A blog about food and cooking by Chris Norris

Does OpenTable Suck (away profits)?

While planning a recent dinner outing to Incanto in the Noe Valley of San Francisco, I was struck that the restaurant has an electronic (web-based) reservation system that is NOT OpenTable.  Incanto is run by Chris Cosentino, a two-time contestant on Iron Chef, who specializes in serving up all parts of the animal as part of the menu.  In fact, one of the dishes we had on a recent visit was a salumi made from nothing but the ears of a pig.  While I wouldn’t exactly go out of my way to order that again, it was certainly creative and did it’s part to make full use of the animal.

But I digress…

On Incanto’s web site is an interesting essay on why OpenTable is NOT good for restaurants.  Their theme is that OpenTable doesn’t bring NEW business to the restaurant, but instead diverts over $10/table away from the restaurant (or drives up the prices the patrons pay).  Further, the customer’s direct interface to the restaurant is weakened or broken and replaced by OpenTable as the middle man taking their cut.  In even a small restaurant that serves 60 covers a night, OpenTable’s fees could easily be $200/night based on averaging 20 tables and using the Incanto estimate of $10/table paid to OpenTable and assuming every table is booked through OpenTable.  For a restaurant open six days a week, that turns out to be about $5,000 a month, or $60,000 a year.  That’s probably as much or more than many head Chefs are paid!

Here’s another way to think about it: Would you pay $10 directly out of your own pocket to book a table through OpenTable?  I know I wouldn’t.  But somebody has to be paying the middleman, and it’s either happening by driving restaurants out of business, or your paying for it through increased prices on the menu.  Read the article yourself here: Is OpenTable Worth It?

And let’s start picking up that phone next time we book a reservation at our favorite restaurant.

– Chris

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