Introducing the New OpenTable Restaurant Resources Site + Blog

MKT-OpenforBusiness-black-userAt OpenTable, we’re ringing in 2015 with some exciting new projects and resources for restaurants. Here’s a peek at what we have now, and what’s still to come.

Our new restaurant site tells you everything you need to know about working with OpenTable, starting with an overview of our key solutions for running a restaurant: Guest Center, Payments, and Copilot insights, to name a few. You’ll also find customer success stories, an ROI calculator to help you measure success, and an introduction to the team behind the products and services. Existing customers can sign in to manage their accounts, too.

Plus, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of our new restaurant blog, Open for Business! Here, we’re turning our attention to the business behind “the business,” featuring tips, tricks, and fresh ideas from top restaurateurs, editors, and experts on how to run a restaurant successfully. Since we’re proud to partner with the best restaurants in the industry, we want to share their knowledge and expertise and start new conversations within this community — from hiring great staff and tracking food cost to building an international restaurant empire. Here’s what you’ll find:

Ruth Reichl on What Restaurants Should Know About Food Critics (& How to Spot One): An interview with author and former restaurant critic Ruth Reichl about what makes great service, dealing with negative reviews, and how to spot a critic.

How to Open a Restaurant, Part 1: Building a Brand Identity: Restaurant consultant Alison Arth has led 13 restaurant openings to date and is currently working with Gavin Kaysen’s team at Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis. This is her first post in a 10-part series of best practices for launching a new concept.

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SeaBlue Restaurant & Wine Bar’s Ken Norcutt Talks #DinersChoice Win, Rave Reviews + Pappy Van Winkle

Ken NorcuttThis week, OpenTable announced the 2014 Diners’ Choice Awards for Top 100 Restaurants in America. Perched atop the list is SeaBlue Restaurant & Wine Bar, a revelation that surprised Ken Norcutt, chef-owner of the restaurant, but one which he chalks up to consistency in service, creativity of cuisine – and experience. Located in the tiny-yet-tony resort town of North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, SeaBlue has been open for a decade. Norcutt is a lifelong restaurant professional. He says, “I’ve been in the restaurant business since I was 14 years old, doing one aspect or another, from busboy to server to bartender to working back of the house to doing banquets. I’ve always had two jobs, and a restaurant was always my second job.”

He began working behind the bar at SeaBlue in 2007, and by the next year, he had purchased the restaurant, revamping its concept and energizing its wine and cocktail programs; the wine list recently earned a 2014 Wine Spectator Best Award of Excellence. Initially, SeaBlue served tapas-style cuisine, with a shallow menu of just 10 items or so. Norcutt wanted to up SeaBlue’s game, and so he upped the menu, greatly expanding it with an array of USDA prime steaks and wagyu cuts. He also serves seafood, with a strong emphasis on local product. New in the past year are oysters. Norcutt estimates he shucked almost 20,000 this season. They are sourced from Virginia – pungoteagues and olde salts – and North Carolina and are complemented with seasonal mignonettes and savory sorbets. “I also do an oysters Rockefeller with applewood smoked bacon, braised spinach, a little panko, and a béarnaise aioli on top, and they’ve been very popular. I think most of my regulars say it’s the best oysters Rockefeller they’ve ever had,” says Norcutt.

SeaBlue Cheese copyLike most of this year’s other Diners Choice Award-winning restaurants, SeaBlue has embraced the artisanal cheese boom, serving a cheese course selected from a rotating inventory of 20 wheels of carefully curated cheeses from around the world that are aged in house. The artful plates, which are accompanied by jams, jellies, nuts, local honeys, and aged vinegar gastriques, have drawn recent attention from Cheese Connoisseur magazine. Norcutt’s latest cheese crush is Shropshire. Made from cow’s milk, Shropshire is semi-soft and similar to Stilton despite its orange-y hue. “It really stands out on the plate – and it’s the perfect blend of the saltiness of a blue cheese and the sharpness of a cheddar. And, we balance that all out by serving it with fig vincotto,” he notes.

North Myrtle Beach has, according to Norcutt, just 15,000 or so permanent residents, but in tourist season, that number swells considerably as 15 million visitors swarm the small beach town. He observes, “Historically, the emphasis in Myrtle Beach dining has been about buffets and chains, and that’s what has allowed SeaBlue to stand out. It is one of only about four or five restaurants that are really trying to change the scene and source from local farms as much as possible.” As the area grows in popularity as a vacation destination, its food culture is growing, too. “There’s a climate change here when it comes to the culinary scene. You’re seeing the buffets and the feeding troughs closing and these new places, like Fire & Smoke gastropub, opening.”

In a field of more than 20,000 restaurants, Norcutt was shocked and elated to find his establishment in the top spot. “When [OpenTable account manager] Page Stokes emailed me last Friday, I think I cried a little bit,” he admits. “We were just hoping to get into the top 100 again this year. And when she said we were the number one restaurant, I was speechless. I’m so glad people reviewed us and said how much they enjoy it here. We’re just a small little restaurant in a small little town; we do what we do and hope everything falls into place. It’s such an honor to be in the company on that list.”

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OpenTable Reviews Reveal #DinersChoice Top 100 Best Restaurants in America — Top 10 Ranked

As we cheer the end of another year of delicious dining, we are pleased to celebrate the 2014 Diners’ Choice Award winners for the Top 100 Best Restaurants in America and highlight the Top 10 honorees. These awards reflect the combined opinions of more than 5 million restaurant reviews submitted by verified OpenTable diners for more than 20,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The Top 10 Best Restaurants in America, in rank order, include:

  1. SeaBlue Restaurant & Wine Bar – North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  2. Sushi Nakazawa-Sushi Bar – New York, New York
  3. Fearrington House Restaurant – Pittsboro, North Carolina
  4. n/naka – Los Angeles, California
  5. St. Francis Winery & Vineyards – Santa Rosa, California
  6. Ski Tip Lodge – Keystone, Colorado
  7. Twenty Eight Atlantic at Wequassett Resort – East Harwich, Massachusetts
  8. Kai – Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort – Chandler, Arizona
  9. The French Room – Dallas Texas
  10. Highlands Bar and Grill – Birmingham, Alabama

The Top 10 Best Restaurants in America are as diverse as our appetites, from intimate and sleek newcomer Sushi Nakazawa with just 25 seats to the lively, perennially revered 124-seat Highlands Bar and Grill. What they all share is an unmatched level of consistency and attention to detail, which can be found in their superior service, careful sourcing of local ingredients, and commitment to excellence and hospitality.

Lauding both recently opened as well as longstanding restaurants that feature everything from à la carte to intricate tasting menus, the complete list includes award winners in 32 states and Washington,D.C., such as Eleven Madison Park in New York, Laurel in Philadelphia, and Saison in San Francisco. There are 35 repeat winners from 2013, eight of which again cracked the top 10, and 65 new honorees.

New York has the greatest number of winners with 12, followed by California and Florida with eight each; North Carolina and Pennsylvania with six apiece; and Oregon and Texas earning five each. Illinois has four, and Arizona, Georgia, Hawaii, Nebraska, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Virginia all have three winners. Colorado, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, Tennessee, and Washington have two award winners apiece. Alaska, Alabama, Connecticut, Kansas, Maryland, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin are also represented.

Dinner-only restaurants dominate the list, with 59 winners. While American fare restaurants are most popular, the eclectic array of cuisines on the list includes global, Hawaiian, Italian, Japanese, seafood, Thai, and vegan. More than 25 percent of honorees indicate they offer gluten-free options.

While new restaurants make a strong showing with 14 opening in 2014, including vegan eatery Modern Love, well-established restaurants performed remarkably well: 25 winning restaurants are more than 20 years old. Approximately twenty percent of the list includes restaurants located at a property of historical significance.

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#Hellastorm Affecting San Francisco: Please Call to Confirm a Restaurant Is #OpeninSF

San Francisco is experiencing severe weather and some areas are without power. While most restaurants are open for business, due to the intense nature of the storm, we encourage diners to phone restaurants to confirm reservations until conditions improve.

We wish everyone affected by this storm a safe few days.