We’ve often been asked why Incanto is not listed on OpenTable.com. For those of you not familiar with the service, OpenTable is the most successful online restaurant reservation portal on Earth; a place on the Web where diners can search for and make reservations at leading restaurants, via a browser or smartphone. Restaurants like Incanto that chose not to offer their seats through OpenTable find themselves in a shrinking minority.
Let me start by stating the obvious: the convenience and immediacy of booking a table online anytime day or night is beneficial to both diners and to restaurants. This was my belief nine years ago, when we first approached OpenTable to inquire about becoming one of its early customers. It’s also why we have found a way to offer Web-based reservations, through our own website, since we opened and why we’ve kept current and revisited OpenTable’s offerings each year, to re-visit our decision.
It’s possible, however, for convenience to come at too dear a price. I don’t mean that only as it relates to the short-term economic price, but also in the sense that sometimes, what may at first seem like a straightforward benefit can in fact require the sacrifice of something much more precious over the long run. That judgment has always been at the core of our concerns about OpenTable, which has to its credit done such a masterful job building its business that it now holds the dominant position here in the U.S. among providers of online reservation services, with a market share estimated at greater than 90%. Whether or not your restaurant is an OpenTable customer, it’s impossible not to feel its impact.