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Will OpenTable Become The Uber Of Restaurants With Mobile Payments?

By Anthony Todd in Food on Aug 1, 2013 3:00PM

2012_11_15_OpenTable.jpg One of the reasons that people love Uber, the car-calling app, is that no worrying about cash, tipping or those nasty looks from cab drivers when their credit card machines don't work. Will the same idea work for restaurants? OpenTable thinks so, which is why they're slowly rolling out a new mobile payments system that will let diners pay through the app.

The New York Times reports that OpenTable, the biggest online restaurant reservation company, is going to begin experimenting with mobile payments. The system should be up and running in San Francisco by the end of the year, and then it'll roll out across the country. Assuming everything works, that is.

OpenTable is being cautious with its release of mobile payments, because integrating technology into dining can be difficult. Paying with an app could decrease the amount of time a diner has to wait for a waiter to bring the check. But a waiter could easily think diners were skipping the check if they pay the tab with a phone, get up and leave.

In addition, we can imagine problems with tipping. When you have to write something down (preferably under the server's hand-written smiley face), your incentive to tip is slightly higher than it is when you can push a button and walk away. That's one of the reasons, presumably, the tipping is built into Uber—OpenTable hasn't mentioned a feature like that yet.

The feature stems from OpenTable's acquisition of JustChalo, a company that creates mobile payment systems. For OpenTable watchers (remember how it costs restaurants
a fortune to use the system?) they have announced that they won't be taking a cut of checks in order to allow restaurants to use the system. This also may be an attempt to get ahead of new competitors like CityEats—without innovation, the restaurant reservation market is ripe for competition, as other companies offer the service to restaurants at a lower cost.