If Google is using the "wisdom of the crowds" to determine how it arranges restaurant information in search results then in a lot of ways it believes professional reviews, and especially those from its Zagat franchise, trump user reviews. But when it gets down to displaying the text of diners' reviews, Google unfairly believes that its own consumer reviews are the fairest of them all.
OpenTable hasn't shown progress with international expansion as fast as its parent company, the Priceline Group, first anticipated. While the Group invests in revamping OpenTable's product, the app update is only available in certain English-speaking markets. It is building up user reviews and will have to get more multilingual to trigger more-robust growth.
Given the fact that Yelp acquired SeatMe a couple of years ago, it was only a matter of time before the Yelp partnership became as stale as yesterday's bagels. With Yelp, Priceline's OpenTable, TripAdvisor's The Fork, and countless startups such as Reserve pushing ahead, the competition in the restaurant reservations sector will only get more heated.
As is the case with the Priceline Group's handling of Kayak, it is clear that Priceline isn't doubling down on investing in OpenTable. With Booking.com the parent company's overwhelming priority, the international growth of OpenTable will take place at a measured pace, opening opportunities for others.
Developments at OpenTable have been almost as quiet as a library while the restaurant reservations platform has been in investment mode. The acquisition of a dining reservations platform in Australia is obviously a geographic play.
Priceline, Expedia and Yelp are investing heavily in restaurant reservations technology, which soon may have to accommodate dining establishments selling meals -- and not just the reservations -- in advance.
Restaurants, attractions and vacation rentals are just 12 percent of TripAdvisor's revenue but that number is going to get a lot bigger in the future.
Travel tricks coming soon to a wrist near you.
The OpenTable redesign is meant to counter the dreaded commoditization curse. There's a lot more money and value in being an integral part of the dining experience for consumers and widening the business relationship with restaurants than merely being a reservations platform.
Don't expect the buying binge and consolidation in online travel to slow down any time soon. Expedia, the Priceline Group and TripAdvisor all intend to keep on acquiring puzzle pieces in 2015. HomeAway anyone?