OpenTable Begins Testing ‘Surge-Pricing’ Type Option For Coveted Reservations

The 'Uberfication of Everything' is expanding as the dining discovery app challenges other premium 'concierage' services.

A "Premium Reservation" for 2 at NYC's Cosme will cost $50 on top of the final dining bill.
A “Premium Reservation” for 2 at NYC’s Cosme will cost $50 on top of the final dining bill.

After months of careful user surveys and consultation with its restaurant clients, reservation app OpenTable is starting to test how desperately consumers want a desired seat at a hot dining spot at the last minute with a “premium pricing” option.

In a blog post aimed at restaurants, Vannie Shu, who leads global product marketing for consumer platforms, content, & discovery at OpenTable, writes,”With costs continuing to rise, many restaurants are looking for creative and simple ways to grow revenue, while continuing to deliver great hospitality. We know all restaurants face challenges- even the most popular ones.”

A quick glance at the Premium Reservation choices on OpenTable on Monday morning shows dinner slots upscale Flatiron Mexican restaurant Cosme already sold out through the week. (A table for two costs an extra $50, while a table for four asks for $100, all on top of the bill). However, a table for two on Wednesday evening shows early times (around 6:30) and later periods (after 9:45) available for free under OpenTable’s regular reservation feature.

OpenTable is mostly aiming the premium feature for Fridays and Saturdays. It’s similar to other booking options from Reserve, which charges a  base $5 “concierge fee” for tables; if one is not readily available, Reserve allows users a separate “bid” option for access to high-demand tables at a particular date and time.

In OpenTable’s post, it positions the premium option for restaurants as a way of generating additional revenue and as a part of the company’s larger promise of helping make the entire dining experience more fulfilling for both patrons and establishments. The company, which is was acquired last year for $2.6 billion by Priceline, notes that 100 percent of proceeds will be go to the participating restaurant.

“As the leader in restaurant reservations, our diner demand and data is unmatched, so we believe we can capture more value for prime-time tables,” Shu says. “Giving guests without the ability to plan ahead (last-minute business travelers, unexpected celebrations, etc.), the opportunity to be seated will delight those in need of your hospitality. Plus, reaching OpenTable’s most frequent diners, our app users, doesn’t hurt either. The experience for restaurants should be seamless as we integrate this into our leading table management system.”

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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.