Monday, July 6, 2015

Why Opentable is actually a viable business

Despite even mom-and-pop hole-in-the-wall restaurants having a website and e-mail address (and probably a Facebook account), probably the number one reason why OpenTable actually works as a business model is NOT by dangling the carrot of free dining cheques in front of users. That just encourages them with positive reinforcement to actually show up for their reservations.

Without having done any actual surveys, I suspect the number one reason OpenTable works is because a lot of restaurants are absolutely lousy with online reservations.
You can e-mail them using their online form or provided e-mail, and any number of these can happen:
  • You never get a response.
    • WTF?
  • You are lucky to get a response days later.
    • WTF?
  • You get a voicemail asking you to call them.
    • WTF? I E-MAILED you because I wanted to handle this ONLINE. Why do you bother having an e-mail address?
If you call the restaurant, especially a busy restaurant, you may have to deal with:
  • An answering machine and phone tag.
  • It's so noisy over there they can't hear you anyway.
  • A conversation that could have taken a fraction of the time had you done it online.
With OpenTable, you will probably still have to deal with the above if you have special information to convey (e.g., you're all a bunch of kosher vegans; your party is a soccer team of 10+ people). But at the very least, for even reasonably large groups of 6-8, you can know for sure whether you have a confirmed reservation or not.

TIP: If the restaurant you are looking for is not on OpenTable, they might be on the similar service BookEnda.

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