Another (Great) Reason to Use OpenTable iOS App

OpenTable recently launched a pilot program that enables restaurant patrons in San Francisco to pay their tabs via the OpenTable iPhone app. CIO.com blogger James A. Martin says the feature works beautifully, but there are a few downsides.

I’ve been an OpenTable fan for years. Any app that pays me to dine out is worthy of my love. And with a new payment feature that’s being rolled out, OpenTable for iOS is becoming even more awesome.

In February, OpenTable announced it was testing a new mobile payments feature with "select restaurants in San Francisco." I had the opportunity to test this feature Sunday night, and it worked beautifully.

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(Image: OpenTable)

I launched the OpenTable iOS app on my iPhone to make a reservation for three people at Plouf, a French seafood restaurant on San Francisco’s Belden Alley. I received an invite to use the payment feature, which I accepted.

After booking, the OpenTable app asked if I’d like to pay for my upcoming meal at Plouf using the app. I agreed, then used the app to scan my credit card. Once entered, the card remains on file so I can use it for future dinners out. There’s an option to store more than one card, too.

Toward the end of our meal, I launched the OpenTable app to view my bill. The app asked me what my table number was. Having no idea, I asked our server, who immediately knew the answer. Once I entered the table number, I saw my itemized bill. By tapping buttons for 15 percent, 20 percent, or higher, I could instantly add the tip — no math required.

Once I completed the transaction, I was done. We didn’t have to wait for the check, and our server was aware we’d paid. Given how servers can sometimes become scarce when you’re ready to go, the payment feature could be a big time-saver.

Afterwards, I received an itemized email receipt. Given how restaurant receipts sometimes go missing when it’s time to fill out an expense report, this feature alone could be a big benefit for business travelers.

There are a few downsides. For one, I wasn’t given an option to split the check with my two companions. As a result, OpenTable’s payment feature is best suited for individuals or couples — or those who are feeling generous. You could get others to pay you for their part in cash, of course, but that can get complicated.

Secondly, the need to enter your table number in the app could cause things to slow down. If you don’t think to ask for the number early on, you may have to flag down your server anyway when it’s time to pay the bill, thereby forfeiting some potential time savings.

Also, the payment feature isn’t currently available for OpenTable’s Android app. And because it’s currently a pilot program, the feature is available only for a selection of restaurants in San Francisco.

OpenTable is already a must-have app. If you aren’t using it to book tables, you’re not accruing points that can be cashed in for discount vouchers at participating restaurants. (I just received a $100 check to use at any OpenTable restaurant.) The payment feature makes this great app/service even better — so be sure to look for it in your area. (OpenTable hasn’t said when the feature will be available in other locations.)

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