When CityEats boldly strutted into OpenTable’s well-marked territory in December, the most consistent question that hounded the start-up online reservation system was: When will you roll out a mobile app?
Washingtonians apparently have a mobile-device fixation. Since the Scripps-backed reservation system debuted in the District, Narisa Wild, vice president of operations and product development for CityEats, says that 30 percent of traffic to the Web site comes from mobile devices. Clearly, CityEats needed a more user-friendly product for those users — or at least for the iPhone users.
Today, they will have it: CityEats is debuting its mobile app for iPhone. It’s now available free at the iPhone app store.
Like the OpenTable mobile app, the CityEats app will use the iPhone’s built-in GPS technology to help find nearby restaurants that have available tables. But unlike OpenTable’s app, CityEats’s version will be more visual: The photo tiles that appear when a user logs on will represent the restaurants in the area with open tables.
What’s more, those photo tiles will change depending not only on your location, but also on the filters you select, such as price point, number of people in your party and distance. You can then touch the photo to reveal the restaurant, available tables, reader reviews, chef information, menu and more. (At present, the app does not let you write a review.)
The mobile app’s roll out comes as CityEats continues to expand into other markets and decides whether to accelerate that expansion to better leverage its sister Scripps company, Food Network. CityEats debuted in Washington, but has moved into Philadelphia (where more than 30 restaurants are presently on the reservation system, with more in the pipeline) and has begun a soft-launch into New York City, where 50 restaurants have signed up, says Wild.
CityEats is preparing a business plan that would roll out reservation systems in an additional 10 cities over the next six to eight months. The potential rollout has not yet been approved by the CityEats executive team, which expects to review the plans in a few weeks, Wild says.
“We feel like we have to become more aggressive in our rollout,” she adds. “The main catalyst is. . . we really want to work very closely with the Food Network.”
The idea is to better take advantage of Food Network’s content, both on the cable channel and online. If, for example, Guy Fieri visits a restaurant on his “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” show and you happen to live nearby, you could quickly book a table at the featured eatery.
You’d “have the opportunity to make the reservation,” Wild says. “You’re closing that loop.”
That’s a built-in advertising/marketing platform that OpenTable obviously does not have.