Opentable is an online service for making restaurant reservations. It’s the market leader in the space, you can search for a specific restaurant and make a booking or search an area and find restaurants that have availability for when you’d like to eat, near where you want to eat, and for the number of people in your party.
They offer loyalty points, most of the time you earn 100 points for a booking, that’s worth $1 because 2000 points can be redeemed for a $20 gift certificate.
OpenTable is About to Devalue
Up until now you’ve always been able to get a $20 certificate that could be used as payment at almost any restaurant that uses OpenTable for reservations. You just hand the certificate over when you get the bill (along with your credit card for the balance, assuming the bill is for more than the value of the certificate).
That’s no longer how it is going to work. Starting August 25 you will get a gift card where you have to specify the single restaurant where it will be valid. (HT: Toqueville)
As of Aug 25th dining cheques will no longer be issued. Instead you can opt for either an OpenTable Dining Rewards Gift, a program we are actively expanding, or an Amazon Gift Card to redeem your points. More information about the Amazon Gift Cards will be coming out soon! We are also looking into other options for redeeming your points as well.
When you redeem your OpenTable points you will receive an email (it takes about an hour).
That will let you go to a website to choose the restaurant for which you want a gift check.
Your redemption choices are limited. A search of OpenTable shows over 50 restaurants in downtown Austin where I can make reservations tonight, but only 13 restaurants in downtown Austin where I can redeem points for gift cards.
Redeem your points now before the August 25th changeover where US members will no longer be able to get gift checks redeemable almost anywhere.
Continue to game OpenTable
1000 Point Restaurants
Some restaurants offer 1000 points instead of 100 for making a booking — often it’s new or struggling restaurants, they’re willing to incentivize the visit. The idea is you might see they’re more rewarding and decide to book them instead of a competitor.
Interestingly, some restaurants use Opentable to manage their own website’s online bookings. But if you visit those restaurants’ websites first, cookies may get left on your computer that interfere with points. (If you make your reservation through Opentable, but starting at the restaurant’s website, there’s usually no points-earning).
And with 1000 point restaurants, you usually only see the 1000 point offer if you are searching for restaurants in a neighborhood — if you search for the restaurant directly it will usually just show 100 points (since they don’t need to incentivize you to choose them, the idea being you likely already have chosen them).
Make Reservations at Restaurants You’re Headed to Anyway
I have the Opentable app on my phone (and before I had an Android phone, would visit the Opentable mobile website on my Blackberry). Walking to a restaurant I might make a reservation, even if I know the place is empty. Not planning ahead, but I still want to capture the points. And of course the points are stackable with other restaurant rewards such as Rewards Network, the company which manages the dining programs associated with airline and hotel chains (which I still insist on calling iDine, though at least got beyond referring to it as Transmedia..).
Earn OpenTable Points For Your Free Hotel Breakfast
Many hotel restaurants offer Opentable points. Even if you get free breakfast in the restaurant as a loyalty program member or because of your room rate, you can make an OpenTable booking at the hotel restaurant and earn points for your free/included breakfast.
Don’t Rely Exclusively On OpenTable for Your Reservations
Opentable doesn’t have access to all tables at all restaurants. Some restaurants ‘block’ key times from being booked via Opentable, I have to imagine it’s because it costs them money (to pay to Opentable) to take reservations that way, and they expect to be able to fill their seats without bringing in reservations through this channel. So you need to call the restaurant.
Make the reservation for an earlier time, ring up the restaurant to change the time to the one you want that’s restricted to direct booking. You’ll still get the points if the restaurant changes the reservation time (because it was still made through OpenYable) but not if they cancel the reservation and make a new one.