OpenTable Goes Live with Mobile Payments in San Francisco

OpenTable has begun rolling out mobile payments in a test with selected restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area. The intention to introduce mobile payments in OpenTable was first reported in July of last year.

The official announcement came in a blog post earlier today: 

OpenTable mobile payments are currently being tested by diners at select restaurants in San Francisco. Over the next few weeks, we will be adding more diners to the test program and will provide you a way to request access. 

Mobile payments will continue to gain momentum in "vertical" or specialized contexts such as this or Starbucks, Uber, AirBnB and a host of others. Many of these, including OpenTable, are explicitly or essentially "vertical marketplaces" where payments are increasingly integrated. The difference between these apps and something like Amazon, which has your credit card on file, is that you're paying for services in the real world. 

We're bullish, as they say, on the outlook for payments through vertical-mobile apps. By contrast, "horizontal" payment apps such as Google Wallet, ISIS and even PayPal (for offline services) have little or no traction because consumers don't see the point in the abstract. However the benefits of paying through the OpenTable app are fairly obvious: no more waiting for the check; no more waiting for the card to come back to the table. It should meaningfully compress the time it takes to pay and leave a restaurant. (It will also reduce credit card theft by restaurant personnel.) 

Eventually consumers will warm to the broader mobile wallets, after they've had sufficient exposure and experience with mobile payments a specific context -- such as OpenTable. Very concrete use cases with obvious benefits will help train consumers to trust and adopt mobile wallets/payments, which will eventually pave the way for services such as ISIS or Google Wallet. Apple may be an exception to the idea that consumers aren't ready for a single mobile wallet to substitute for conventional card payments. The company appears to be gearing up to offer a "pay with iTunes" capability.  

Transaction data yielded by payments also offer a next level of intelligence, personalization and marketing capabilities to those providers that integrate them.

Before payments, OpenTable knew if you reserved a table and actually showed up (or were a "no show"). Now the company will potentially know what you've ordered too. That can be shared with the restaurant for diner insights and loyalty purposes (see also, Swipely) and/or used by OpenTable in several ways to more precisely segment and market to restaurant-goers as well. 

Related: OpenTable also announced that it had acquired restaurant recommendations site/app Ness (sometimes also characterized as an intelligent assistant) for just over $17 million.