OpenTable Marketing

The OpenTable Marketing Engine: How Diners Get to Your Restaurant

Scott Jampol, former SVP Marketing, OpenTable

Think of us at OpenTable as your outsourced marketing team.

Our goal is to deliver you as many highly valuable diners as possible at the lowest cost possible. There is no other marketing channel that has the ability to deliver your restaurant seated diners at a lower cost at scale. Note that the numbers below are for all OpenTable restaurants in the US over the past year. To better understand how we define terms, such as diner type and source, you can see the glossary of definitions here below.

Here’s the breakdown:

Restaurant Websites (24.5% of seated diners)
Let’s start with the diners who booked directly on your restaurant’s website. Diners who know they want to find your website typically start with Google or another search engine. If they click on your link in search results, they are often looking for a quick way to find information about your restaurant (photos, menus, location) and to book a table. Given that over 71% of the searches for dining and restaurants on Google are happening via mobile devices, it is imperative that you have a mobile-optimized experience. Our OpenTable booking widget helps with an efficient conversion from your site visitors to actual bookers, whether on desktop or mobile.

OpenTable Direct (50.6% of seated diners)
Much like consumers who begin their search for a product on Amazon, the majority of the seated diners from OpenTable originated from OpenTable sources (i.e. they either opened the OpenTable app, typed “” into their web browser or had us previously bookmarked). If your restaurant isn’t bookable on OpenTable, you may be missing these diners. This is not surprising given the over 19 years building the OpenTable brand as the place to go to discover and book restaurant reservations and the millions of diners who carry OpenTable in their pocket wherever their busy lives take them. Simply having your restaurant listed on OpenTable, with real-time availability, can be the single lowest cost marketing channel for you.

OpenTable Partners (9.7% of seated diners)
Our goal is to be everywhere that diners are when they start their search for a restaurant. Because we know not all diners start with OpenTable, we have formed over 600 partner integrations globally to provide booking capabilities on other sites and apps where diners go to plan and seek perspectives. The largest of these partnerships is with Google, but we also partner with TripAdvisor, Zagat, Apple, Amazon, Uber and hundreds of other sites. Our Google partnership provides Google searchers with a consistent, optimized booking experience that is on the Google “knowledge panel” (right side of web search results) and in Google Maps on web and mobile.

OpenTable is like a wingman to help me drive that cover count up… their marketing engine is like having 2 or 3 more people sitting in our office.

Dan Simons, Owner
Farmers & Distillers

Utilizing SEO (Search Engine Optimization; 7.6% of seated diners)
Search engines like Google continuously “scan” millions of web pages to catalog their content and determine the most relevant content to display when someone searches. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) refers to the practice of building your website for search engines like Google to appear in as many results (and as high up) as possible. It’s both an art and a science. It is no coincidence that some companies consistently appear at the top of the free results. This is a major focus for OpenTable.

For terms like “restaurants near me” or “Italian restaurants downtown” we carefully curate pages that list the OpenTable restaurants best suited for those searches and expose them to Google. We now have over 14 million unique pages optimized for a mobile-first experience.

Buying PPC (pay per click) Ads (4.6% of total seated diners; 1.9% of which are from restaurant name PPC)
You may have heard about pay per click ads (or PPC or SEM) or even spend some budget on them yourself. PPC ads are the primary way companies like Google make money. These ads allow us the opportunity to buy ads that match the phrases consumers search for. The ads we place link to pages on OpenTable that showcase the restaurants and content we have on our website and mobile app.

How it works: bought via an auction, the winning ads shown are a combination of the company willing to pay the most and the one with the most relevant content and highest conversion to click.

  • There are three types of ads:
    1. Ads we buy when someone searches on the term “OpenTable” (2.2% of the covers we seat through PPC)
    2. Ads we buy featuring restaurant names and common misspellings (1.9% of covers)
    3. Ads for restaurant attribute terms like neighborhoods and cuisines (.5% of covers)

  • Paid search advertising is difficult and expensive: especially in our industry. Despite all our spend and efforts, it accounts for just over 4% of our covers in the US. So, why do we do it? Some people just click on ads. Buying PPC ads gives us the opportunity to drive incremental diners to your restaurants.
  • Scale and technical resources: The reason we can make these ads work for your restaurant is that we have the scale and technical resources necessary to be successful. It is very hard for individual restaurants to place these ads at scale for acceptable returns on the cost.
  • Millions of keywords: We buy millions keywords across desktop and mobile, and we globally and continuously manage our spend and conversion to find ways to drive more seated diners.
  • Buying your restaurant’s name: Sometimes we get asked why we buy ads on restaurant names and if that is good for restaurants. The simple answer is when we've tested turning on and off these ads, restaurants see a decrease in total seated diners (full book) when they are off. Many diners who search on a restaurant’s name are often looking for third party opinions about the restaurant and not for the restaurant’s site itself. These ads help us capture more of those diners.
  • Rather than thinking about search as us vs. you, think of it as us + you. With your website, our ads and your profile page on OpenTable listed in search results, together we can capture as many bookings for your restaurant as possible.*

    OpenTable is easily the lowest cost way to drive diners into your restaurant. For those who leave OpenTable hoping for a better marketing spend, how many $60 per plate diners are they willing to give up to save the $1 cover fee? I just don’t get it.

    Bill Chait, President
    Tartine JV

    OpenTable Emails (1.9% of seated diners)
    Last year, we sent more than a billion emails to our millions of opted-in diners around the world. Typically, we are sending 2-3 emails per week featuring local restaurants. Many of the emails are powered by our data science team, who provide highly localized and personalized recommendations diner-by-diner. They help bring more exposure to your restaurant, and include communications such as Seasonal Promotions (your Christmas or Valentine’s Day specials), and Featured Lists (tags that you select - ‘good for brunch’, ‘business lunch’). These emails not only keep restaurants and OpenTable top of mind for diners, but also inspire diners to book.

    OpenTable Ads (display, social and mobile; 1.1% of seated diners)
    The final part of the OpenTable marketing engine is finding and enticing diners throughout the web, mobile and social media. On Facebook and Instagram, food is the #2 category and we want to participate in as many of those conversations as possible to turn daydreaming into dining occasions. Our team is continuously building content and community with diners through Twitter and Snapchat as well.

    We also know that when diners visit your restaurant page on OpenTable, that means they have intent to dine. And when they don’t convert to a booking, we are aggressive about trying to get them to come back and book at your restaurant. We use retargeting ads to track consumers’ internet behavior to remind them of the restaurants they were considering. It helps to be persistent as these ads help diners pick up where they left off in researching your restaurant.

    Additionally, we use digital and social marketing to target hard-to-reach travelers visiting your city and provide them with recommendations of where to dine.

    We spend tens of millions of dollars per year marketing the restaurants who work with OpenTable. We hire the people, forge the partnerships, follow the latest in marketing technology, and we pay the media cost. You only pay when diners sit at your restaurant.

    We’re committed to delivering you the diners and data you want, when you want them.

    If you have any questions, or would like to get these stats specific to your restaurants, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your Account Manager or to call our support team directly at 1-800-OPENTABLE.

    Here’s to full tables and extra thirsty diners,

    Scott Jampol
    Former SVP, Marketing

    * This is, however, an optional program and restaurants can simply “opt out” by asking your account manager or contacting OpenTable support.