A number of years ago a friend of mine, who had been living in New York, moved back to Toronto. I remember her telling me about a restaurant reservation website called Open Table. It was very popular in New York, but not in Toronto.  She had booked a reservation in Toronto and the maître d’ was actually surprised when she showed up for dinner – they had recently signed up for the service and didn’t think customers would use it.  Fast forward about five years and Open Table services a slew of restaurants in Toronto and beyond.

Open Table is, as I mentioned, a restaurant reservation website (an app version is also available).  You can search by name, location, or preferred dining time.  It’s a great way to make sure you get into those hard to book restaurants, find new restaurants in your area, and confirm your dinner plans at any point in your day – early morning or at 4am, long after the restaurant has locked its doors. The only limitation is restaurants have to have signed up with Open Table, so you don’t get a full composite list of restaurants in your area.  For composite searches, try UrbanSpoon or Yelp.

The Open Table interface is cleanly designed and very easy to use. Of course, to entice customers to use Open Table verses the old fashioned telephone-booking system, there is a rewards program.  For every reservation you make on Open Table (and then show up for), you get 10 points.  After you collect 100 points, or fulfill ten reservations, you’ll get a $20 gift card applicable in any Open Table affiliated restaurant mailed to you.

There have been days where I literally stood outside my restaurant of choice and booked on Open Table just to get my points.  It’s become a bit of an obsession, like collecting hockey cards or Archie comics.

There are a lot of amazing restaurants in Toronto on Open Table.  Some of the highlights outside the GTA that I am hoping to review over the holidays are Quatrefoil in Dundas and Treadwells in Port Dalhousie.  Hopefully, with Open Table’s help, I’ll have the best seat in the house, or at least a guaranteed seat in the house – and maybe $20 off my bill!