Restaurants are always looking for ways to differentiate themselves. They wonder, “what can we offer that will bring in our next regular diner?” Holiday menus, multi-coursed offerings, and special events have long been a strategy for restaurants to show off their best. There are operational challenges that come with these offerings. When are they available? Are they offered throughout the entire restaurant? Can guests choose not to select them? What marketing is needed for these experiences?


OpenTable saw an opportunity to answer those questions by building the world’s best experience marketplace. Restaurants create and market unique offerings. Diners discover exciting culinary events in cities all over the world. By connecting restaurants and diners, OpenTable becomes a destination furthering its mission to help people experience the world through dining.


I led the initial design for experiences from September 2019 to July 2020. I worked with five product development teams across Web and iOS. I partnered with our product managers to drive strategy and deliver value to customers. I supported research by conducting interviews and shared analysis to drive decision-making. Experiences launched on July 7th, 2020.


We conducted moderated studies with eight restaurants to understand the restaurant’s mindset when it comes to planning, creating, and promoting these experiences. We learned:

  1. General Managers plan experiences months in advance so they can ensure they have enough time to communicate the experience to guests.
  2. General Mangers view experiences as a marketing tool they can use to generate buzz and excitement around their restaurant.
  3. General Managers think creatively about experiences so they can offer unexpected events that happen in the restaurant, outside of the restaurant, or in the guest’s home.
  4. General Managers rely on prepayment so that they can source ingredients ahead of time for things like special menu ingredients.


Create an experience by selecting a type, crafting a title, and setting a price

Provide a description and select tags

Create an add-on

Add photos to your experience, design by Abigail C.

Set reservation dates and select a shift

Review and confirm changes before publishing

When a host books an experience for a guest they will see title and price information

Hosts will have quick access to experience information at their fingertips


Was it strange to launch a product for restaurants in the desolate wasteland of July 2020? Yes. Did we still do it? Also yes. We’ll talk about numbers and results in a second but I believe this launch carried a lot of emotional weight. It was the first substantial product launch since the pandemic hit, we were all learning how to live and work in this new world, and we offered it for free! It was important to celebrate this event so the leads and I planned a virtual launch party for the many teams.

I wore a tux (without shoes) to our online celebration

In the first 6 months:

  • We reached our adoption number goal
  • More than half of the restaurants had never used marketing features before thus increasing our total addressable market
  • We overshot our goal of prepaid experiences reservations
  • We helped restaurants collect much need money during the pandemic (using experiences was free to restaurants)


Fun fact, this was my first project at OpenTable. On my third day, I walked into the project planning meeting where I found out I would be leading this project from the design side.

  • There is no limit to the creativity of restaurants, we gave them a blank cavas and they created experiences beyond our wildest imagination—think ice-less curling with fruity drinks, open mic nights with live head shaving, and cabanas worth thousands of dollars.
  • This stretched our system in ways we couldn’t have predicted. A tight feedback loop ensured we responded to their needs quickly. After releasing experiences we got feedback about the need for add-ons (flowers, wine pairings, etc). Three months later we shipped our add-ons feature.
  • I was the sole designer for multiple teams and learned quickly that having a routine touch point (like an office hours) helped provide clarity to our engineering partners. It also had a communal effect, brining the team closer together. We were all in this together, figuring it out as we went.
  • I was constantly challenged by the age old adage: quality vs speed. This is an existential challenge for most designers, how do you design something that has a level of polish you are proud of while delivering it on a set timeline? I learned a lot about negotiating various parts of a product and truly understanding how to phase or slice a project that enables momentum. I wouldn’t have done anything differently but I will always look to push my craft’s ability to delight people who use the products I work on.

In 2023, I had the opportunity to return to experience related work and it’s been amazing. Feels like a full circle moment where I can relish on the things that are still working well and have the confidence to iterate on things that can be improved.