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Facebook and OpenTable Team Up for World Dominance in Restaurant Reservations

Written By Scott Joseph On August 14, 2013

Roccos Facebook ScreenshotFacebook and OpenTable have partnered to offer mobile Facebookers the means to make dinner reservations directly through the social medium site’s app. 

Say you’re wandering around Winter Park and you find yourself a bit peckish. So you pull out your smartphone, fire up the Facebook app and click on “Nearby Places” and “Restaurants.” Rocco’s Italian Grille shows up, and you realize that it’s Italian you’re hungry for. So you click on Rocco’s page for more information, and there, just below the opening hours is a box that will allow you to make a reservation, right there, without leaving the app. (And by the way, this feature applies only to the smartphone app — it will not work on your desktop or even on your tablet.)

Just as with the opentable.com site, the Facebook link will show only the available options for your selected date and party size. Adjust your party size, select your time and tap the button. You’re all set.

OpenTable, of course, has been a pioneer in the online reservations game. I first wrote about OT in this article that appeared in the Orlando Sentinel on September 8, 2006, when about 50 Central Florida restaurants had been signed up for the service. There are now 231 in the “Orlando” list, though that also includes restaurants flung as far as Vero Beach and Gainesville. Exponentially speaking, that’s not a tremendous increase for a seven year period.

(By the way, as you read the Sentinel article, notice the reference to the now defunct Dux at the Peabody Orlando and its then manager, one Edward Nickell, now known as Eddie and co-owner of FMI Restaurant Group and Funky Monkeys; also quotes from flog charter members Bill and Adrienne Katz.)

There have been challengers to OpenTable’s dominance, including Rezbook, which until recently was being used by Urbanspoon as its in-site reservation tool. But earlier this month Urbanspoon announced that it would go back to focusing solely on offering “quality restaurant reviews” and that it had sold Rezbook — to OpenTable.

Yelp, on the other hand, had previously been partnered with OpenTable but recently acquired SeatMe to handle reservations to Yelp-listed restaurants. However, in a press release about the acquisition dated July 18, Yelp acknowledges that its implementation of the SeatMe service may be hampered because “…the terms of Yelp’s agreement with OpenTable, Inc. could restrict its ability to fully integrate SeatMe in the manner or in the timeframe Yelp’s management might otherwise believe to be in Yelp’s best interests…”

In other words, OpenTable is closing the door on other reservation systems.

So which platform needs the other one more? Facebook has world dominance among social media sites; Urbanspoon is on its way to annihilating its competitors. 

And those restaurants with Facebook pages but without an OpenTable agreement should be watching to see how popular the reservation app becomes. And whether the savings from not using Urbanspoon — restaurants pay about $270/month plus about $1 per party member — offset the loss of business from guests who prefer the convenience of pushing the reservation link.

Those restaurants that don’t have an Urbanspoon contract will still show up on Facebook’s search results of nearby restaurants, but the reservations link will not appear. However, the restaurant’s phone number will display, so there’s always that old-fashioned way to make a reservation.

What do you think? Do you use OpenTable to make reservations, and will the new Facebook link be something you’ll employ? Leave a comment below.

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