It’s been a big week for tech news, but for this foodie, no announcement was more exciting than OpenTable’s $10 million acquisition of Foodspotting. For starters, the dish-sharing app will bring new, visual content to the reservation titan’s portfolio of listings. But over time, we can expect the partnership to yield unprecedented search tools to help us find (and enjoy) our next great meal.
Officially, the deal isn’t yet written in stone, but OpenTable users will already see some changes. In advance of Tuesday’s announcement, OpenTable began rolling out preliminary features, such as incorporating user-generated photos from Foodspotting onto restaurant listings. Eventually, most restaurants on OpenTable will have a visual menu, documented with snapshots from Foodspotting users. And from a social standpoint, the partnership will allow you to canvass your Facebook friends for their favorite dishes at the restaurants you’re scheduled to visit.
More exciting are the developments we’ll see down the line. For a company that’s hardly changed its look and feel in 15 years, OpenTable has leaders with big ideas. According to CEO Matt Roberts, they’ll be taking full advantage of tools like Facebook’s Graph Search to personalize results—not only picking restaurants you might like but suggesting which dishes you may be most inclined to order.
Personally, I like to leave parts of my meal up to surprise, so it’s not the information itself as much as its implications that excite me. By amassing so many data points—like keyworded images or location preferences—OpenTable should eventually be able to tell me where the nearest, best place is to fill my of-the-moment craving. If you’re used to searching for restaurants by neighborhood, reservation time, or price—think about how fun it would be to search by “Neapolitan Pizza” or “Beef Bourguignon” instead. And then, finding your reservation annotated with photographic dish recommendations from local blogs and critics—as well as your friends.
Though there’s no timeline for how quickly we’ll see all these changes, Roberts says there is a “strong desire throughout the company to get these ideas into the hands of consumers as fast as possible.” One thing is for sure: new features will be added incrementally—and starting soon.
Nikki Ekstein is an Editorial Assistant at Travel + Leisure and part of the Trip Doctor news team. Find her at on Twitter at @nikkiekstein.