At this point, group-level features are table stakes for reservations companies and are a huge part of winning the all-important group contracts.
— Kristen Hawley
What’s better business than keeping one restaurant customer happy? Keeping one restaurant group customer with multiple locations happy.
OpenTable has a new feature that gives hospitality groups the ability to view all reservation availability on one screen, in real time. Currently, 10 groups are participating in the pilot program, including Nobu Restaurants, Boka Restaurant Group, Barbara Lynch Collective, and The Broadmoor. The functionality is the first in a series of product features targeted to groups.
Dan Simons, owner of Farmers Restaurant Group, has been using the new product for about a month at his seven East Coast restaurants. He called the change a huge step forward. “It’s so much better than what we were dealing with. The hospitality is so much better with this centralized view,” he said.
It’s especially helped his telephone reservationists, who work from a central location. “I’ve had centralized phone answering for a while, and doing it without this tech is choppy. The guests know exactly what they want — a table at this time. Now we can help the guest more easily. We can say, ‘I know you wanted it at this address, but what about this address? Or what about 15 minutes difference at this location?’ You don’t have to ask the guest, ‘Would you do this if I had it?’ and then go check. This gives you all the intel.”
Based on customer feedback, 20-year-old OpenTable knew that it needed to make big changes for its larger restaurant group clients. A year ago, the company rolled out guest share functionality, sharing guest details and preferences across all of a company’s restaurants. Conversely, younger companies like Resy and Reserve were able to launch with group functionality in mind.
OpenTable’s latest feature is built on top of its GuestCenter platform, the cloud-based software that restaurants use to manage their reservations and tables. According to Jon Morin, senior director of product management at OpenTable, the new group reservation functionality went from an idea in June to workable product in August.
If it seems like OpenTable is moving faster these days, that’s because it is. “[Competition] enables us to move faster ,” OpenTable CEO Christa Quarles said at Skift Restaurants Forum in September. “I think OpenTable has been historically slower to move into the cloud but we are the largest cloud-based table management operator in the world by a pretty wide margin and so we continue to make pace and change.”
Simon said the new functionality is “probably driving more revenue,” too. With one view, it’s easier for staff to offer a different table at a different location when one restaurant isn’t available, hence fewer customers hanging up the phone during the formerly time-consuming search for an alternate reservation.
Morin said the team is currently working with pilot participants to gather feedback and hopes to launch the product nationally at the end of the year. Group features are included in the price of GuestCenter.