Opentable secrets: Opentable is an online service for making restaurant reservations. It’s the market leader in the space, 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.
What’s more they offer loyalty points, most of the time you earn 100 points for a booking, that’s worth $1 because 2000 points can be redeemed for a $20 gift certificate for dining at any restaurant listed on Opentable. Greater numbers of points can be redeemed for larger gift checks, but it’s still at that same redemption ratio. So it’s always a good idea to redeem points as soon as you have enough, and use the certificates right away.
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).
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..).
Do note that Opentable doesn’t have access to all tables. 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. SitInFirst says that he will often then make the reservation for an earlier time, ring up the restaurant to change the time of his booking, and still get the points. This works 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 .
SitInFirst notes that many hotel restaurants offer Opentable points. Even if he gets free breakfast in the restaurant as a loyalty program member or because of his rate at the property, he’ll make an Opentable booking at the hotel restaurant and earn points with Opentable even for free/included breakfast.
If you hit 12 reservations in a year through Opentable, you become an Opentable VIP. I love status. I chase status. But in my experience there are no benefits whatsoever to Opentable VIP status. There are absolutely no published benefits. It’s possible, and some people claim, that a restaurant manager will see the designation and pay extra attention, presumably just because of the signal that the person eats out a lot so it’s potential future business. But the status doesn’t entitle you to anything.
It’s important to keep the reservations you’ve booked, or cancel them if you aren’t going to keep them (even in the minutes leading up to the booking time). Because enough no show reservations will lead to an account being banned from the system, although it’s not clear to me what would stop you from opening a new account. Three no shows used to be enough to get kicked off, but it’s not clear to me that it’s a defined threshold any longer.
Sometimes it’s a bit awkward walking into an otherwise-empty restaurant and having to point out to them that you have a reservation, but you want it o be logged to ensure your points post and also to avoid appearing to Opentable as a no show.
I track my Opentable points at Award Wallet but admit I don’t pay close attention to them, writing this post reminds me that I need to redeem for a $20 gift certificate.