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Reserve a table to dine, online?

Big Apple diners looking for a table at the city's hippest restaurants may soon be able to find one online.

Big Apple diners looking for a table at the city's hippest restaurants may soon be able to find one online.

OpenTable.com, a San Francisco-based start-up that offers an online reservation system for restaurants in select cities, recently opened an office in the New York area. The company, which links to high-end restaurants in Seattle, Chicago, and the San Francisco Bay Area, expects to offer reservations online for New York City restaurants as early as next week.

OpenTable's reservation system allows customers to search for restaurants on three different criteria: type of cuisine, restaurant name, or location/neighborhood. Customers can make reservations months in advance or find out whether there are tables open the same night.

"OpenTable.com offers lots of new ways of communicating with restaurants, and ways for restaurants to communicate with diners," company spokeswoman Regan Daniels said.

As part of the system, the company sets up a terminal in each restaurant that can be used to input phone reservations as well. Reservations made online come in through the Internet and show up alongside other reservations.

However, it remains to be seen whether the service will take off. So far, only 65 restaurants have signed up to use the OpenTable system (50 are from the Bay Area); and the site allows reservations on only 36 of them.

International Data Corporation analyst Barry Parr said he wondered what advantages the system would offer over simply picking up a telephone.

"It definitely feels like one of those things that's not aching to be automated," Parr said. "Is this really better than a ledger book and pencil?"

But Lisa Klenke, the general manager of the posh San Francisco restaurant Cypress Club, said she had been happy with the system so far. Cypress Club has been affiliated with OpenTable for a month and has only received about seven online reservations, Klenke said. Still, she expects that number to grow; and the restaurant has begun to use the reservation system to track customer preferences.

"They're the wave of the future," Klenke said. "I truly believe that."