This month, OpenTable welcomed chief technology officer Sagar Mehta to help accelerate our development velocity, including our use of AI, so we can provide restaurants with even more value. Mehta will lead OpenTable’s global tech team to further our mission to help restaurants do what they do best, better.
Mehta may only be a few weeks into his new role, but he has big ambitions. He started his career in hedge funds and made the jump to the world of tech because he, as he puts it, wants to build products for people. It’s one of the things that excites him most about joining OpenTable.
“OpenTable is a leader in restaurant tech, and improvements to our products have a real impact on diners and restaurants across the world,” he says. “For restaurants, I want to build products that create efficiencies, streamline operations and attract new diners or deepen their relationships with existing ones. For diners, I want to build products that make the restaurant discovery process fun and intuitive.”
Here’s more from Mehta about his new role.
Previously, you worked in the fintech and healthcare sectors. What made you interested in joining the hospitality industry? Why OpenTable?
Throughout my career, I’ve worked at companies with a strong mission and an opportunity for scalable impact. My most recent leadership roles were in healthcare and fintech. At Collective Health, I worked on building technology that improved healthcare outcomes at reduced cost for our members. At Upstart, I worked on applying AI to lending and expanding access to affordable credit to millions of Americans.
Dining is a universal part of the human experience, and restaurants are at the heart of so many communities. I’m excited for the opportunity to lead OpenTable’s technology team.
What role did restaurants play in your upbringing?
Growing up we were a party of six. I have fond memories of my siblings, parents, and grandmother piling into our minivan most Saturday nights to dine out. It was always special to sit down and exchange stories from the week. It was also a much needed break from cooking for my mom! We each had our favorite spots and had our turn to pick. My favorite was a family-run Italian place where the restaurant owner knew our names, favorite dishes, and that we definitely wanted a refill of the fresh bread basket.
OpenTable’s mission is to help restaurants do what they do best, better. What’s tech’s role in this, and what do you personally want to accomplish?
Put simply, we make restaurants more effective by building tools to help run their business and by creating connections to diners. We have great products for both restaurants and diners, but there is no shortage of opportunities to make them better.
Broadly, what is your vision for the product roadmap in the next year? Where do you see the most potential?
First, optimize everything we do. There are many opportunities for the OpenTable platform to do more of the heavy lifting in the background to let restaurants focus on great food and providing a human touch that enhances the diner experience. Second, implement greater configurability to meet the needs of every restaurant. We serve many different types of restaurants across the globe, and I think we can do more to meet the unique needs of each one.
OpenTable’s values are: we bring the heat, we team up, and we challenge the status quo. Which one most resonates with you and why?
Challenge the status quo. We’ve been an industry leader for almost 25 years, and I want us to constantly re-evaluate how our teams and products work and strive for more. An important part of my role is to bring fresh perspective and ensure we keep our edge.
Which tech trends are you most excited about?
Without a doubt, the advent of generative AI. I’m looking forward to applying this to our product and finding opportunities to make our development teams more efficient in their work.
As phishing scams are on the rise, data security is top of mind for all companies—including our restaurants. What new tools/innovation in the security space are you watching?
Restaurants have unique challenges in managing a large set of users on shared devices. The best security solutions intelligently apply speed bumps without compromising convenience. We’re integrating tools into our platform to put these bumps in front of users depending on the device, location, or action they are attempting to perform so that we can better protect restaurants even if their credentials are compromised.
You have vast experience in the world of AI, and OpenTable is innovating in this space, too. What’s the future of AI, and how can it benefit the hospitality industry?
The way that diners discover restaurants and experiences will change rapidly. Our partnership with ChatGPT and Bard are great places to start, and I expect that large language models will be fine-tuned to more deeply understand the dining industry and applied to tasks such as richer personalized recommendations, review summarization, and customer service. I also expect AI to aid human creativity and help restaurateurs craft unique menus and dishes.