Within the last week, the number of restaurants listed on OpenTable for Metro New York rose above 1,000.
I’ve been on OpenTable for a little over four years. When I joined, the number of restaurants available was something well under 500. (In October 2005, the earliest date captured on the wayback machine, the total was 474.)
I use OpenTable for almost all of my restaurant reservations. In the old days, you had to look up telephone numbers, make multiple calls, and wait on hold. Occasionally, either you or the restaurant screwed up, and the time they recorded (if they did at all) was different from what you asked for.
With OpenTable, a list of available tables is available instantly. Even at tough-to-book times, there are usually dozens, if not hundreds of choices. Because it’s all done electronically, with the restaurant seeing the same thing you have on your screen, errors are rare.
There are still some limitations. Some restaurants do not make all of their tables available to the system. When OpenTable says there are no tables, that might not be true. Some restaurants are nominally on OpenTable, but seldom have actual tables available at reasonable times. The perennially-booked Gramercy Tavern is an example. If you want a table there, you’d better be prepared to get on the phone at 10:00 a.m. exactly four weeks in advance.
A few well known restaurants aren’t yet on the system at all, such as Babbo and Jean Georges. These restaurants have no trouble filling their tables the old-fashioned way, and have probably decided it isn’t worth paying the bounty OpenTable charges for every reservation. I suspect they will join eventually. These days, pretty much every significant new restaurant is on the system immediately.
For every reservation you make (and keep!) through the OpenTable system, you earn at least 100 “dining points.” Every 1,000 points is worth a $10 certificate, good at any OpenTable restaurant. My current total is 33,800 points, which would cover one blow-out meal or a few inexpensive ones.
Some restaurants make 1,000-point reservations available; these are at times they have trouble filling. You’ll never see it at Gramercy Tavern, but they aren’t necessarily bad places, just unpopular times. If I’d made a point of nabbing 1,000-point reservations over the years, I could have had a lot more points accumulated by now.
If you haven’t made the switch to online reservations, it’s way overdue. Whether you dine out occasionally or several nights a week, it is far more convenient than using the phone.