We wanted to highlight an important piece of OpenTable news. OpenTable, the restaurant reservation giant, bought the popular social media startup Foodspotting for $10 million. Founded in San Francisco 3 years ago, Foodspotting enables users through their mobile phones to share photographs of dishes from restaurants they visit. Users browse these photographs, which are organized by restaurant or dish, and communicate if they “loved,” “tried” and “want” that dish.

Restaurant owners should welcome Foodspotting as it is not like Yelp.  The application is designed to promote positivity. On Foodspotting, there is no easy way to criticise a restaurant, in the spirit of the saying “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.”  For those new to Foodspotting you can read more details about Foodspotting uses for restaurant owners.

How Foodspotting and OpenTable Started Working Together

Before the acquisition, Foodspotting had teamed up with OpenTable, where OpenTable featured some Foodspotting photos. The acquisition will lead to deeper integrations, but Foodspotting will remain a standalone social media. It would probably take the wind out of Foodspotting’s sails to become a puppet of OpenTable, so letting it remain mostly a non-commercial social media is a good idea.OpenTable provides reservations for 26,000 restaurants throughout the world, but only a small segment will be directly affected initially. That is because although Foodspotting has hundreds of thousands of users snapping photos with their mobile phones totally 3 million, those spotters are concentrated in several large cities around the world (San Francisco, NYC, L.A., Paris, London, Istanbul, Tokyo & Bangkok).

Almost all of these users, however, fall in the category of foodies and have a disproportionate influence on restaurants (through their dining habits & opinions). Inevitably, Foodspotting will reach all major cities in the United States. Indeed photograph taking in restaurants is growing to problematic proportions (for maintaining dining room decorum). Foodspotting will contribute to this being a fun fully featured mobile application.

OpenTable and Foodspotting Integrations

There are a few ways you may expect for Foodspotting and OpenTable to join forces. OpenTable is out to make their experience more personal and social, perhaps hoping to increase brand loyalty to the reservation system.

  • First, the most basic is that customers are able to place reservations through Foodspotting. Right now there is a link that users can click and they will be directed to OpenTable’s mobile website. There may be one day that OpenTable reservations are built into the Foodspotting app.
  • Second, OpenTable plans on using Foodspotting photos in confirmation emails after a customer places a reservation.  OpenTable uses the the number of ‘LOVED’ the photo received as a way of recommending the dish.
  • OpenTable may also provide customers browsing on OpenTable for a reservation the ability to see real customer photos (with or without the restaurants permission).
  • OpenTable most likely will promote the social media so that it grows in other markets and becomes a household name in the big cities it is already in.

Outside the increase in flash photography in a restaurant, the OpenTable-Foodspotting merger could be a breath of fresh air for restaurant owners. Foodspotting specifically focuses on positive experiences and runs on enthusiasm not criticism.