- OpenTable announced Tuesday the launch of Premium Access, a new loyalty perk for frequent users that gives U.S. diners access to hard-to-book restaurants, according to a company press release.
- OpenTable Dining Points can now be used to book popular restaurants during peak dining times, extending on a feature that was originally introduced in November to Capital One cardholders.
- An internal company survey showed that 68% of its diners wanted greater ability to reserve these popular locations, per the release. Premium Access is available in 20 cities and has over 200 participating restaurants.
This latest rollout is another example of how OpenTable is trying to diversify its offerings to appeal to both consumers and restaurant partners. Last year, for instance, it began allowing loyalty members to redeem points at Kayak and, more recently, added buttons for pickup or delivery through Caviar, Grubhub and Uber Eats. It is also banning repeat no-show customers in the U.K. and partnering with Upserve to allow restaurant staff to receive more real-time diner information.
By adding another perk of in-demand exclusivity, OpenTable is jockeying for an advantage against giants like Google and Yelp, who have been expanding their footprints in the reservation 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.
As this competition ramps up, OpenTable’s Premium Access could position it to top-of-mind status for consumers who are craving a special occasion. It may also generate higher loyalty and usage among those consumers.
However, OpenTable isn’t alone in offering such access to exclusivity and, in fact, the platform has lost some of its market domination in online reservations to Resy, which has targeted trendier, up-and-coming restaurants. Resy, for example, has offered American Express cardholders the ability to rack up points and gain access to special restaurants and other events, and facilitated an Off Menu Week last year to showcase beta dishes at select restaurants.
Meanwhile, Mastercard recently launched a permanent international culinary collective called Priceless in New York City to showcase "immersive, multi-sensory experiences" from famous restaurants from around the world. And, American Express just added a restaurant booking tool to its mobile app, letting Platinum Card and Centurion members make reservations at more than 10,000 restaurants worldwide.
This perhaps presents a challenge for OpenTable: As more competitors launch promotions around exclusivity, the less “exclusivity” actually means. Is it a true perk to gain a hard-to-get table if other platforms are offering similar — or better — incentives?
But the biggest question is what the benefit is for the restaurant partners. Does this saturation of exclusive perks diminish their differentiators, the very attributes that make them popular? That answer should become clearer as these reservation platforms with millions of users (OpenTable seats more than 29 million diners a month alone) continue to roll out exclusive benefits.