Digital

OpenTable wants to make your next restaurant visit even more personal

Aug 03, 2012 9:19 am

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From online travel agency hotel bookings to online dining reservations, travel and hospitality companies are digging into their vast data collections to get smarter about customer behavior. If the server can’t remember your favorite dish, the data analytics system will.

— Dennis Schaal

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The majority of OpenTable users eventually will be making their dining reservations from smartphones or tablets, and the restaurants will probably have records of customers’ past menu choices to personalize upcoming visits.

Matthew Roberts, CEO of the San Francisco-based online dining reservations company, described such a scenario as he outlined how the company plans to get more personal, analytical and mobile.

Key to the analytics and personalization push was the hiring last month of CTO Joseph Essas, according to Roberts, who touted the new CTO’s experience during OpenTable’s second quarters earnings call August 2.

Essas most previously was CTO of dating service eHarmony and before that served as vice president of engineering at Yahoo.

“Joseph’s experience at eHarmony leveraging data, leveraging — figuring out how to take all the information that you gathered and use it to create a very compelling user experience that gets modified and tweaked over time to be responsive to changes in trends and devices, et cetera, is very, very relevant for us, and we’re looking forward to seeing his impact working with our incredibly talented development team to put some new mobile products out there…” Roberts said.

Restaurant reservations on the go

OpenTable, which saw 28% of seated diners sourced from mobile devices during the second quarter, up from 25% a year earlier, plans on leveraging its user data to enable restaurants to personalize the dining experience for their guests, Roberts said.

“A key part of personalization is enhancing your experience by adding a social layer,” Roberts said.

“A cornerstone of our new products across platforms and devices will be to embed the social graph data and national behaviors into the dining discovery experience,” he added.

Diners get mobile and so do restaurant managers

In June, OpenTable introduced a new feature, Remote Manager, for its restaurant customers and the tool highlights both the mobile and personalization trend.

With Remote Manager, restaurant managers, using mobile devices, can access booked reservations, review performance metrics and update guest records, Roberts said.

Thus, the restaurant manager, who might be checking operations from an off-site location, would be able to ensure that a regular patron will be offered his or her favorite bottle of Cabernet, and can make arrangements to save the Mediterranean Branzino in sea salt for the favored guest.

On the consumer front, Roberts confirmed that OpenTable will be integrated into Siri, Apple’s voice messaging and seach service, although he didn’t provide details about what’s in store.

Meanwhile, OpenTable announced the acquisition of Treatful, which provides a service enabling people to purchase restaurant gift certificates.

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