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OpenTable’s mobile payments rollout launches with Smith and Wollensky

Online restaurant reservation service OpenTable launched a national rollout of its mobile payment system, starting with dozens of restaurants in New York, driving convenience for diners in an increasingly cashless world.

Diners who book at participating restaurants such as Le Cirque, Smith and Wollensky and Atlantic Grill, simply add a credit card in the OpenTable iPhone application before they dine. They can view and pay their check with a few taps.

“Diners love the pay with OpenTable feature and it’s been very well received during our pilot phase,” said Scott Jampol, the company’s vice president of marketing. “It’s a seamless experience for the diner that offers more convenience, transparency and control over when and how the check is paid.

“It’s important that the server feels really good about the process and that’s why staff training is a key component to our installation process,” he said. “It has to feel natural and comfortable for both the server and diners.  If the server is comfortable, the diner will be as well.”

Go when ready
Services that seamlessly blend mobile and in-restaurant services are seen becoming more common as nearly half all restaurant operators expect to install mobile payments within the next two years, according to the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University.

After the host seats guests at OpenTable, the server sees that the guests have paid. After the server closes the check, the guest views and pays it, receiving a receipt by email. Diners who pay with OpenTable simply get up and go whenever they’re ready.

No separate app needs to be downloaded. There is no need to enter a table number or scan barcodes.

For restaurants, the system eliminates running checks and handling credit cards during peak hours, meaning faster turn times for the restaurant and greater convenience for guests.

Restaurants that sign up early will be featured throughout OpenTable’s advertising, social media and email marketing targeted to VIP diners and media.

OpenTable also helps restaurants to eliminate credit cards and cash exchange, allowing staff to focus on service.

OpenTable, which helps users discover and book a tablet at restaurants, seats more than 15 million diners per month across more than 31,000 restaurants.

The brand’s mobile solutions were introduced in 2008 and have since seated more than 125 million diners worldwide.

The national rollout is the culmination of an effort begun a year ago when San Francisco-based OpenTable began testing a mobile payment system to let restaurant diners pay for a meal through the company’s mobile application.

Aiming to take its service beyond online and mobile restaurant reservation booking, it was testing a mobile payment system in 20 select restaurants in San Francisco and planned to eventually expand to other restaurants within a year.

The list of New York restaurants offering OpenTable system, according to its Web site, includes the Atlantic Grill near Lincoln Center, an Upper West Side seafood restaurant, Le Cirque, a contemporary French restaurant, and Smith and Wollensky, an East Side steakhouse.

Competitive advantage

In June, OpenTable agreed to be acquired by Priceline for $2.6 billion in an example of how Internet travel services are looking for a competitive advantage as mobile bookings continue to grow. Priceline is looking to accelerate OpenTable’s global expansion and increase the value offered to its restaurant partners.

In addition to the New York launch, OpenTable plans to expand its mobile payments presence in San Francisco – home to its mobile payment pilot, which launched in February 2014. It plans to roll out the feature across the nation by introducing it in 20 cities before year’s end.

“Overall this is a win-win – OpenTable payments is one more way we can leverage our technology and the shift to mobile for the benefit of diners and restaurants,” Mr. Jampol said. “It’s a great new feature for our diners and therefore an opportunity to further and deepen our relationship with our diner network.

“Since we have technology in the hands of more than 31,000 restaurants and seat millions of diners through our mobile apps each month, OpenTable is uniquely suited to solve the problem of settling the check.”

Final Take

Michael Barris is staff reporter with Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.