O.C. diners can use site to book tables
April 13, 2006
As general manager of Antonello Ristorante at South Coast Plaza Village in Santa Ana, Thad Foret for years would take odd-hour cell-phone calls from guests wanting a reservation.
His best customers knew they could turn to him any time to book a special table with a favorite bottle of wine – even if he was on vacation.
"I'd be off for a few days, or in San Diego with my family and get calls," Foret said.
After turning to OpenTable.com more than a year ago, Foret said he's spending less time on his cell phone.
The San Francisco service allows diners to go online and book a table at their favorite restaurant 24 hours a day for free. Antonello Ristorante, the Italian bistro, is among a growing number of Orange County eateries taking advantage of the cyberspace maitre d', which serves 4,500 restaurants in the country.
OpenTable.com's clients in Orange County jumped from 11 to 56 over the past 12 months.
The service allows restaurants to make electronic profiles of customers so they can note a customer's preferred table and favorite dishes and cocktails, which puts less pressure on Foret to track those details on his own.
It also lets Foret make better use of his time and connect with new guests.
"It's efficient," Foret said.
Consumers are taking notice, as well. In March, OpenTable.com seated more than 1 million diners.
Ann Shepherd, OpenTable.com's senior director of consumer marketing, said restaurants who use OpenTable.com have a no-show rate of less than 5 percent, compared to the industry average of 15 percent.
Part of the reason why the system is so successful is its ease of use and 24-hour availability, she added.
"Diners embrace the convenience of online reservation," Shepherd said.
About 33 percent of users book seats when restaurants are closed, which leaves operators like Foret fielding fewer calls while away from the restaurant.
"It's really freed me up, and allowed me to take off for a few days," Foret said.
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