A recent post to Incanto’s website answers the question often asked of the San Francisco eatery “Why are you not on OpenTable.com?” For those of you that don’t know OpenTable is a restaurant reservation service. The case against Incanto accepting OpenTable is, in summary, that OpenTable takes too much away from the bottom line and also shifts customer loyalty away from the individual restaurant, replacing it with customer loyalty to OpenTable.
Put another way, the real cost of OpenTable goes beyond just the monthly fee and the per-reservation fee. The cost is also the ownership of the customer relationship, which no longer belongs to the individual restaurant. At first glance one thinks “the restaurants are nuts to pay for the alienation of customer loyalty” and this is distressingly close to the truth.
I don’t disagree with the general principle of being able to book a restaurant reservation via the Web. However, I agree with Incanto and others that OpenTable’s lofty goals have been overrun by greed, especially now that it is a public company. If OpenTable were to place more emphasis on helping individual restaurants succeed, and encouraging loyalty to specific restaurants instead of merely its own reservation service, my opinion might be different. But for now, my advice is for restaurants to close the book on OpenTable and do what Incanto has done: offer reservations via its own website.