Friday, August 6, 2010

Cool Technology of the Week

On Fridays I write about emerging technologies that I experience at the office and in my day to day life.

Recently, I wanted to join a colleague for an elegant meal in Washington DC which would enable us to catch up on many strategic issues during our dining experience. (We went to Nora - it was fabulous.)

A few moments after we agreed on the restaurant, an email appeared in my inbox from OpenTable with all the details - where, when, how to get there etc. Really amazing integration of email, the web, calendaring, and restaurant table availability databases.

OpenTable has created a software as a service model for supporting in restaurant and customer facing workflow that is easy to use, convenient, and timesaving.

I was curious about their business model and technology. I did some searching on the web and found a discussion forum entry that seems to explain it all. This is not an official OpenTable communication, so it may not be perfectly accurate, but it seems reasonable.

"I use OpenTable at work, so I can explain it pretty well. I believe the restaurant pays a flat rate per person, and that rate is higher for an online reservation versus a reservation taken in person or over the phone. The "high point" (a kind of coupon) reservations are actually for restaurants that want to fill tables at off-peak hours. I would imagine that these reservations are going to cost the restaurant significantly more than a normal reservation, which is why these are generally seen only at higher end restaurants.

There isn't a certain number of tables that can be booked only through OpenTable. When I make a reservation for someone over the phone, I use an interface quite similar to the one that you use online. The difference is that I can look through the whole book and decide that we can fit in another table at 7:30. So, if you look online and don't see the time slot you want, you can always call the restaurant to see if you can get a table at your desired time.

We can also take notes about your reservation (birthday, anniversary, wants a booth, needs a high chair, et cetera), and also keep permanent notes on each guest (prefers a certain waiter, always gets Fiji water, VIP, etc.). When you put a comment in online, it automatically shows up in our reservation notes. Along with that information, we also see if it's your first time at the restaurant, and if you have OpenTable VIP status."

A web-based, software as a service that supports restaurant and customer workflow. That's cool!


Bernz said...

Nora's is great. Sometimes I think that making EVERYTHING organic (including the staff's uniforms) is a bit much, but it's still pretty great. Another "commitment to the environment" restaurant in DC is Hook in Georgetown.

Opentable's business model isn't quite exactly as you describe it, but close enough. There's a pricing matrix and many different ways the restaurant can pay for the service depending on what they want and need. So it's not just a flat rate per person. The restaurant can pay a flat-rate per month or year. There's also different levels of support for different pricing.

I always thought it would be cool to have OT have a professional services division so a larger restaurant/chain can use SOA to hook their OT data into their inventory systems or POS systems. That way an owner can do real Business Intelligence on their product. In fact, I was thinking of writing a restaurant middleware. Imagine real-time waitstaff knowing that there's just one piece of salmon left and the guy who just walked in usually orders salmon. Or knowing Dr. Halamka walked in and he always gets the vegan risotto and this time the kitchen can make him some different vegan thing that's special just today.

Just like in healthcare, systems are powerful, but they're way more powerful if they talk to each other.

Deborah said...

I've used Open Table too. It is convenient, and easily accessible for anyone with an internet connection.

I love things that make life easier. :-)

Unknown said...

Saw this recently under the heading "Open Table for Healthcare":

The next step could be using this for ED(s), Urgent Care & specialty care return of patients back to their established PCPs/Medical Home.

Combine this with the developing capacity to send CCD/CCR (directly or via central portal) and we’ve got a very nicely coordinated care system.