The growing coronavirus pandemic and state-mandated shelter-in-place orders have stopped most in-person dining. Grocery stores remain open as essential businesses, while many restaurants have pivoted to pickup and delivery services to stay open while adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
To enable social distancing and help customers avoid packed stores, OpenTable launched a new tool aimed at managing the overcrowding and long lines at grocery stores and restaurant pickups.
"OpenTable will expand its reservation technology to allow grocery stores, permitted major retailers, restaurants turned pop-up shops and to-go concepts to display available shopping times that customers can book in advance or join a waitlist at the door," OpenTable said in a statement.
The new reservation timeslot feature on OpenTable is geared toward managing crowd control and creating a safer option for high-risk shoppers to get groceries without a line, according to the statement released on OpenTable.
The tool launched with initial partners on the West Coast, where OpenTable is headquartered, but it is available nationwide, according to a spokesperson.
Right now, in select markets like the San Francisco area, customers can see an option when logging into the app to make an "advanced grocery reservation" at stores including The Epicurean Trader in Hayes Valley or Belcampo Grocery in Oakland.
According to an OpenTable spokesperson, this service is completely free for both the retailer and the shopper and the feature will include restaurants and stores that were not originally on OpenTable, an app designed to book restaurant reservations.
"Consumer habits are shifting with over 400% increase in usage of our delivery and take-out feature on our platform in the last week. We hope this new solution provides similar support for retailers and grocers to help them safely manage the influx of shoppers," Joseph Essas, chief technology officer of OpenTable, said in a statement.
Some grocery stores are already implementing early “senior hours,” designated for older shoppers and shoppers deemed at high-risk for contracting the virus.