Add Philadelphia to the list of cities now served by restaurant reservation and payment app Reserve, which launched last fall and has since expanded to offer its services in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston. The company, which is backed by founders of Uber and Foursquare, has had a big year, raising $15 million in funding in February and later snapping up companies Zurvu and Hail.
Rather than offering set reservation times, Reserve asks users to submit requests for tables given a date, party size, and desired range of times, then works with restaurants to fulfill the request. The app also handles the payment process for the meal: It will be charged directly to the card you've associated with your account, with an option to split the tab evenly among your party (provided the others have the app set up, of course).
Reserve charges users a flat $5 "concierge fee," which is added to your bill after you dine. That fee will be waived from now through October 13, making the app free to use during the introductory period. (If you make a late cancellation or no-show, you'll be charged a separate fee, which goes to the restaurant. The cancellation policies for each place can be viewed before you submit a request.)
22 restaurants in Philly have signed on so far, and it's a formidable list: Zahav, Vetri, Vedge, Fork, Vernick, and other top restaurants are on there, with more promised to be added over time. (The full roster is included below.)
Some of the restaurants on the list — like the Fat Ham and Bing Bing — typically accept reservations only on a very limited basis. But no matter what the individual restaurant's usual reservation policy is, you can request a table at your preferred time at any restaurant on Reserve's list, which the restaurant will consider on a case-by-case basis. If they're unable to fulfill your precise request, they may make a counter-offer according to availability. In essence, Reserve marries the convenience of an app with the added clout and flexibility you can sometimes get from calling a restaurant directly and asking nicely.
At this point in time, Philadelphians using the app won't see one of its most talked-about features: the ability to bid on especially tough tables by offering to pay some percentage above menu prices. A rep for Reserve explains that placing a bid is always optional to the user, but that it's also up to individual restaurants whether they want to turn the option on in the first place. At launch time, we're told, none of the participating restaurants in Philadelphia have opted in to bidding. (It remains to be seen if any of them will choose to switch it on for high-traffic times.)
The Reserve app is available for iPhone and Android devices. Here's the full list of restaurants they're working with in Philly so far:
Bing Bing Dim Sum
Garces Trading Company
High Street on Market
Petruce et al.
The Fat Ham
Vernick Food & Drink