OpenTable lanches new service to help reduce long lines, overcrowding at grocery stores

San Francisco-based restaurant reservation site, OpenTable, launched a new service on Monday to help reduce overcrowding and long lines at grocery stores and other businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The free, new service allows people to book their shopping time in advance or join a waitlist, to secure a place in a “virtual line,” all through the OpenTable app.

OpenTable rolls out free service that allows shoppers schedule a trip to their local grocery store. (OpenTable)

"Not only does this help control crowds in a simple and contactless way, it also provides a safer option for shoppers, especially those at high risk, to get their groceries without waiting in a crowded line,” the company said in a press release.

OpenTable said the service would help businesses keep the flow of customers moving and allow them to control the number of people inside. The app also gives shoppers the option to receive a text alert or notification when their turn in line comes up.

In addition to grocery stores, the new technology seeks to help restaurants, permitted retailers, and pop-up shops that are modifying their business operations amid the pandemic.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, our new software enables our restaurant partners to pivot to takeout, delivery and storefront business models,” said OpenTable Chief Technology Officer Joseph Essas, noting that the current situation has drastically changed consumer shopping and dining habits. "We hope this new solution provides similar support for retailers and grocers to help them safely manage the influx of shoppers,” Essas said.

OpenTable said restaurants with pop-up markets including Belcampo in Oakland and PRAIRIE and Tartine Manufactory in San Francisco are among the businesses that have signed on as first launch partners, along with specialty grocer, The Epicurean Trader, also in the city.

OpenTable said its new feature can help restaurateurs fluidly convert their physical space into a retail location, which allows them to sell goods, groceries or pre-made meals. 

“Restaurants have had to get creative and shift business models quickly during this challenging time," said Bill Chait, Tartine Partners president. "We have evolved some of our restaurants into pop-up corner stores to better serve our guests and our communities while supporting our team members,” Chait added.

Grocers, restaurants and other businesses interested in implementing the new service can get more information here

Shoppers who want to use the new feature of the OpenTable app can check it out here.