to a "problem," has been those few occasions, where the restaurant only offers X tables/times on OT. Then, a call has gotten us what we need. That can happen, though not THAT often.

                      Sort of like looking for a room at ___ on ___ date, only to have a "no rooms available" message. Then, if we really want to do it, we call, and in all but a very few instances, get what we are asking for.

                      Still, OT is my "go-to" source, with some "backups" in reserve.

                      Hunt

                  4. A lot of the time when I use Open Table it's not to book a particular restaurant. It's more like "I'm meeting friends for dinner in Santa Monica next Thursday - what interesting options am I not thinking of, and who has availability for 4 people at 7:30 or 8:00?" What would otherwise take an hour of research and phone calls is a couple minutes on OT.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: cookie monster

                      Ditto this, but Chicago! Or even "I'm hungry now and it is 12:10, who has an open slot for 12:30?"

                    2. Once in a while you find a restaurant which accepts reservations *only* through Open Table.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: meatn3

                        Really...I've never had that happen, and I find it amazing that a restaurant would not accept a phone reservation. Goodness!!!

                        1. re: josephnl

                          I was surprised too! I first used Open Table solely because a place I wanted to bring a group for a birthday only took reservations in this manner.

                          1. re: josephnl

                            I have found this as well. Plus I have found that showing up I usually can get the time I want while at open table I may have to wait for later. Two restaurants claimed nothing before nine to reserve on OT and on phone. We decide just to show up around 8 just to see and were seated immediately. Getting a little fed up with reservations NOT being the way to go. Happened twice in the last two days.

                            1. re: melpy

                              I have encountered similar.

                              First, not all tables are opened to OT, and then some restaurants refuse reservations, when they anticipate that they will be busy. Recently, friends wanted to do a newish steakhouse. OT had zero, so they called - 9:30PM was the first availability. We arrived at 7:00PM, and were promptly seated, just like their previous visit. I inquired about that 9:30PM time, and was told that because the restaurant was so popular, they did not allow any reservations between 6:30 and 9:30, as people would come and stand in line for tables. Well, they were about 40% that night, so I am not sure how that ploy is working. Oh well, I suppose they know how sought after they are.

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                Don't you think hotels work the same way. Only certain number of rooms alloted to Expedia et al and perhaps only run-of-the-house at best?
                                Oops, this may be dumped as it is not food related...

                                1. re: Gail

                                  I would not know, as I always book via the hotel's Web site, or via telephone, at my choice of inns. It could well be, but that would be out of my knowledgebase.

                                  Hunt

                        2. Agree with much of what others have said here.

                          It's easy, it's fast. I stay up late and often times difficult-to-get restaurant reservations become available at midnight. I snatch them up. By the time the phone lines of the place open the next day, the times are gone.

                          It gives me ideas for places that I might otherwise forget about.

                          I just checked my Open Table profile. I registered 10 years ago...I have never been given a "bad" table because I made my reservation on line. But I never request a specific table when making a reservation on the phone. Unless it's a special occasion, I'm generally there for the food.

                          It is an amazing tool when you are out of town or on the fly in an unknown area. I will check to see what's available on open table, then cross check with Chowhound. In 10 years, I have never read a review on Open Table.

                          And I can make reservations from my iPhone when I am out and about and not in front of a computer. Again, it's easy, it's fast. So why not?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: valerie

                            Valerie,

                            I do often request a "special table," and almost always fill in the Comments box, as wife cannot do bi-valves. I have never had one issue, with either the table request, or the menu request.

                            As for my reservations, OT is my "first line of defense," and the phone is my second.

                            I use their European counterpart, TopTable, quite often.

                            Per your observations, I cannot recall ever reading an OT review, as I do my research on CH first, and that has always been good for me.

                            Hunt

                          2. If it's a great restaurant, who cares what table you get? Are you eager to "see and be seen"?

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: brancron

                              Well, the table CAN make a difference. It is not so much "see and be seen," as convenience. We often do a bottle of wine, plus the "sommelier's tasting," and might have 8 -10 wine glasses each. A normal 2-top will usually not work well. That is why I often book particular tables, at particular restaurants. I do not care so much where those tables are (with but a few exceptions), but how large they are.

                              There is more than one reason to request a table.

                              Hunt

                              1. re: brancron

                                brancron, you've got it all wrong. I'm way beyond the need to "see and be seen", quite the opposite. I want a secluded table with a view (if waterfront) and we're mostly dining at the beach. Just a place where my husband and I can enjoy wine and a nice meal quietly...very simple, really.

                                1. re: Gail

                                  I agree completely. At Commander's Palace, table # 8 (now # 308), it is almost totally "out of sight," and is certainly "away from the fray."

                                  Many of us here, do not need, nor do we want, to be "seen."

                                  Hunt

                              2. I've had nothing but good luck using OT. I like that I don't have to wait for the restaurant to be open to make a reservation. Only once did I end up calling, because the time I wanted wasn't available on OT, and the hostess was v. accommodating. As to particular seating, I should think if you don't like the table offered when being seated, you can just request another.

                                1. Online reservation systems are particularly useful when there are time zone difficulties and/or language issues. And, of course, you get a confirmation that can be printed off.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Harters

                                    Bottom line! Those of us who use OT most frequently agree that there are many pluses, and really no minuses of note.

                                  2. I wish everyplace would use Open Table. You can make reservations anytime, make changes easily and there's a place for special requests and other things you want the restaurant to know. If you have a party of 6 going out to dinner on Thursday night at 7, you can easily see who has open reservations. IME there is literally no downside to it. I use it whenever possible and am disappointed when a place doesn't.

                                    14 Replies
                                    1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                      +1.

                                      1. re: valerie

                                        +2

                                      2. re: Janet from Richmond

                                        This pretty much sums it up! And we really don't care about what table we get, so that factor is eliminated.

                                        I am not particularly fond of talking on the phone, and there's no ambiguity with the OpenTable interface. I have a confirmation of date, time, and location in my email. Miscommunication is a lot more difficult when OpenTable is involved.

                                        1. re: tazia

                                          I also find more issues with phone calls, and then the hold time, on an international call, while they find someone, who can actually book me. That can add another US $ 20 charge to my tab.

                                          Hunt

                                        2. re: Janet from Richmond

                                          The one downside of OT would be the cost. Assuming that 41 percent of OT's reservations came via the restaurants own website, it looks like in North America, OT generates about $1.59 in revenue per seated diner for reservations made through OT's website. That's $6.36 for a party of four -- money that has to come from somewhere. And that would be an average -- I'm sure you can find restaurants where OT's revenue per seated diner is much higher than that.

                                          1. re: nocharge

                                            Those fees could well be added to my bill, and I would not hesitate, due to convenience.

                                            I pay many "handlers," to use my credit card for certain bills, as it is worth the effort, plus the postage.

                                            I never hesitate to "pay my own way."

                                            Hunt

                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              Well, if your normal mode of dining is at a Ritz-Carlton on an expense account, paying 5 or 10 bucks for making the reservation is probably no big deal. But for a casual, inexpensive place, paying OT 10 bucks for the reservation of a four top and passing that expense on to a customer may well be a deal killer from the restaurant's point of view. For people who enjoy the convenience of OT and getting 100 points per reservation, it's easy to say that it's such a great system that every restaurant should use it, but in reality, the economics work better for some types of restaurants than others.

                                              1. re: nocharge

                                                Your point has some merit, nevertheless you must also consider that:
                                                1) during the hours/days when the restaurant has no staff on duty to accept reservations, the may well lose significant business to other restaurants which are either open, or do accept OT, and
                                                2) reservation staff answering telephones do not come without cost. I know of one restaurant which used to have a reservationist on duty from 9 am every day. Since going on OT, their reservationist comes to work at 5 pm when the restaurant opens.

                                                1. re: josephnl

                                                  1. I'm not saying that OT doesn't add value, just that it's pricey, possibly due to lack of serious competition.

                                                  2. I used to know a reservationist at a restaurant that was sufficiently successful to have several of them dedicated to answering the phones full time even when the restaurant wasn't open. If you figure that a full-time reservationist can handle 20 reservations per hour at a labor cost of $20/h, that would still just be $1 per reservation. Naively, one might have assumed that using a web-based system like OT would cost merely a small fraction of having live reservationists, but that does not appear to be the case. Of course, most restaurants aren't quite that successful and just have whoever happens to be near the hostess stand answer the phone when it rings without hiring any dedicated employees.

                                                  The bottom line is that while OT is very convenient, if it were to charge diners directly rather than the restaurant for the cost of making a reservation, it might not be quite as popular.

                                                2. re: nocharge

                                                  Well, my dining is across the board. Yes, we have done the London Ritz, and have had some expense accounts, but that is not a given.

                                                  Now, I would not use OT to secure a booth at McDonald's.

                                                  Hunt

                                                3. re: Bill Hunt

                                                  +1

                                              2. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                Janet,

                                                You make very good points, and OT, or their Euro/UK counterpart, TopTable, are where I look first. When my choice of restaurant does not show up, I look to on-line booking, in a similar fashion. That usually works, but not always. Missed a reservation to Gordon Ramsay, back in October, as the reservationist kept e-mailing me, with questions, that had been answered weeks before. Finally, she contacted me and said, "Sorry, no tables available on that night. You should have booked 2 weeks before." Well, I started the process, 6 weeks before, but that is life. I scored seats at another Gordon Ramsay restaurant, and that was that.

                                                Still, OT/TT is where I start, and it makes my life much easier.

                                                Hunt

                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                  Bill

                                                  In Euroland, as well as TopTable, we now have Bookatable (also trading as Live Bookings).

                                                  Certainly makes it easier for travellers who, like me, do not have much command of other languages (ther eare those who say I don't have much command of English, either) .

                                                  Here's the link, it may default to my county page (which is how I have it set up)
                                                  http://www.bookatable.com/

                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                    John,

                                                    I am not familiar with those services. For me, it has been OT, or TopTable, or a few very similar services.

                                                    Thank you for those tips,

                                                    Hunt

                                              3. For me Open Table is easy. It's 24/7 and you can easily email details to the other parties. If you have a special request you can always call the restaurant. Open Table has never let us down. Every once in a while I get a Gift Credit that I can use at a restaurant of my choice.
                                                I'm an old guy and I initially questioned this too. Then again, I have all of my Rock & Roll and Phil Ochs albums on a device that's smaller than my pinkie!!

                                                1. I don't like talking on the phone. I'll do it, if a place doesn't have a non-phone contact method, but if a business has a web-form/email/online booking system, I'll use it. If I have a question, I will email a business if it looks like they'd answer that before I'd call.

                                                  And I know lots of people who feel similarly. We'll call, if necessary, but we find text easier and more comfortable, and not at all lacking in "person to person connection".

                                                  It's also easier to deal with weird scheduling -- I can pull up our calendar in one window and OpenTable in the other, and find a time/date/restaurant that works with both. (We have a big list of places we'd like to try or go back to, and so often where is more flexible than when.)

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: antimony

                                                    Wonder if it's sometimes a generational thing. My 80 year old father never thinks to do anything online, only using the phone. I am going to visit him and he offered to tell me the telephone number of the Hampton Inn nearby. In a million years I wouldn't think to use the phone to make a hotel reservation! I feel pretty much the same about restaurants.

                                                    1. re: DGresh

                                                      Reminds me of our 90 y/o grandparents in upstate NY. No computer, no cable TV! They are very nice people and we love them but it is torture watching him dial, yes I said DIAL, the rotary phone to make a reservation at the local Italian chain restaurant. Did I mention we love them?

                                                      1. re: Motosport

                                                        OMG that creates such a cute visual. Please tell me he wears a sweater in the summer while doing that? (If you have 90 y grandparents, you cant be that much of an 'old guy')

                                                      2. re: DGresh

                                                        While it could well be generational, I am not THAT far behind your dad in age, yet would prefer to communicate, and especially with Europe/UK (I am in the Western US), via Web/e-mail. Saves me getting up at 4:00AM, just to make restaurant reservations.

                                                        As for hotels, I only call, if I get "No Rooms Available," on the Web site, and I do not believe them, or I have very special requests. For the latter, the last episode was a total disaster, even though my wife and I spoke with a half-dozen people, up to the GM.

                                                        With both hotels and restaurants, I have had reservations smurfed, after myrid phone calls, FAX'es and letters. It happens.

                                                        Hunt

                                                    2. Here is a reason to not use Open Table or at least don't depend exclusively on it. That is that OT can make only a certain number of reservations at a restuarant in a given time period. Real life example: we wanted to go to La Condessa, a popular place here in Austin. OT said no tables within two hours of our selected time. Well, then let's try the backup, Eddie V's. I go to OT and the wife calls. OT says no soap for our requested time but the restuarant says sure, come on in. When at the restuarant I mention this and the hostess explans to me what I said above. The restuarant can make whatever reservations they want to, while OT has parameters that might prevent you from getting your reservation. While good, it is not perfect. J.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: singlemalt

                                                        Often walking in works better than a reso anyway. Have waited less than 5 minutes at several restaurants that both OT and the life person reservationist have had unavailable.

                                                        1. re: singlemalt

                                                          If OT shows no availability we always call the restaurant. Sometime's it works, sometimes, not!!

                                                          1. re: singlemalt

                                                            As has been stated here, and in other threads on OT, they ONLY get a certain number of tables. Often, a restaurant will withhold another quantity, for walk-ins, regulars, or just to have for their reservationists. There is no way around that, but to call.

                                                            Hunt