Online Restaurant Booking Goes Global and Multilingual
Next time you’re in Paris, you may be able to book a dinner reservation without subjecting the maître d’ to your terrible French accent.
The restaurant reservation platform OpenTable can now take reservations at restaurants around the world through users’ local accounts and can support English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish, it said on Tuesday. The company has roughly 38,000 restaurants in 20 countries, with the vast majority in the U.S. and seven others.
Since it dropped $2.6 billion in cash for the dining reservation service in June 2014, The Priceline Group Inc. has been working to make OpenTable more international, trying to turn the company into a more critical platform for global travelers.
The changes mean that OpenTable’s websites and mobile apps can help the company become “a true ‘Global Dining Passport’ for diners across the world,” Chief Executive Officer Christa Quarles said in a news release. The goal for OpenTable, which says it handles 20 million reservations per month, is to enable global jet-setters to use local accounts anywhere in the world.
The expectation is to align dining more closely with its parent company’s traveler base—an entrée into the lucrative space of what Priceline executives have called “transient diners,” people who want a good meal when they travel. About 97 percent of travelers report eating out at least once daily, according to OpenTable research.
For much of the past two years, San Francisco-based OpenTable has been revamping its technical infrastructure to handle multiple languages in nations where the idea of reserving a lunch or dinner table via web or mobile app is still considered a bit wacky. While Americans might be relatively familiar with going online to book a restaurant reservation, that concept remains foreign across much of the world, Priceline’s former CEO, Darren Huston 1 Huston resigned in April after the company investigated his personal relationship with a Priceline employee. , said in a November 2015 interview.
“Nobody books restaurants online,” he said of OpenTable’s international expansion to Europe and Asia, adding, "a lot of plumbing had to be put in place."
OpenTable also sells table management and payment tools that can help restaurants manage their tables, accept mobile payments, and offer digital gift cards, and it hopes that even more casual-dining restaurants that don't book reservations may find interest in its software platforms.
“The core business itself is very healthy,” Huston said of OpenTable. “It’s profitable, it’s growing, there have been lots of good changes made. But really, we want OpenTable to be multiples of the size of what it is.”
Quarles, who was previously OpenTable’s chief financial officer and, before that, was a games executive at the Walt Disney Co., was named chief executive in November to help speed the pace of the international plans.