Was eating at a local restaurant a month ago. (A good one, but I won’t mention which one so that the owner won’t get in trouble with OpenTable.) We sat at the bar because I had a hard time getting a reservation, and since we’ve “sort of” known the owner for a decade we started talking about “whatever”. Conversation eventually ended up on, “So, Tim, what do you ‘do’?” I do a bunch of different things, but I usually say, “Internet.” This answer is obtuse, but it conveys two things: I do technology and also I don’t really want to go into the details. I want to drink wine, eat good food, and not have to talk about technology. That didn’t work because his question reminded me that I did have something to ask him…
“Why did you take this place off of OpenTable? It was convenient.”
He sort of let out one of those “pull up a chair because I have a lot of things to say about how that whole experience sucked” sort of sighs. Here were the reasons he gave me:
- It wasn’t right for his business and he lost some of his ability to control reservations.
- It turned that whole reservation process into a contest to have tables free at just the right time. So he had to “play games.”
- He prefers that people call, because he and his partners can offer alternatives on the phone. “People that would have otherwise been fine waiting 30 minutes end up being pushed to the competition. That’s not good. This isn’t Expedia.”
- There was a lot of ridiculous technical overhead, like some custom hardware that had to be involved.
From what I could gather it sounds like the restaurant business is about developing personal relationships with dedicated clientele and that moving to an automated approach was causing more problems than it was solving. He then showed me his computer and it was a blank notebook with pencil marks in it. He said it’s been working well for years and it didn’t cost very much. “Upgrades are free.”
At the end of it he summed up his experience: “I’m not the Internet’s cafeteria.”