Opentable is an online service for making restaurant reservations. It’s the market leader in the space, owned by Priceline.
You can search for a specific restaurant and make a booking or search an area and find restaurants that have availability for when you’d like to eat, near where you want to eat, and for the number of people in your party.
Historically they would give you a $1 rebate on most bookings, though restaurants being promoted might rebate $10. Until two years ago they’d send you a check when you redeemed your points, you could use it to pay for a meal or just deposit it in the back.
Then in August 2015 they started making you pick the restaurant you’d use a reward at from a limited set of restaurants where presumably OpenTable was paying less than face value.
Those limits are disappointing. And OpenTable says “We’ve heard you!” So they’re devaluing again. You will be able to use your points at more places, however:
- New points expiration. You need to have activity in your account every year to keep it active. Starting March 31 unredeemed points will also expire after 3 years.
- Less value for your points. 100 points won’t always equal $1 in fact you may only get half the rebate as before.
The full value of the Reward Card you will receive when you activate a Dining Reward will vary according to the restaurant, date and time of the reservation you choose. For example, the following number of Dining Points generally translate into the following Reward Cards:
- 2,000 Dining Points = $10 or $20 Reward Cards
- 5,000 Dining Points = $25 or $50 Reward Cards
- 10,000 Dining Points = $50 or $100 Reward Cards
You’ll also be able to redeem for Amazon gift cards or donate points, presumably at a less favorable rate.
- 2,000 Dining Points = $10 or $20 Reward Cards
- More cumbersome to use your points. Instead of just a check, or a restaurant gift card to use whenever you wish, now “you must make a new reservation on OpenTable to redeem your Dining Reward and activate your Dining Reward at the time you make the reservation.”
Ironically they’re making their customer loyalty program less valuable and more challenging to use at a time when they’re increasingly facing frustrated restaurants and new competition in the reservations market. OpenTable’s leverage is its scale. It has lots of consumers searching for restaurants. Today a restaurant can use another service to make bookings, but those services aren’t also driving significant new business to a restaurant from guests who don’t already know where they want to eat.
OpenTable may start to give up that advantage, although not right away, once it starts to frustrate those customers.
In the meantime, the best advice for leveraging OpenTable still applies.
- 1000 Point Restaurants
Some restaurants offer 1000 points instead of 100 for making a booking — often it’s new or struggling restaurants, they’re willing to incentivize the visit. The idea is you might see they’re more rewarding and decide to book them instead of a competitor.
Interestingly, some restaurants use Opentable to manage their own website’s online bookings. But if you visit those restaurants’ websites first, cookies may get left on your computer that interfere with points. (If you make your reservation through Opentable, but starting at the restaurant’s website, there’s usually no points-earning).
And with 1000 point restaurants, you usually only see the 1000 point offer if you are searching for restaurants in a neighborhood — if you search for the restaurant directly it will usually just show 100 points (since they don’t need to incentivize you to choose them, the idea being you likely already have chosen them).
- Make Reservations at Restaurants You’re Headed to Anyway
I have the Opentable app on my phone (and before I had an Android phone, would visit the Opentable mobile website on my Blackberry). Walking to a restaurant I might make a reservation, even if I know the place is empty. Not planning ahead, but I still want to capture the points. And of course the points are stackable with other restaurant rewards such as Rewards Network, the company which manages the dining programs associated with airline and hotel chains (which I still insist on calling iDine, though at least got beyond referring to it as Transmedia..).
- Earn OpenTable Points For Your Free Hotel Breakfast
Many hotel restaurants offer Opentable points. Even if you get free breakfast in the restaurant as a loyalty program member or because of your room rate, you can make an OpenTable booking at the hotel restaurant and earn points for your free/included breakfast.
- Don’t Rely Exclusively On OpenTable for Your Reservations
Opentable doesn’t have access to all tables at all restaurants. Some restaurants ‘block’ key times from being booked via Opentable, I have to imagine it’s because it costs them money (to pay to Opentable) to take reservations that way, and they expect to be able to fill their seats without bringing in reservations through this channel. So you need to call the restaurant.
Make the reservation for an earlier time, ring up the restaurant to change the time to the one you want that’s restricted to direct booking. You’ll still get the points if the restaurant changes the reservation time (because it was still made through OpenTable) but not if they cancel the reservation and make a new one.