OpenTable is now offering a new solution to aid in social distancing for some users, with the addition of grocery store reservations to its app. Recent reports detailing the decision indicate that the company is starting small, with just seven partners at present. Those are located in Los Angeles as well as San Francisco and not every partner is a dedicated grocery store. The list includes six restaurant-based pop-up style markets and one grocery store.
As is implied by the announcement, the feature builds on OpenTable’s current app. Specifically, it adds the ability to shop at grocery stores and other retailers without running into the crowds. While it’s presently limited, the company is reportedly in “active talks” with other stores to expand as rapidly as possible.
OpenTable’s focus on grocery stores follows a widespread temporary shift in shopping
Now, the purpose of this decision from OpenTable to begin including grocery store reservations follows a wider shopping trend. Namely, that’s the downward trend in buyers shopping in person. Instead, with the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, buyers are staying home or shopping online. With the exception of some delivery and pick-up services, that’s a trend across nearly every aspect of the overall US market.
Grocery stores, in particular, have been forced to limit purchases and to limit the number of customers who are in a store at any given time. Companies such as Walmart are actively offering shopping times limited to at-risk persons. That includes hours set aside for shoppers who are over the age of 60 for Walmart shopping.
It isn’t just food services that are shuttering either. Best Buy has instituted limits on visitors and hours of operation. Best Buy’s overall goal is to limit exposure for both customers and shoppers. Other companies like mobile carriers are shuttering their doors completely. Specifically, those companies are shutting down operations where people are likely to gather in large groups. That includes carriers from T-Mobile to AT&T.
The latest decision from OpenTable will serve a similar purpose, albeit indirectly. By allowing reservations, OpenTable is helping stores to limit the number of visitors. But it’s also helping those stores offer a convenient way for customers to work around limitations.
Will there be a widespread rollout for this feature?
None of that means the feature will come soon to a grocery store near just any user. Whether or not OpenTable rolls this out to any specific area is going to largely depend on a few extraneous factors. First, that’s going to depend on whether or not partners get on board with the change, to begin with. But it’s also going to depend on how quickly end-users are actually using the feature.
If OpenTable is able to bring more stores online, that’s arguably going to ramp up the number of users fairly quickly. In the current environment, amid ongoing and increasing public health concerns, it seems likely the grocery reservations feature will be successful. That’s only made more likely by the convenience of a joint reservations service and OpenTable’s already substantial userbase compared to competing apps.