Restaurant guest management platform OpenTable today announced two new initiatives aimed at the restaurant reopenings that are slowly starting to happen across some U.S. states. In a news post, the company outlined a few new enhancements to its platform it says will help restaurants manage new capacity regulations and make it easier for businesses to take reservations.
Whether they open now or at some later date, restaurants across the U.S. will have to contend with new social distancing guidelines, some mandated by state governments and others provided by groups like The National Restaurant Association. For example, one of the guidelines recently released by The Association states that restaurants should “update floor plans for common dining areas, redesigning seating arrangements to ensure at least six feet of separation between table setups.” Smaller party sizes and reservations-only businesses are also recommended.
Those guidelines are great for social distancing, but for restaurants used to operating at full capacity and without restrictions around large groups, they could prove operationally challenging. Think of your standard TGI Fridays-like setting where restaurants try to fill as many tables as possible during a busy dinner rush while guests cram into the entryway to wait. Eradicating the packed waiting area scenario as well as managing the flow of guests more precisely will require restaurants to somewhat overhaul their existing operations.
OpenTable says its platform enhancements are designed to help with such issues. While the company blog post didn’t go too deeply into specifics, it noted that restaurants can quickly pivot to offering reservations and managing guest capacity and table spacing more precisely.
At its core, OpenTable is a reservations platform, which means its main business — letting guests book tables in restaurant dining rooms — has been rendered pretty irrelevant during dining room shutdowns. Today’s announcement seems a bid to reassert that relevance, and as some restaurants may have to start taking reservations for the first time in their histories, OpenTable’s tech might prove useful.
To that end, the company also announced the Open Door pricing program, which waives subscription fees for new customers through the end of 2020 and covers fees through the end of September. New customers will also get access to a 50 percent discount on cover fees from the end of September through the remainder of 2020.
OpenTable is yet-another restaurant tech company fighting to prove its worth during the industry’s current upheaval. Most restaurants, including big chains, are just trying to keep the doors open right now. As businesses slowly reopen, the tech solutions they choose to spend money on will be based how much value they bring to a restaurant’s overall operations, whether that’s making tasks more efficient or assisting with social distancing measures. Whether reservations software is something businesses flock to will depend a lot on how much consumers will want to go out to eat as we start inching our way out of this pandemic.