Assigned Seating: OpenTable Lets Reservationists Choose Specific Locations Within Restaurants

“Seating Options allows us to bring in guests who may have sought an alternative restaurant to dine at otherwise,” says Lien Ta of LA's Here’s Looking At You eatery.

In the old days (“before apps”), a desperate restaurant patron anxious to get the best spot in the house would quietly but clearly slip the maître d’ a large bill to get a preferred seat.

While that practice may have fallen out of favor, OpenTable users can now start using the restaurant reservation platform to select the exact location they want to sit and dine at.

The Seating Options feature, which is currently available at 15,000 of OpenTable’s 46,000 restaurant clients, is the latest addition since OpenTable revamped its app in May.

For those restaurants that adopt Seating Options as part of accepting a reservation through OpenTable, customers can select a seat at the bar, counter, a table outside and more during the booking process.

OpenTable Lets Diners Book Their Favorite Seat in the House (Source: PRNewsfoto/OpenTable, Inc.)

Aside from giving diners greater choice of where they want to sit at the restaurant, even before they arrive, but it also increases restaurant availability during peak dining times.

Diners can now easily find restaurants around the globe offering various seating options and table types when searching for reservations across desktop and mobile web, as well as on the OpenTable iOS and Android apps. Alternative seating options are noted with a table icon on restaurant profile pages.

“With Seating Options, diners have the flexibility and freedom to make each dining experience exactly what they desire, whether it’s an awesome scene by the bar or a quiet spot outdoors,” said Joseph Essas, Chief Technology Officer at OpenTable. “It’s also a powerful tool for restaurants, who can now offer diners even more choice, while maximizing every seat in the house.”

Other recent additions intended to better accommodate last-minute diners using OpenTable include the creation of a business intelligence suite to provide the booking platform’s restaurant members with insights designed to make it easier to manage the complex science of seating.

The new software tools are part of OpenTable’s existing restaurant services program, GuestCenter. A rep notes that it was all built in-house. Both the consumer-facing app update and this latest addition from OpenTable reflects the new demands and competition in the booking space.

Despite being the largest restaurant reservation booking platform with over 25 million monthly users, the Booking Holdings (formerly known as Priceline Group) owned OpenTable has been defending the turf it’s built up during its 20 years in business from platforms such as Yelp Reservations, Reserve, Resy, and even more niche offerings like the pre-pay app Tock.

Among the issues Seating Options is meant to address is that restaurants’ “alternate seats” are often empty despite being highly coveted, the company says. An OpenTable rep notes that there is no extra fee for either restaurants or patrons who want to use the Seating Options function.

Aside from attracting diners who may be looking for a seat at the bar or on the patio, Seating Options allows restaurants to open up more seats, increase the number of reservations available and ultimately boost profit.

“On busy nights, we’re always getting requests to reserve bar seats,” says Lien Ta, Managing Partner of Here’s Looking At You restaurant in Los Angeles. “Seating Options make it possible for more diners to find seats at our restaurant during peak hours and allows us to bring in guests who may have sought an alternative restaurant to dine at otherwise.”

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David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.