Food News

Food Network's CityEats Bringing Text Alerts to Restaurant Wait Times

In the age of instant everything, restaurant-reservation technology still hasn't caught up. Most of the time we're forced to wander aimlessly while carrying a blinking red brick or hover within 20 feet of the hostess stand so our table isn't given away. Seriously, it's like the Stone Age.

But luckily, CityEats is here with a new reservation-booking system that uses text messaging (finally) plus a bunch of other conveniences for restaurants and their patrons. The site and tech product also offer editorial curation, providing info on local hot spots for readers.

See also:
- Giorgio Rapicavoli Makes Food Network Debut on Chopped Tomorrow
- SoBeWFF 2013: The Good, the Bad, and the Crowded

Dubbed a "new dining discovery and reservations platform," CityEats is powered by Food Network. Thus far, it has partnered with 25-plus Miami spots, including Pubbelly, Pubbelly Sushi, and the Federal. All of those spots are featured on the CityEats.com website, which launched in conjunction with last week's SoBeWFF.

Basically, the brand offers a cloud-based table-management and reservation system that works via iPad, smartphone, or laptop. Consumers can make reservations online and set up a profile, as well as access content about various eateries on the CityEats site.

"We have an editorial staff that goes to a lot of these restaurants. They're in the scene, so they're reading the local food blogs and the journalists who cover food. We hire local writers, people who are really intimate with the area, and we visit the restaurants and dine there. If we like them and think it's something of note, it's one of the places we consider writing about," says VP of marketing Peter Weingard.

For restaurants, real-time data about table turnover, customer demographics, and lots of other important info is gathered and analyzed, allowing management to more easily streamline the dining room. Wanna know check averages for certain tables? Average wait times? Most popular specials? It's all tracked, allowing restaurants to make better business decisions.

Not to mention, when customers create profiles and make reservations, the system collects their data -- what they ate, how much they spent -- even what they look like via snapshot. That can come in handy for identifying a VIP, disgruntled guest, or even just low-key loyal customers.

And in our fave feature for the consumer side, their wait-list technology can send a text message to diners when their table is ready. Instant gratification. Joe's Stone Crab, are you listening?

Customers can also write reviews about their experiences. But unlike other review sites, they actually have to visit the restaurant in order to do so. In other words, they make the reservation online, check in at the location, and once it's tracked, they can pen their two cents. This also allows restaurants to up their customer-service skills.

"Most of the time the restaurants like to know if there's a problem. When it's anonymous, they don't know if it's real or if it's their competitors. This way they can send you an email and say, 'I'm so sorry you had a bad time.' It gives them a chance to have better customer service," Weingard says.

Plus, the system is 40 percent less expensive than operating OpenTable, according to Weingard.

Check out CityEats.com for all the Miami restaurants using the system thus far.

Follow Hannah on Twitter @hannahalexs.

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Hannah Sentenac covers veg food, drink, pop culture, travel, and animal advocacy issues. She is also editor-in-chief of LatestVeganNews.com.
Contact: Hannah Sentenac