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OpenTable rolls out in-app virtual tab, eliminating on-the-spot mobile payments

OpenTable’s newest tool allows diners to tap on the Tab feature within its mobile application when booking a reservation, inform servers of their virtual Tab and leave a restaurant once a meal is finished without having to enter payment information on the premises.

The restaurant reservation service is currently piloting the Tab payment experience at more than 75 dining establishments in Los Angeles, with a nationwide rollout expected to occur later this year. OpenTable users will no longer need to employ one-click checkout platforms while at the dinner table, as the feature will enable them to set up their Tab ahead of time and leave the restaurant at their leisure.

“With Tab, paying for a meal is easier than ever – you no longer have to touch your wallet or your phone,” said Tomer Molovinsky, product marketing, payments and marketplace innovation at OpenTable. “Diners simply notify their servers that they are paying with OpenTable Tab and leave when they’re ready to go.

“This VIP-like experience allows diners to focus on enjoying their company and meals rather than on exchanging credit cards and waiting to sign a check before leaving.”

Streamlined, on-the-go dining
To take advantage of the new feature, OpenTable users must click on the Tab feature within the booking service’s mobile app when making a reservation at a participating eatery. This allows them to set up their virtual Tab during the booking process.

Once they arrive at the restaurant, diners must inform their server that they would like to put their bill on their OpenTable Tab. This can be done at any point during the meal.

Therefore, once customers have concluded their dining and are ready to leave, they may get up from the table and walk out without having to pay for their meal via Apple Pay or manually enter in credit card information on their smartphones.

The virtual Tab feature lets them leave without touching their smartphones at all, giving new meaning to a simplified checkout experience.

Rolling out VIP experiences
OpenTable hopes that consumers will engage in the VIP-like experience that Tab offers. The feature eliminates the need to carry around credit cards and cash, and does not require payment to take place at the table, thereby leaving more opportunity for personalized service and uninterrupted dining.

Consumers in Los Angeles especially appreciate being treated like regulars at their favorite eateries, a notion that helped OpenTable select the Californian city for its Tab pilot deployment.

“Early feedback from diners has been positive,” Mr. Molovinsky said. “Diners are pleased with the ease and convenience of Tab and feel like it’s a natural extension of the OpenTable experience.

“We’re excited to continue to iterate on the experience as we continue to gather feedback and work with diners and restaurants, and we are eager to continue to refine the experience.”

OpenTable recently ramped up mobile bookings by redesigning its iPhone app, enabling users to enjoy faster visual browsing of eateries based on elements such as proximity, availability and personal favorites (see story).

Innovating within mobile payments, however, is of utmost importance to the reservation booking platform, particularly as consumers become more comfortable with using streamlined checkout options.

An OpenTable executive at eTail West 2016 revealed that the reservation service sees significant Apple Pay activations occur on a daily basis, likely due to the proliferation of iPhone users in the market (see story).

“At OpenTable, we’re continually innovating our products and features to support our restaurant partners in creating magical dining experiences for diners, including seamlessly paying for meals,” Mr. Molovinsky said.