OpenTable is a Marketing Nightmare

September 26, 2016



Short Version: OpenTable sucks.

Long Version:

One thing that we constantly promote here at Yelling Mule is the ability to track your online efforts and ROI. There are dozens of really great analytics tools (outside of the obvious Google Analytics) that can tell you everything you need to know about the Users on your website and where they’re coming from.  To setup Conversion Tracking, it’s VERY easy, which is why I’m so surprised by OpenTable and their inability to do certain things.

As someone with multiple family members owning restaurants and performing marketing strategies with tons of other restaurant owners before, there’s been a common dislike for OpenTable.  Usually it’s the whole “they’re taking a big cut of my business with every reservation,” which I get:

– Setup Cost = $1,295 (Software requirement)*
– Monthly Fee = $199/mo*
– Featured in Dining Guide = $99/mo (in addition)*
– Reservation Fee = $0.25-$2.00/person (depending where it comes from)*
– POP Marketing Program = $7.50/reservation*

* fees may have changed recently

I can see why restaurant owners aren’t thrilled about this… Well that’s just them, what about us marketing people trying to show them our value and strategies actually working?! I think we’re a little passed the “Well… did your sales go up?” approach.

Post Conversion Redirects

All OpenTable reservations need to be booked on the OpenTable website OR within their application, so from your website you’ll need to redirect every user away from your website, which is a terrible practice.  Ideally you want Users to do everything on your website.  This is similar to how some ecommerce websites redirect over to PayPal to do a transaction; the only difference is PayPal will send you back to the website after, OpenTable on the hand DOES NOT ALLOW FOR REDIRECTS AFTER BOOKING. I think you see where I’m going with this, where traditionally you would have a “Thank You” page or conversion page allowing you to up-sell with gift cards, or get social media engagement/growth, etc.  By not having this ability, it ruins everything with conversion tracking…

Conversion Tracking

Most companies setup Google Analytics these days (finally), which is great, however most never setup Conversion/Goal Tracking.  It might seem difficult at first glance, but it’s very easy.  OpenTable unfortunately doesn’t allow for Conversion Tracking because all actively happens on their website and they don’t allow redirects after a reservation is complete.  I’ve spoken with numerous OpenTable reps about this and it’s the same “we’re working on it” answers.  They allow AdWords Tracking, but that requires you to SPEND MORE MONEY on something that should be free and easy to setup.  I’m all for Google AdWords, but that shouldn’t be mandatory to tell me how many people are booking reservations from my website vs social media efforts.  It’s almost 2017 and  a company with over $200,000,000 in Revenue isn’t providing a very simple feature that would lead to MORE business because marketers would recommend them.  If OpenTable wants to take the NFL/Roger Goodwell approach and try to be everything for restaurants, that’s fine, but it’s not good for restaurants who are trying to run calculated marketing efforts.

This would be nice… BUT OpenTable doesn’t want you to know where your reservations are coming from, unless it’s 100% through their “marketing” programs. Here’s what your Conversions should look like (this is an example of a seasonal business):



OpenTable sucks for marketing people, however it does have value as a restaurant owner.  In some cases you’re getting people you wouldn’t normally get to make a reservation, however it’s going to cost you.  The restaurant business has always been a guessing game with marketing and what might drive more business, and to some degree OpenTable wants to keep it that way and look like the only sure answer to owners. By not allowing Conversion Tracking, OpenTable leaves itself open to competitors entering the space and offering more marketing ammo.