Uber Group Tackling the Tricky World of Food Apps

Reserve's pay-by-app, concierge service has high-profile restaurants like Row 34 jumping on board.


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Expa, the startup studio behind Uber and Foursquare, quietly launched one of the more interesting food apps back in October. Now Reserve, and its CEO Greg Hong, are aggressively pushing their brand in Boston with a number of recent high profile partnerships including Ming Tsai (Blue Dragon), restaurateur Garrett Harker (Eastern Standard, Row 34), and Barbara Lynch’s BL Gruppo.

Combining some of the best elements of Yelp, OpenTable, and Uber, the concierge service aims to be a complete “start to finish experience,” according to Hong. To start, diners simply choose from a number of preferred restaurants and times, and Reserve finds a table using those parameters. Additionally, guests can leave private ratings and feedback, and pay-by-app, essentially eliminating that awkward, end-of-the-meal transaction.

“A lot of the input we’ve received from diners regards the check experience,” Hong says. “When you talk to most chefs, they’ll always tell you, they just want guests to leave their restaurant happy. Instead of that experience becoming very transactional, where diners are fumbling around to pull out a credit card and so forth. It becomes very hospitable. It’s a really elegant way of getting things done.”

Reserve is currently available in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, with several more cities (D.C., Chicago, and London are up next) set to join later this year. After launching with 60 restaurants across three markets, Reserve is now working with over 120, a number which is increasing by the day. Unlike OpenTable and other dining apps, Reserve doesn’t charge restaurants for its services, an obvious factor in its impressive 2015 growth. Another reason? Hong and his team are combating the nagging issue of no-shows by charging customers a $10-$25 fee that goes directly to the restaurant.

Would-be Reserve users should note that the service does add on a $5 flat fee to the bill, regardless of party size, but that can be a small price to pay for harder-to-score reservations.

Boston restaurants currently working with Reserve include:

  • 51 Lincoln
  • Alden & Harlow
  • B&G Oysters
  • backbar
  • Belly Wine Bar
  • Bergamot
  • Blue Dragon
  • Bogie’s Place
  • Bondir
  • Bondir Concord
  • Boston Chops
  • Cafe Art Science
  • Casa B
  • Commonwealth
  • Craigie on Main
  • Deuxave
  • East By Northeast
  • Eastern Standard
  • Fairsted Kitchen
  • Grill 23
  • Harvest
  • Hungry Mother
  • Island Creek Oyster Bar
  • Journeyman
  • Juniper
  • L’Espalier
  • La Brasa
  • La Voile
  • Liquid Art House
  • Nebo
  • Ole
  • Oleana
  • Post 390
  • Puritan & Company
  • Row 34
  • Sam’s
  • Shojo
  • Sportello
  • Steel & Rye
  • Study
  • Sycamore
  • Taberna de Haro
  • Tavern Road
  • The Blue Room
  • The Butcher Shop
  • The Hawthorne
  • The Merchant
  • Townsman
  • Trade
  • Troquet
  • Tupelo
  • Via Matta
  • Viale
  • Waban Kitchen
  • West Bridge