How OpenTable Responded to the Delta Rise


OpenTable’s new direct messaging tool allows restaurants to text their customers. / Image courtesy of OpenTable

As the delta variant of COVID-19 led to a wave of new cases last month, the cities of San Francisco, New York and New Orleans have announced that diners must prove they have been vaccinated before eating in the restaurants.

The new rules in some of the country’s largest restaurant markets have led to a host of new challenges for operators tasked with enforcing them – operators who have already had to dramatically adapt their businesses amid the lingering pandemic and crisis. of the ensuing work.

“The operational challenges, the logistical challenges of having someone in the restaurant to check the vaccination, that really messed up the operational flow of restaurants,” said Debby Soo, CEO of OpenTable, who started hearing from restaurants afterwards. the fall of politicians, asking for help. enforce them.

The restaurants are excellent for hospitality, “she said.” TSA agents are not checking the documentation. “

The booking platform responded with four new features intended to facilitate this process. Restaurants that use the system can now:

Some of those tools, like the Clear partnership, will be primarily relevant during the pandemic, Soo said. But direct messaging and guest checking will likely become permanent parts of the platform.

Direct messaging in particular proved to be popular from the start. Restaurants can use it to communicate COVID policies to customers, but they can answer other questions this way as well. Within a month of its launch, thousands of restaurants had turned it on and more than 70,000 messages had been exchanged around the world, the company said.

“The pickup of this product has been really amazing to watch, so there is clearly a need there,” Soo said.

The verification tool is currently designed to allow restaurants to tag a customer in their system after an employee has confirmed that they have been vaccinated. This way, the restaurant will not have to go through the registration process on their next visit. But it can also be used to indicate that a customer is 21 or older, has VIP status, or any other information a restaurant might need.

OpenTable doesn’t have a lot of data on this tool so far, but Soo said he heard anecdotally from restaurants that it saves them time.

Meanwhile, “a few hundred” restaurants had added wording to their pages stating that they required proof of vaccination to enter. OpenTable also launched a database of US restaurants requiring proof, which stood at around 500 locations on Wednesday.

Company data shows that the delta variant appears to affect the behavior of diners. The average number of weekly diners seated in the United States was around 5% between July and August.

Soo said that was to be expected based on eating habits throughout the pandemic.

“As cases increase, the restoration business is one of the first things to be impacted,” she said, “and also one of the first things to bounce back.”

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