Traveling a good deal I accumulate status — some useful, some less so. I value my American AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond, and Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum. I much valued my Avis status when I had it.
Not all status is brings meaningful benefits, however. I wouldn’t go out of my way to earn Hyatt Platinum or Hilton Silver, for instance.
There’s one status that’s below them all, that fails to deliver anything of meaningful value, and thus truly stands out in a world of overinflated metals.
I first earned Opentable VIP status a dozen years ago. I’ve never gotten anything of value (or really anything at all) from it. That’s not surprising, considering that they don’t even tell you that you’ll get something. In fact, the only way you know you have it is because of the indication on your account. There’s no welcome kit or welcome email, and you have to search through the site to even find reference to it.
Here’s how Opentable describes VIP:
Registered users of OpenTable become VIPs once they have honored 12 or more OpenTable reservations within one calendar year. VIP status is granted automatically. Restaurants know you are an OpenTable VIP because your reservation is flagged with a special note.
In other words, it’s a badge with no published benefits. However in 2012 Opentable claimed that someone – once – got a free dessert because of their status. Commenters were skeptical.
Commenters on Quora add:
I used to work for OpenTable, and a VIP is anyone on OT who has made 12 reservations in the last 12 months. This says nothing about your status as a diner, nor is it something that we push to restaurateurs.
…When I have talked with restaurant operators they have said that they tend to ignore that field altogether.
So Opentable VIP is Lame, Make Your Own VIP Instead
Here’s how you can leverage Opentable to your benefit even after their recent devaluation.
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 Opentable) but not if they cancel the reservation and make a new one.