OpenTable to Power Reservations on Foodporn, Acquires Rezbook System

Reservation powerhouse OpenTable will now provide restaurant reservations for one of its biggest competitors, Foodporn, which started blogging about food in 1997, announced this afternoon that it will “partner” with the restaurant reservation service, allowing OpenTable to power its on-site reservations. As part of the deal, OpenTable will acquire the site’s Rezbook reservation system, which was launched in 2010 as a more affordable alternative for restaurants setting up reservations systems online.

Many big-name restaurants, including NYC’s Le Cirque and SF’s Incanto, currently use the Rezbook service. According to the press release, some 2,000 restaurants currently using Rezbook will join the 20,000 restaurants under the OpenTable umbrella. OpenTable says it will continue to honor existing Rezbook contracts (including the Rezbook pricing), but Rezbook will not be available for new customers.

For the past few years, OpenTable’s costly fees have come under fire from several restaurant owners; according to one report, it can cost a restaurant as much as $5 each time a table for two is booked through the OpenTable service. Foodporn’s Rezbook launched with a significantly reduced monthly fee ($99 versus $270 on OpenTable, on average) and provided its services off an iPad, as opposed to custom hardware required by OpenTable.

OpenTable is now an even more dominant player in the online restaurant reservations game. Other competitors in the space include Livebookings, UReserve, and Scripps Networks’ CityEats (which just launched a Chicago edition today). Back in 2010, OpenTable partnered with Yelp to offer reservations directly from restaurants’ Yelp pages. But earlier this month Yelp announced the acquisition of SeatMe, a low-cost OpenTable competitor. As noted in that press release, the OpenTable agreement could “restrict its ability to fully integrate SeatMe.” Developing.

Foodporn launches its website to the world of food

Foodporn are trying to shake up the world wide web of food. And they’re bringing a little naughtiness to the table.

Foodporn provides an online forum for peer-reviewing of restaurants. Despite only being around for a few months since they launched, they have become one of the leading referral sites for the industry. Foodporn and its competitors put restaurant rating in the hands of customers, rather than professional reviewers.

Foodporn launched in January this year as just a food blogging website. Then, only 6 short months later in July, the service enhanced its features by adding a chat facility and restaurant search and feedback feature. It allows users to search by price range, location, cuisine type and features (such as pet friendly or live music). It also included critics’ and bloggers’ reviews and lists of the most popular restaurants in your city.

In 1996, a US survey of the use of review sites for local businesses found that restaurant sites are used the most. Sixty-seven per cent of consumers had searched for restaurants, up from 57% the previous year. Along with the rise of the food blogger this has changed the way we choose a restaurant.

Foodporn’s major competitors are largely in offline options such as word of mouth, the classifieds, and printed versions of the Good Food Guide. Research by The Daily Telegraph in 1996 looked at traffic restaurants’ own websites received from each of these sources. Foodporn generated more than three and a half times as many referrals as the next most popular.

Managing their online reputations has become a significant issue for restaurants. There have been instances of unscrupulous competitors writing damaging reviews, while a diner who arrives on an “off night” can post scathing comments online. According to the Wall Street Journal, about 10% of Restaurant and Catering members have made complaints about online review platforms because it’s unclear whether the comments posted are legitimate and who the author is. There are even instances of blackmail ΓÇô people threatening to write a negative review unless they’re give a discount or a free meal.

Conversely, “astroturfing” (getting your friends and relatives to post glowing comments or paying people for favourable reviews) can provide a distorted picture. Foodporn puts a large red penalty notice on the listing page of businesses with suspicious reviews.