Imagine your perfect night out. Perhaps you’re heading to your favorite French cafe or trying out a hot new restaurant in town.
Your perfect night probably doesn’t include sitting around in a waiting area for an hour until a table opens up. That’s why making a reservation is such a brilliant idea, and why reservation services are thriving.
OpenTable launched its website back in 1999 and it still dominates the online reservations game. You can book a restaurant through OpenTable.com, but frequent diners should check out the free OpenTable app.
The app smoothly translates the website experience to mobile. It’s not just about saving your place at the table. It’s also about discovering new restaurants and exploring cuisines.
How to book a reservation with the OpenTable app
Once you’ve installed the OpenTable app, you will see several different ways to find a restaurant. If you know the name, you can just look for it using the search bar.
The app also suggests available restaurants for the time of day. For example, I set my location to Albuquerque, New Mexico and saw tons of restaurants with available times for lunch. The app suggested everything from Italian to a steakhouse, so there was a wide range of options.
Keep scrolling the app to browse by cuisine or explore the wider area of restaurants around you. You can customize your search for specific reservation times, restaurants, or cuisine types by tapping on the Search option. Click on a restaurant to see photos, read reviews and scope out the menu.
The app is nicely straightforward. To make a reservation, you’ll need to sign in with Google or Facebook or OpenTable. You can create a new OpenTable account if you don't have one.
The app will walk you through the reservation process, including choosing a time, the number of guests and even the type of table you want to reserve. You can choose to get a reminder as your reservation approaches.
OpenTable’s no-show policy
If you can’t make your reservation for any reason, OpenTable encourages you to cancel it as soon as possible. You can do this in the app by tapping on the Reservations section on the app’s home page.
Try not to make a regular practice of this. "No-shows are quite disruptive to a restaurant's business, so if any user accumulates four no-show reservations within the same 12-month period their OpenTable account will automatically be deactivated," OpenTable says.
The cancellation process is pretty simple for most reservations, but there may be some exceptions. Some restaurants require your credit card information before accepting a reservation.
If this is the case, you will get a very specific message about how cancellations work so there won’t be any surprises. These restaurants may charge a fee if you fail to cancel your reservation within a certain amount of time.
The other side of OpenTable
OpenTable says it works with over 51,000 restaurants. It may dominate online reservations, but restaurants have to pay to play, so not every establishment in town is available through the service. You may have to do it the old-fashioned way and book a table by phone for some restaurants.
Some high-profile restaurants in big cities have defected to Resy, a competing service. If you don’t find the restaurant you want on OpenTable, check Resy or pick up the phone.
OpenTable’s large selection of restaurants and its easy-to-use and informative app are a compelling combination. Whether you dine out a lot or just want to reserve your spot for a special occasion, it’s worth a look.
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