OpenTable Beefs Up Offerings to Consumers

Online restaurant reservation service OpenTable is boosting its online mobile offerings to consumers, acquiring Ness Computing, a mobile personalized restaurant recommendations platform, and launching a pilot program for mobile payments to about a dozen operations in San Francisco, where OpenTable is headquartered.

Launched in August 2011, Ness takes a turn from Pandora and Netflix, recommending restaurants to consumers based on their previously disclosed preferences on social media or given directly. Prior to being acquired by OpenTable, Ness had added the reservation service to its current version.

OpenTable is looking to leverage “the Ness team's expertise to enrich the experience for diners and deepen the relationship between restaurants and their guests,” says Joseph Essas, OpenTable’s chief technology officer.

The mobile payment program has been in testing mode since last July, soon after OpenTable had acquired JustChalo, which reportedly was in the process of developing on a mobile payment app.  Diners payusing OpenTable’s iPhone app, allowing the company to capture info on what the customer is ordering—feeding right into the recommendation services it is now offering through Ness.

Moving into the mobile payment space puts OpenTable in direct competition with companies such as Cover and Dash, as well as PayPal and Square. With these two latest developments, OpenTable has the potential to control both the beginning of the dining out process—making the reservation—and the end, when payment takes place.

The company is on an acquisition tear, gobbling up in 2013 Foodspotting, a search engine for specific restaurant or types of food, in January; JustChalo Inc., a mobile technology company,in June; rival bookings operation Rezbook from Urbanspoon in July; and Quickcue, a mobile waitlist technology provider, in December.

OpenTable also reported its fourth quarter and 2013 earnings, revealing its total revenues were $190.1 million in 2013, up 18 percent over 2012 revenues of $161.6 million. Fourth-quarter 2013 North American revenues totaled $44.7 million, a 22 percent increase over fourth-quarter 2012. 

Its North American installed restaurant base as of December 31, 2013, totaled 23,824, a 20 percent increase over the previous year. Seated dinerstotaled 39.8 million, a 33 percent increase over fourth-quarter 2012.


By Joann Whitcher

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