Frugal Living 

OpenTable – Is There A Catch?

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This week is Baltimore’s Restaurant Week, which means that for $30.07 per person, you can enjoy the best that most of Baltimore has to offer each night for a week. With many of the restaurants, the reservations through a site called OpenTable, which is free to users but probably not free to restaurants. When you make a reservation via OpenTable, you get 100 Dining points; some reservations, usually for slow periods, are eligible for 1,000 Dining points. You can then take those points and convert them into dining dollars, on a 2,000 to $20 gift certificate basis. So it’s essentially a win-win for the customer, unless there’s a catch. Is there? I couldn’t find one.

OpenTable is available in many major cities and I’m interested to know if there’s something I’m missing because it looks like a no-brainer to me.

{ 16 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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16 Responses to “OpenTable – Is There A Catch?”

  1. skadoo323 says:

    Honestly I do not think there is a catch at all. I have been to the previous 2 Baltimore Restaurant weeks and even 1 DC Restaurant week. The deal is wonderful. Making reservations through OpenTable just made things a lot easier instead of having to call up restaurants to see if they have any tables available. This week I am pretty strapped with work and probably will not be able to make Baltimore Restaurant Week but next week is DC’s restaurant week and I have already made reservations for my girlfriend and I. Yeah I know it may seem that I am cheap, but hey I rather pay $30/person rather than paying for a $100 dinner for my girlfriend and I.

  2. jim says:

    I think it’s a great way to try out a new place, who cares how much it costs 🙂

  3. dong says:

    Yeah I’ve been using opentable for a while – I don’t think there’s catch. The only thing I have against restaraunt week is that the restaraunt week menu at some restaraunts is somewhat subpar compared to the usual fare. Varys from restaraunt to restaraunt where some places the quality is the same between the week and normal and other places it’s definitely not as good.

  4. Katie says:

    I love Opentable and have never had a problem even when I have had to alter reservations. It is especially helpful when my parents are in town and I am trying to find some place for 3 ppl and not at 10pm at night.

    As for Restaurant Week I love it too. I have only had 1 meal that was only blah but that was a place that you could tell really didn’t want to do restaurant week because we had to keep making sure things were on the RW menu as they keep trying to switch us into their more expensive food. My only gripe is that reservations fill up very very fast for RW week.

    Have fun.

  5. saladdin says:

    I am going to DC next week which lines up with their R-Week.
    This Opentable is new to me. Anyone in DC area have any suggestions?

    Do you pay at the web site or at the restaurant?
    Are you just “prepaying”?


  6. Interesting… is it simply a new/under appreciated reasurtant finder… Even if that is all it is I am game!

  7. skadoo323 says:

    for dc
    Personally I am going at least to Mie N Yu. The restaurant is classy (great for a date), service is wonderful, and the food is awesome!!!

  8. Amanda says:

    I’ve been using OpenTable in Chicago for a few years now, and there is no catch. We’ve gotten a couple dining checks from using it, nad have been able to use them at the participating restaurants, no problem!

  9. Foobarista says:

    The only “catch” is typically midrange and up restaurants are members; your local mom&pop eatery or $7/person Vietnamese pho house is unlikely to use it. If you already go to these sorts of restaurants frequently, it’s a no-brainer. But if you go to higher-end places than you otherwise would to get points or use gift certificates, it could cost you money.

  10. cooliojones says:

    skadoo, I agree. I wish it was $30 for the WHOLE WEEK, but I guess I would be too greedy huh? 🙂

    It’s a good way to try out new restaurants. They have something similar here in Atlanta where they give you a $30 gift card to go to a restaurant (they are betting that you will spend more, and often you will), and at the end of dinner they give you another $30 gift card to another restaurant. They do this during the summer and it really gets the restaurants a lot of visitors.

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  11. MoneyNing says:

    I don’t think there is a catch either, but I honestly have not been able to get up to 1000 points before they expire since OpenTable restaurants are usually pretty high end.

  12. Myra says:

    Open Table is a reservation website. Two catches that I’ve noticed: 1) sometimes, restaurants don’t make all their available reservations available to Open Table. So, if you can’t get a reservation, it’s worth calling the restaurant to try and get one. 2) If you’re a no-show, at some point they’ll take away your points (I think it’s something like 4 in a year, but I’m not sure). So make sure to always check in with the host so you get credited for your reservation.

  13. Yes, I do believe that restaurant pays fees for being listed on OpenTables. The points on OT does expire if you are inactive for a year ;( Harsh lesson learned! Usually with events like restuarant week (we have it in SF as well, but ours is an entire month), the some restuarants offer smaller portions to keep the cost down. But most of the participants are pretty great and I LOVE getting great food for a reasonable price.



  14. Mike says:

    I’m pretty sure Opentable charges the restaurant for each table they fill. It’s a way for restaurants to fill empty seats. If a restaurant was packed all the time, they wouldn’t use opentable, so you’re going to a restaurant that for whatever reason has empty tables. Filling those tables is huge for the restaurant–most of their costs are fixed, so their profit margins soar as they fill the restaurant.

    I’ve also found that they are pricier restaurants, so you’re also paying a high price (read: restaurant is making plenty of profit on your meal).

    So that’s the “catch”: the restaurant gets your money where it probably would have had an empty table otherwise, and pays a bit of that back to Opentable for steering you their way. That’s also why they penalize you if you’re a no show–their selling proposition to the restaurant is that they will fill those ‘open’ tables, so their whole system is designed around making that happen. Then eventually, if you use Opentable a lot and never have a no show yada yada yada, you get a dining check that once again has to be used by booking through Opentable.

    I’ve used it a bunch of times, but I think I’m a couple of reservations away from getting a dining check from them, so I suppose you could say I’ve gotten no financial benefit so far. Though for me the value has been easily booking a reservation time–I hate calling around to restaurants to find an open time, and I’m not much of an advance planner when it comes to making dinner arrangements, so having a website where I can search a bunch of restaurants for last-minute availability all at once without picking up the phone is nice.

  15. Anonymous says:

    read this,

    they don’t just use it to get online reservataions.

  16. Pat says:

    Open Table is a no-brainer for diners. Easy to navigate and a lot easier than phoning around. You can see all the restaurants that have open tables at a certain time in a certain area. My daughter worked at a very exclusive restaurant and she says that Open Table has access to all the tables.

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