I was horrified the first time I saw the OpenTable POP prices. $7.50 per diner for dinner reservations seemed insane. To be fair, I was primed to dislike it regardless of the cost. As any restauranteur knows there seem to be a million hands trying to get a piece of your already meager profits (if you’re lucky enough to be making money) but it is important to consider the benefits as well.
POP is designed specifically for this purpose – filling seats during “shoulder” or off-peak times. I was working for a brand-new restaurant and we were struggling to fill the dining room during peak times much less during odd hours. With a lunch check average of $25 and dinner of $40 we could afford to give away what amounted to just under 20% to OpenTable. We didn’t like it, but the pros of having people in our restaurant – the perception other diners have when you’re busy, the monetary incentives of busy staff, and the ability to run through product consistently – outweighed the obviously costly negative. A nice part of the program is you can determine the days and times you want to participate and these can be changed at any time. If you notice your book looks oddly busy on Monday then pull yourself off for the day.
OpenTable POP may bring in some customers just looking for a deal, but it will also bring in others. With the POP program, you get ideal placement with increased visibility on their website. While some patrons are looking for a deal, others are just looking for something new and different. For us, this was enough of a positive to Make POP reasonable. We made it a focus to create a lasting impression to those diners so we could turn those POP reservations into regular customers who would come back without OpenTable incentives.
Incentives to Diners:
Diners like POP reservations because they are rewarded with points they can use for gift certificates. If our goal is to create the best experience possible for our diners any added bonus for our guests (even if one step-removed from us) will increase their satisfaction and hopefully increase their enjoyment of the experience. Those impressed diners may even use those points to purchase a giftcard for your restaurant (a purchase OpenTable will take another cut of, naturally.) In the ideal scenario, you’ve now created a repeat customer who may well come back at a peak non-POP time.
I would never recommend OpenTable POP to everyone, however, I would recommend you evaluate your own restaurant’s needs and see if a trying a POP program might make sense. If you’re already busy, it won’t. But if getting a few more diners in, while knowing your margins will be dangerously slim, seems like it might make sense; try it. Once you grow your business and become steadily busy though, get the heck off!