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Press Release

Company to Watch: OpenTable.com

April 15, 2000
When Adam Thompson, a sales rep for OpenTable.com, walks into a restaurant, he's hungry for a sale. He carries a PC in his hand--a touchscreen box with a network connection. In it are the brains of a system that lets restaurateurs turn reservation books into reservation management systems, fat with the promise of database marketing, meal planning, and enhanced customer service.

When he meets with a restaurant owner, Thompson demonstrates the box: Enter a reservation, identify your good customers. Protect yourself against staff turnover and its associated drain on the restaurant's recollection of Who's Important and Who Isn't. And oh, yeah, it's connected to the Web, this box, and so some people might make some reservations online and they'll just appear in the touchscreen box like magic.

OpenTable may be the first Net firm to bring up the Web at the end of the sales call instead of the beginning. But the Web's not at the end of its business plan. Getting the box on the manager's desk is the goal, but with the end of developing a massive nationwide network of what will essentially be tickets to tables in every major city. The tickets are free, but the system for booking reservations costs restaurants about $100 a month.

OpenTable sees itself serving as a concierge for evening planning, offering dinner reservations along with promotions for parking, flowers on the table, event reservations, and premium dining.The company has a funding pedigree that matches its ambitions. In addition to VC investment, American Express, Zagat's, and New York's Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises--proprietor of OpenTable users Tru, Vong, and Wildfire--have all taken minority stakes in the startup.

Despite competition from traditional reservation management systems and online bookings from city guides and similar properties, OpenTable's CEO Chuck Templeton says restaurants want ways to easily give discounts to diners to fill otherwise idle tables, but they don't think the Early Bird Special is always the answer, or targeted enough to provide good results. Therefore, a Web site that surfaces on destinations like those featured in Zagat's provides a better class of customer, he maintains.

© Copyright 2000, Penton Media

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