A friend pointed me towards Table1.com, which offers yet another way to make your restaurant reservation online.
When you reserve through Table1, you’re guaranteed a discount between 20-50% off your pre-tax bill. In return, you pay Table1 a fee of $1.50 a head. It’s a bargain in theory, given what it costs to eat at even a moderately-priced restaurant these days.
But Table1 has a long way to go. The service has only about 20 restaurants signed up so far. I suspect the guarantee of a discount on every reservation will consign Table1 to offering us only those restaurants that are desperate. Indeed, all of those offered now are in the back water of NYC’s restaurant scene. I’m sure you can have enjoyable meal at many of them, but no restaurant that’s doing well will have the slightest incentive to join Table1. The site promises discounts between 20-50%, but in practice nearly all of them are at the lower end of that range.
In contrast, DinnerBroker.com has a wiser idea. Rather than promising a discount on every reservation, it offers them only if you book at off-peak times. And instead of charging a fee for every reservation, it charges only if you want certain coveted time slots (although, in that case, its $10-15 fee is higher than Table1’s). DinnerBroker also has a lot more restaurants to choose from (about 100), and more importantly, it actually has quite a few well-known ones. Since the discount isn’t mandatory, the restuarant needn’t be desperate to join DinnerBroker’s network.
If choice is what you want, OpenTable.com is your best bet. It has about 300 NYC restaurants signed up, which is still only a fraction of what’s out there, but is far ahead of the other two services. OpenTable is the only one of the three that never charges you to make a reservation, but it also never offers a discount. It’s simply a more convenient way of reserving than calling all over town.
Anyhow, I’ll be keeping my eye on Table1.com, but for now it’s not quite ready for prime time.