- OpenTable added new features to help restaurants maximize the availability of tables, according to a press release.
- New turn controls allow restaurant operators to define the minimum number of times a table will turn over by party size or table and offer booking times that facilitate that goal. Restaurants typically wait for a table to become occupied between four hours and 45 minutes, making it difficult to optimize seating.
- Customizable flow controls help control the pace of tables to prevent the kitchen from becoming overwhelmed.
Restaurants are continually looking for ways to maximize their table seating, especially as delivery becomes a more popular option with consumers. Operators bear the costs of rent, electricity, and overhead regardless of whether the tables are full. Digital orders are expected to triple by 2020 and have been growing at a pace of 23% annually since 2013, likely leaving many operators hungry for ways to try and boost waning dine-in revenue. Some experts have blamed reservation services like OpenTable for leading to an uptick in no-shows. It’s easy to book a table days in advance but some users tend to forget or flake at the last minute.
"Controlling the pace of the dining room — how often tables turn over and when to fill them again — has significant financial impact for restaurants," Jon Morin, OpenTable's VP of product management, said in a statement about the new features.
OpenTable seats more than 29 million diners through online reservations each month, according to its website, this new feature could have a dramatic impact on turn times for restaurants. Other ways that OpenTable is aiming to help restaurant operators capture more dine-in dollars is through banning repeat no-show customers, which leave restaurants eating the cost of a missed meal that someone else may have booked. If a user fails to honor a reservation four times within 12 months, they are banned. OpenTable has been expanding its features this year as well, adding buttons for pick-up or delivery through Caviar, Grubhub and UberEats. It also partnered with Upserve, allowing staff to receive more diner information and preferences in real-time.
OpenTable has stiff competition with companies like Google and Yelp getting more into the reservation and delivery space. Yelp launched its Yelp Connect feature in September, offering tools for restaurants to better communicate with prospective customers. SevenRooms added voice automation capabilities through Alexa that will allow diners to make reservations using Alexa as well as staff to check on tables and reservations, among other features.