Why OpenTable.com Sucks

open-table sucks

May 4th was Lissette’s birthday. A week previous, I had reserved a table at our favorite restaurant through their website which uses the Opentable.com reservation service. At that time I had no idea what Opentable.com was (more on that in a minute).

Our restaurant experience was very disappointing; service terrible, food plain, we didn’t even get the table that I had requested. We left after the main course, deciding not to waste money on dessert and coffee. We had been to Pyrus Bistro (the name of the restaurant) regularly for special occasions so we were familiar with the food. Something was terribly wrong that night.

Above: How to handle poor restaurant service

The next day I received an email from Opentable asking about our experience at Pyrus Bistro and asking if I could write a review. So I wrote a negative, but polite, review detailing our experience.

A week later, out of curiosity, I checked to see if my review had been posted. It hadn’t. I waited a few more days. Still nothing. So I wrote to Opentable.com, asking them why my review had not been posted. 2 days later they still haven’t replied (they’re supposed to reply within 24 hours). I smelled an odor, namely that universally refered to as the smell of Bullshit.

I decided to find out more about Opentable.com.

The company is a public company, started in 1999 in San Francisco, which has partnered with approximately 16,000 restaurants (mostly in the US but also internationally). It is the most widely used Online reservation system in the world. How do they make their money? They charge the restaurants for each reservation made through their website. In return, Opentable markets the restaurants that use their system through reviews (like mine, or should I say unlike mine?) and through point rewards for diners that regularly use Opentable. In other words, their clients are the restaurants – not you and me – and they have a mutual interest in positively marketing their partner restaurants so that the public a) wants to go to those restaurants and b) uses the Opentable online service to reserve your meals at those restaurants.

In other words, Opentable doesn’t like negative reviews like mine. Did my review just simply fall through the cracks and not get posted? Maybe. But I very much doubt it. I’ll bet most people write a review then forget about it, not bothering to check if it has ever been posted. I’ll bet I’m in the minority of people who both a) check to see if it’s been posted and b) actually writes the company to ask why it hasn’t been posted. And that makes me upset. Why? Because it’s the typical corporate manipulation that we’ve become accustomed to and why people don’t trust big business.

People, don’t allow yourself to be treated like sheep. Next time you click on a restaurant website and you see the Opentable reservation system pop up, just note the restaurant’s telephone number and reserve by phone instead. Booking online just takes money out of the restaurant’s pocket. Screw you Opentable.

 

PS. Update: Opentable wrote me back May 31, stating that my review was “in the queue”. It was posted a few days later, almost a full month after posting my review.

 

Related

Very good reference on how Opentable operates

Humoristic post on Getting “dumped” by Opentable

What some restaurants think

 

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Comments

  1. anonymous_eater says:

    I hope this gets publicized more. Actually, I am surprised more people are not more suspicious about Open Table by now. You said it all beautifully in your (very accurate) article. I wanted to add one thing. Reservations. Open table plays that age-old, tired game of, you know, 4:30, 5:00 (big gap) 9:30, 10:00. But when you call the restaurant, what a surprise, they have other more normal times available. I am smelling exactly what you are smelling, and it is making me lose my appetite!

    • Thanks very much for your comment. It’s not my usual type of post – but I get really upset by big corporations that manipulate people. We don’t see Opentable much here in Canada, this was actually my first experience with the company. But I really wasn’t impressed.

  2. I hope more people think hard about opentable. Last night for my birthday we booked reservations through them. They confirmed the reservation the day before in their typical email reminding us. We arrived there to find the restaurant closed for renovations. I researched it more and found out the place had been undergoing renovations for 3 weeks and had been planned to be out for several more weeks. It was not an unexpected closing. Yet Opentable took the reservation and apparently has NO checks to make sure the place is even open. So we wound up eating a burger as the nicer places in New Orleans were already booked for Friday night.

    I am going back to calling the restaurants, because as the above posted noted…they leave big gaps in booking. They must be trying to sell their service as a way to fill the less than desirable dining times.

    • I’m sorry, that sucks. I don’t know who’s responsible for that – the restaurant must have to somehow alert Opentable that they’re undergoing reservations.I would suggest writing a review on Tripadvisor for the restaurant telling your story and suggesting patrons to skip Opentable and to call instead. Always better to speak to a human.

  3. I’ve used OpenTable, but I had no idea how it actually worked. Plus, I find it’s often easier to call the restaurant, but anywho…
    I personally would not put much stock in an OpenTable reivew, when there are better sites for reviews that I can trust more (like TripAdvisor for example).
    Is it really that big a deal to have a person take calls for reservations?!?
    Heather recently posted…Eating a Zambian Lunch in 5 StepsMy Profile

  4. Eric Soleri says:

    I tried three restaurants tonight with open table for 7.30PM.
    Not a chance I was informed. One restaurant that I called
    did NOT pick up. The other two had tables for 7.30. Open Table
    is a sham (imho)

    • I’ve been hearing a bit of that, seems like they don’t update the restaurant status and that people are making reservations and going to the restaurant to find that it’s closed. Technology is great when it works, but it just stinks of incompetency when it doesn’t. Thanks for your comment.

  5. Interesting.
    Laura recently posted…In Search Of Nessie. Loch Ness and the Scottish HighlandsMy Profile

  6. I really enjoy the convenience of OpenTable, but I had an experience identical to yours when I left a negative review.
    Laura recently posted…Total Relaxation at the Islands of SiankabaMy Profile

  7. Interesting dilemma here. It’s no wonder most restaurants on Open Table get such high reviews. It’s actually really difficult for me to pick a restaurant based on Open Table. So I don’t actually read the reviews on it. And, I’ve never written one on there either. I usually use Yelp and then make a reservation via Open Table. They do give out cash just for making reservations after all. However, I totally get your frustration.
    Sherry recently posted…Washington D.C. Monuments by MoonlightMy Profile

    • So you get some money back but otherwise Open Table totally useless? As consumers we all have to make choices – but I personally won’t give my business to a company that obfuscates or smudges for the sake of corporate betterment on the backs of both the consumer at large as well as small restaurants. A company like this grows and pretty soon all restaurants have to sign on to stay competitive in their market. And then one day the consumer wakes up to realize that yes, reviews are useless, or that they are making reservations for restaurants that have been closed for the last 3 months due to renovations. And that the ‘cash’ that they are getting back is in fact built into the pricing model. Then we complain about companies that take over a market place and become de-facto monopolies…

  8. Do you always leave a positive review whenever you received good service? Or just the one negative time? Just wondering if a “good” review got lost as well?

  9. Filippo47 says:

    Had a terrible experience at a Restaurant Upstate New York this past Thanksgiving.,which I had booked through Open Table. I wrote my review, as I always do, and it was never posted. When I enquired with Open Table, they told me my review had been taken down because I had mentioned the name of our server ( who, by the way, was the only positive aspect of our evening). and that constitutes a violation of their policy. I pointed out to them the many reviews in which the name of the server is mentioned and are regularly posted. Still waiting for a reply. By the way the place is part of Relais & Chateaux: might that have anything to do with the situation?
    I wrote the same review for Tripadvisor and it was posted within a few hours.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Great comment, exactly my point. The problem is that Opentable has a stake in those restaurants – TripAdvisor doesn’t. So I don’t believe Opentable to be impartial…Glad to see others questioning things as well.

  10. First reason you did not get your requested table is that OpenTable makes reservations despite the places current resos. It actually sucks for restaurants.
    Second is because you are the ultimate passive aggressive. this whole experience occurred without you saying something in the moment. Only to get home write a review, continually check the status of said review, Follow up on it, write a second blog post/review about OpenTable. Then when your issue is solved you continue to complain.
    Let’s see if this review stays up on your site?

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      So the best thing you can do after reading my post is criticize my review and call me “passive aggressive”?
      You’ve entered your url as Opentable. Am I to assume you work there?
      “Saying something in the moment”. Do you do that? Most people don’t. We decided to just walk out. But since OpenTable prompted me to review I decided to. So why only publish it after I complained? Trip Advisor doesn’t do that. Yes, I complain because I don’t think it’s honest business practice to not post both positive and negative reviews. I’ve made a few comments on their business practices which you don’t address. Instead you focus on me and my review. As a customer am I not entitled to a review when I’m paying $150 for a meal?

      If you do work for Opentable maybe you should work on your customer relations skills.
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Our 60 Favorite Photos from 2016My Profile

    • WAAAAAAAAAH!!! Do you work for Open Table, by any chance? 😉

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