Restaurant Booking Apps
It's common these days to have a smartphone, a tablets, a laptop and an internet-enabled television – but when it comes to booking a table for dinner we seem to be stuck with the old ways. Most of us just call the restaurant. But according to national press reports, as online booking services move from the regular internet to smartphone screens, all that is about to change.
Recent big-name acquisitions suggest that a habit-breaking revolution is under way. In July, Priceline, whose brands include meta-search company Kayak and Booking.com, bought the restaurant reservation service OpenTable for £1.65 billion. In May, TripAdvisor forked out to add La Fourchette to its growing stable of add-on services. La Fourchette is a restaurant-booking engine which specialises in France, Spain, Belgium and Switzerland, and its functions are already built into the TripAdvisor app. If you search for restaurants in, say, Paris, those listed with a “Find a table” button offer direct in-app booking.
Michelin has also revamped its mobile offering. Until this autumn, the premier name in fine dining charged £11.99 for its European restaurants iPhone app. Now the app is free, and thanks to a partnership with Bookatable.co.uk, you can browse and reserve from inside the app. So far, around a fifth of Michelin’s restaurant recommendations are bookable in-app.
When it comes to statistics, OpenTable’s free app (opentable.com; Android, iOS, Windows) still leads the way. It lists more than 30,000 restaurants worldwide, including 4,200 in Britain and 2,000 in Germany. Users can filter restaurants by cuisine type, location or price range, and menus are usually available to browse. Mobile devices already supply 36 per cent of OpenTable’s UK restaurant bookings, and 47 per cent of those in North America. Recent OpenTable innovations include Hot Tables, a service that automatically alerts you to coveted late cancellations. The company is also trialling mobile payments for iPhone users in eight US cities, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. If the service gets a wider rollout, you won’t even have to hang around waiting for the bill at the end of a meal. Everything is settled inside the app.
There are new arrivals on the dining app scene, too, notably Reserve (reserve.com; iOS; free). Reserve is a “digital dining concierge” service, focused on top-end restaurants. Users select a preferred place and time, then wait for Reserve to secure and confirm the booking. Payment is settled automatically at the end of the meal, and Reserve charges a flat £3.20 for the service. Reserve currently operates in New York, Los Angeles and Boston, but plans to expand its service, including to London.