Shares of OpenTable (Nasdaq: OPEN) hit a new all-time high yesterday. Naturally, the time was right for an analyst to downgrade the web-based restaurant-reservations juggernaut, like a cynical food critic snubbing a bustling trattoria.

Stifel Nicolas analyst George Askew panned the stock -- going from "buy" to "hold" -- on valuation concerns.

Askew's earlier bullishness was warranted. OpenTable has more than doubled since going public at $20 last year. Is his newfound bearishness just as valid? I don't think so.

Don't get me wrong -- I accept that there's a bearish case to be made for OpenTable. It may own this space, with 12,250 North American restaurants and another 1,878 abroad on its platform, but the company's still susceptible to threats.

IAC's (Nasdaq: IACI) Urbanspoon is trying to do make a dent with its RezBook platform, where restaurateurs need only an Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad to offer an electronic reservation book, at a much lower price per seated patron. As Facebook takes on Foursquare with check-ins, and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) begins dotting its maps with sponsored results, the competitive dangers to OpenTable become increasingly real. 

OpenTable has also been slow to embrace the social wonders of Web 2.0, though partnering with Yelp will help in that regard.

However, it's hard for me to take any analyst's valuation-based argument against OpenTable seriously. Follow me as I show you to your table:

Time Frame

EPS Est.


Q2 2010



Q1 2010



Q4 2009



Q3 2009



Q2 2009



Source: Yahoo! Finance.

See that? Whatever consensus analysts reached regarding OpenTable's earnings potential, its bottom line clocked in 17% to 100%  higher in each of its first five quarters as a public company.

Revenue is also accelerating. OpenTable's revenue climbed 37% in its latest quarter. Two important metrics to tie into that showing are a 27% year-over-year gain in restaurants, and a 52% spike in seated diners. See how the latter is almost double the pace of the former? It shows that the average restaurant is seating far more patrons through the platform than it used to. See how the gain in revenue isn't as significant as the number of reservations? It means that OpenTable is more cost-effective than it was a year ago for restaurateurs -- making them less likely to turn to unproven upstarts that lack OpenTable's scale, viral allure, or 12 years of seasoning.

OpenTable has grown briskly during a recession that hasn't been kind to eateries in general. One can only imagine what the company could do when the economy warms up again.

There's also room for improvement abroad. On a smaller scale, international losses are eating into North American profits. This situation recalls Travelzoo (Nasdaq: TZOO), which is sacrificing near-term profitability for long-term goals. In OpenTable's case, the company's sky-high earnings multiple overstates reality.

Askew managed to call the top -- for now -- but I believe that the best is yet to come for OpenTable. The company's accelerating growth, scalable model, and international potential all sound a tempting dinner bell for hungry investors.

Have you ever used OpenTable for a restaurant reservation? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a fan of new stocks, and has even recommended several fresh IPOs to newsletter readers in the past -- including OpenTable. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.