Mobile Commerce

OpenTable Mulls Surge Pricing For Last-Minute Reservations

It used to be that a well-timed $20 bill slipped to a maître d’ would get you the corner table in your favorite restaurant, but OpenTable’s latest Uber-inspired proposal could have that age-old palm greasing take place entirely on your smartphone.

In a blog post, Vannie Shu, global product marketing director at OpenTable, explained that the restaurant reservation app would be rolling out a “Premium Reservations” service to allow users to make last-minute reservations for a fee. Already likened to Uber’s controversial surge pricing feature, OpenTable’s Premium Reservations is supposedly based on research showing a willingness to pay among a subset of OpenTable users.

“When research revealed that many OpenTable diners are willing to pay for last-minute, prime-time reservations at popular restaurants, we launched into exploration,” Shu wrote. “We’re excited to see whether OpenTable’s Premium Reservations can help you grow revenue and delight valuable guests seamlessly. 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.”

OpenTable will only open the Premium Reservations program to a strict subset of users at first. Only iPhone owners with Apple Pay capabilities in New York City and surrounding areas will be eligible to book the fee-based reservations. Shu did note that if this pilot program goes well enough, OpenTable may expand the service to other diners and markets.

How high will the premium rates be? According to GeoMarketing, it could run about $50 extra for a table of two and $100 extra for a table of four — all of it coming in addition to the regular bill. However, OpenTable does not appear to be taking a cut of the inflated reservation rates, with all revenue going straight to the restaurant that makes the booking.

Regardless of how good their meals were, OpenTable has to be hoping that its Premium Reservations program doesn’t leave diners with a bad taste in their mouths.

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