EMAILED ON March 17, 2019 BY Wes Schlagenhauf

OpenTable will share its hard-earned data for a fee, but are they the rightful owners?

In the world of consumer info, diner data is becoming hot hot hot. Restaurant groups are using the information to mix up menus, flag allergies, and track spending patterns.

OpenTable, the online-reservation giant started in 1998, has been doing most of the heavy lifting for the past decade. But now, behind kitchen doors, a new war is a cookin’.

According to the The Wall Street Journal, OpenTable is prohibiting restaurants from sharing data with hungry rival booking services without its permission — highlighting a fight for control over the information diners disclose when they make online reservations. 

Sorry, do you have a reservation for this data?

For years, San Francisco-based OpenTable had little to no competition — handling reservations for 330m diners in the year through November 2018  (up about 70% since being acquired by PricelineGroup in 2014).

Restaurants currently pay OpenTable up to $1.50 for each person per reservation made through its platform. But new rivals, including the Amazon-backed SevenRooms, are causing OpenTable to change its fine print.

The reason being, SevenRooms charges restaurants about $500 a month per location for its table-management and guest-profile software — software that pulls diner data collected by a restaurant’s OpenTable account.

It’s called OpenTable, not ‘OpenSource…’

OpenTable will now charge restaurant operators who used both systems a fee of $250 per restaurant per month, and new users of both systems will have to pay OpenTable $1k a month for each location. 

Restaurateurs believe that with this new fee, OpenTable wants to box out SevenRooms. But, Steve Hafner, CEO of OpenTable, says the new policy is merely designed to protect diner privacy.

Now, the debate begins…

Is it the service or the company that uses it? 

According to Hafner, “That information is absolutely not the restaurants’.” Of course, restaurants who use SevenRooms said they should be able to use the data shared with them however they want.

“This information is our information. It’s not OpenTable’s information,” said Wassef Haroun, an owner of Seattle-based restaurant MBar, which uses both services.