One of the frequent laments of mobile marketers is a lack of mobile-optimized sites to encourage usage and pave the way for mobile advertising. Restaurants and other small businesses are especially unlikely to have a mobile-friendly Web presence.
To help change that, OpenTable today announced a free new service allowing restaurants it works with to create sites tailored to mobile devices. The goal is to bring restaurant owners in line with the consumer shift toward mobile by making their sites more appetizing on smartphones.
About half of U.S. mobile users are now estimated to own smartphones.
"Diners are seeking information about restaurants and booking reservations on the go, yet the vast majority of restaurant Web sites are not designed for mobile use," stated OpenTable CEO Matt Roberts. Only about 10% of reservation-taking restaurants have mobile-optimized sites, according to comScore.
Partner restaurants in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. must claim their mobile site through the OpenTable Restaurant Center before Feb. 1, 2013 to take advantage of the free service powered by DudaMobile, which already hosts some 2 million mobile sites. Those who sign up after Jan. 31 must pay a nominal fee.
OpenTable itself has seen a growing activity through its mobile properties. Reservations booked on smartphones and tablets accounted for 28% of the 28 million diners it seated in North America in the second quarter. The company reservations made through its mobile site and apps since 2008 have driven $1 billion in revenue for its restaurant customers.
“It's a huge part of our business, and it's going to be, we believe, the majority of the way people interact with our service and take advantage of the convenience of online bookings going forward,” said Roberts, during OpenTable’s second-quarter conference call in August. Bringing along the 25,000 restaurants in the OpenTable network into the mobile future is part of the broader plan.
"We understand that many of our guests want and expect to be able to do everything on their mobile devices, including finding a restaurant nearby, pulling up menus and ultimately booking a table through our site," said Dan Simons, concept developer and managing partner, Founding Farmers and Farmers Fishers Bakers, one of the initial restaurants to upgrade its mobile site via the new OpenTable service.
Not every restaurant has been a mobile laggard. New York restaurant Comodo has created an “Instagram menu” using images posted by customers through the popular photo-sharing app.