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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

OpenTable to Acquire Foodspotting for $10 Million

Booking a restaurant reservation on the Internet is more convenient than calling a hostess or jotting your name down on a waiting list, but it can feel impersonal. OpenTable, the online reservation business, says it is acquiring a start-up to make booking a table a bit more intimate and social.

The company on Tuesday said it had agreed to buy Foodspotting, the San Francisco social media start-up, for $10 million. On Foodspotting, a user can search for a restaurant or a type of dish, and the search results will display user-uploaded pictures of food at certain restaurants.

How would this fit in with OpenTable Matt Roberts, chief executive of OpenTable, said that when you book a reservation at a restaurant, you may receive a confirmation e-mail that includes a menu, accompanied with photos of entrees that people recommendeating there.

“If you can have a rich menu with images instead of just words and recommendations of dishes you may like, it really just broadens the experience and helps diners get the most of their evening out,” Mr. Roberts said in an interview.

The purchase of Foodspotting is one of OpenTable’s first steps to use customer data to make dining more personalized. Mr. Roberts imagined a waiter carrying around a tablet loaded with the OpenTable app, which would display a patron’s dining history and show his food preferences or cocktail of choice.

The $10 million purchase of Foodspotting will include hiring 10 of the start-up’s staff members, including its chief executive, Alexa Andrzejewski, who will serve as an interface designer. The start-up had raised $3 million in funding in 2011.

Soraya Darabi, a founder of Foodspotting who is no longer at the company, and previously worked at The New York Times, said the start-up’s database now had three million photos of dishe! s from all around the world, and users are adding a few hundred thousand photos every month.

Not all restaurant owners will be thrilled about the idea of customer-taken photos showing up alongside their menus. Some restaurateurs have prohibited photography of their dishes because it can be distracting to other diners and chefs.

Mr. Roberts said he didn’t think this would be a problem. He said users of Foodspotting typically voted for photos that are of the highest quality, which gives them more weight.

“We think restaurants will be broadly enthusiastic and appreciate the way their brand and dishes can be shared,” he said, adding that OpenTable could also give restaurants the tools to share their own photos of their dishes.