Priceline buys OpenTable $2.6B: Are meal deals on the horizon?

Travel-deal giant Priceline wants to do more than book your hotel and airfare. It wants to arrange your meals as well. The Priceline Group(s pcln) said on Friday it has agreed to buy restaurant reservations portal OpenTable(s open) for $2.6 billion.

“They provide us with a natural extension into restaurant marketing services and a wonderful and highly-valued booking experience for our global customers,” Priceline CEO Darren Huston said in a statement.


Priceline’s longtime spokesman William Shatner (Source: Priceline Group)

Priceline not only owns, but also booking sites, Kayak, and Agoda. All of its properties, however, focus on the core logistics of travel: airfare, car rentals, hotel rooms and even cruises and vacation packages. Buying OpenTable adds an key entertainment component to its aresenal. OpenTable manages reservations for 31,000 restaurants and seats 15 million diners per month. It owns foodie social app Foodspotting as well.

There’s a big opportunity for Priceline to apply its discount bookings model to OpenTable. Just as Priceline takes excess hotel room and flight inventory and sells it at reduced prices to travelers, it could “buy” empty tables from its restaurant partners and sell them at discount to its customers. OpenTable explored a daily deal service in the vein of Groupon(s grpn) (see disclosure) a few years ago, but it wound up canceling the program. It still offers occasional discount promotions for restaurants meals.

Priceline said OpenTable would continue to operate as independent subsidiary based in San Francisco. The companies expect the deal to close in the third quarter, but it’s already facing opposition. Law firm  Powers Taylor put out a statement immediately after the deal was announced saying it is investigating potential claims that Priceline’s offer is as being far too low.

The author’s spouse is employed at Groupon