How we design for restaurants at OpenTable

March 28, 2019


5 min read

Leslie Yang
Leslie Yang
Product Design Director
How we design for restaurants at OpenTable

It’s 2pm and you want to grab dinner tonight with a few friends. After skimming reviews of restaurants on OpenTable and other sites, you circle back to one of your favorite restaurants with availability at 7:30pm. On the OpenTable app, you make a few taps and your reservation is set.

When you and your group make it to the restaurant, you check in with the host, who makes a few taps on an iPad with a dynamic screen of colorful squares, circles and rectangles. She says, “Welcome back! Do you want your usual table?” You’re happy she remembers you and you say yes.

What you experience at the host stand is the tip of the iceberg of the experiences we offer.

Our mission

We help people experience the world through dining.

OpenTable is focused on providing exceptional experiences to both diners and restaurants.

If you’re a diner, we help you find what’s right for you at any given moment. We believe you should have the best meal anytime you eat, whether it’s a special occasion, a simple dinner, or simply a bite on the road.

If you’re a restaurant owner or employee, we help you thrive by providing the tools and insights you need to run smoothly and successfully, so you can focus on hospitality and what really matters most: the experience you provide your guests.

What drives us

We’re obsessed with restaurants and the passion that drives them. But running them? That’s incredibly tough. We want to be their trusted partner by giving tools and insights to run a smart, efficient business with operations and marketing on lock.

It’s easy to have empathy for the people that run restaurants when you find out they’re the most engaged, passionate, and creative B2B customers you’ll ever learn from.

Our restaurant product vision

We aim to be the restaurant operating system of choice, assisting restaurants to elevate their service and grow their business.

We’re not there yet, so these are exciting times as we take big strides towards this vision. We think a lot about how to help restaurants have successful, thriving businesses. Here’s what we understand:

Restaurants have a hierarchy of needs

We think of a restaurant’s goals and pain points like a Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. This model helps us to focus on designing experiences that support each level of their business:

Demand generation. Every restaurant needs a steady and growing base of guests. We enable restaurants to share their availability online so they can count on a consistent flow of diners via reservations. Once that’s working they can use our tools to improve and automate their workflows.

Operational efficiency. Restaurants have tight margins and need to run an efficient business. We provide a robust set of tools for adjusting availability, flow of guests over time, number of turns on a table during a shift, and much more. Once that becomes a well-oiled machine, we help them best manage their guest relationships.

Personalized hospitality. A top priority for many restaurants is to provide exceptional service. We offer our customers ways to view and share guest information during and beyond the shift. We help them anticipate their guests’ needs, such as having a diner’s usual glass of merlot waiting at their table, seating a party at their favorite table, or factoring in a food allergy when presenting dinner specials.

The restaurant design team uses this model to design and expand on an ecosystem of solutions to help restaurants grow and maintain successful businesses.

Our design team

Our team consists of 30 people focused on research, brand design, brand writing, diner product design, restaurant product design, product writing, and design systems.

We eat together most days and our full team meets over lunch weekly to share our work, research learnings and creative inspiration.

A bit more about us…

We love to learn from our customers

We have a nimble research team that speaks with customers on both sides of our business to understand pain points and opportunities. They gather insights across the country and internationally from diners and restaurants. Designers and product managers also receive regular feedback from customers and our field teams, which include sales, customer support and account managers.

We believe in our brand

OpenTable has been in business for 20 years. People know us. And we are incredibly driven to continuously grow the value we offer both diners and restaurants.

We actively seek feedback and critique

Our team runs crit two–three times a week. We use that time to share our work, run a weekly book club, and brainstorm how to improve the ways we work together and with our cross-functional teammates.

We also hold time to get feedback from all the hardworking people that work closely with our customers, including sales, product marketing and customer support.

We all contribute to our design system, OTKit

OTKit (OpenTable Kit) is the design system we use to build product experiences. It’s a living visual language within design tooling where we use Sketch with Abstract as a centralized hub for designers to contribute, leverage, and evolve our system. Our foundational design decisions live as design tokens for development consumption and we’re working with engineering teams to build this out further.

We work cross-functionally

Our product designers sit with our cross-functional teams AND next to each other, which is the best of both worlds. We enjoy whiteboarding, sketching, and talking through tough problems together.

Want to join our table?

If you love solving complex problems for some of the most passionate and relatable B2B customers you’ll ever meet, and want to work with a close-knit, collaborative team then get in touch.

Big thanks to Jennifer Bader for editing this post.


Author image
Leslie Yang (she/her/hers)
Product Design Director

Leslie Yang is a Director of Product Design overseeing product design for the restaurant side of OpenTable. She grows design leaders that work at the intersection of user value and business impact.