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With Brand Refresh, OpenTable Explores Ticketing and Payment-POS Integration

OpenTable's new logo is just the beginning.

Last night, OpenTable — an industry leader in online restaurant reservations that was purchased last June by Priceline for a reported $2.6 billion — announced a brand overhaul. In addition to a new logo, tagline ("The table is just the start"), and website, the company is looking beyond restaurant reservations, its bread and butter. OpenTable is exploring how it can service restaurants and diners throughout the restaurant space, from reservations, to group events, to payments, and beyond.

OpenTable services over 32,000 restaurants in 6 countries across the globe.

Though OpenTable's growth has been staggering, the online reservations space has become a crowded place in the past few years. The company is using its virtual monopoly across the U.S. and Canada to branch out into other services. Demand from restaurants and consumers will dictate OpenTable's next move. SVP of Marketing Scott Jampol told Eater, "Not every market wants the same thing." Which explains why start-ups like Resy (which offers paid reservations at prime times) and Cover (a payment app) exist in only a handful of major U.S. cities. OpenTable services over 32,000 restaurants in six countries across the globe.

"Paying for reservations is not something that we have seen a lot of demand from our restaurants and diners at this point," said Jampol about sites like Table 8 and Resy that charge for prime time reservations. "As for ticketed reservations, there is some demand among restaurants to sell tickets for special events (like wine dinners, for example). For restaurants who want to sell tickets on a nightly basis for the entire room, this is more of a niche. There are a few restaurants currently using OpenTable for nightly ticketing (like Biscuits and Blues in San Francisco) but we are currently evaluating how we can service both these types of ticketing better."

Not all restaurants are fans of OpenTable, its prices, or the traditional reservation model. Notably, high-end, chef-driven restaurants across the country have been showing increased interest in Tock, restaurateur Nick Kokonas's (Alinea) proprietary ticketing reservations software. Other sites like review behemoth Yelp and New York City-based Reserve — which secured a few big name investors last year — are nibbling on OpenTable's scraps.

OpenTable is focusing on refining its payment app — for restaurants and diners.

In a conversation with Eater, Jampol explained that OpenTable was interested in bridging all of the little gaps between consumer and restaurant, and smoothing out the awkward interactions that exist in the dining space. Those interactions include making reservations, of course, but also: canceling reservations; noting when a large group is complete and ready for their table without having to physically check in with a host; and paying or splitting the check at the end of a meal.

Regarding cancellations, OpenTable has long offered restaurants the option to require a credit card in order to book a table, which gives the restaurant the power to charge a cancellation fee. Further, says Jampol, the company has launched staggered and timed reminders — over email and text message — and sees itself as "responsible" for educating diners about the financial hit a restaurant can take when diners neither cancel nor show up for their confirmed reservation.

Last year, OpenTable launched a payments module onto its iPhone app. Though its launch has been rocky, Jampol says the company is working with POS systems like Micros and Aloha to streamline the process of paying for a check. OpenTable hopes to liaison directly with restaurants' existing hardware so that there is no need for servers to consult an additional screen or computer. Other companies — including food delivery sites like GrubHub and Seamless — have attempted to integrate with industry standard POS systems with varying degrees of success.

Is OpenTable exploring food delivery?

Last night, OpenTable ran a survey (of about 6,000 users) that asked questions related to how diners "would like to see technology shape their dining experience before, during and after the meal," according to Leela Srinivasan VP Restaurant Marketing & Product Marketing. Among those questions were options related to food delivery. Clearly, OpenTable is exploring all of its options as it embarks upon a new brand identity. Jampol clarified the company's current position in a follow up email to Eater, "This is just an exploration for us to gauge interest and demand... we continue to look for new ways we can connect diners and restaurants but do not have plans to offer delivery at this point."

To celebrate its new brand, OpenTable is launching an initiative called #100OpenTables wherein diners in different cities can enter to win exclusive dining experiences. The full list of experiences will be announced on March 11. Until then, it's clear that OpenTable will continue looking at the ways it can use its years of data, scope of business, and existing technology to dominate the restaurant reservations and payment space.

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