Need a reservation at a classy restaurant for a last minute business meeting? Too tired to cook when you get home from work? You can probably guess what I'm going to write: Yes, there's an app for that.
Let's start with restaurant reservations. OpenTable is my go-to app (on Android and iOS) because it's so easy to use. You can book tables in seconds, you accrue points that can be used for free restaurant certificates, and select restaurants now let you pay the tab using the OpenTable app.
Reserve for Android and iOS recently arrived on the restaurant booking scene. The app comes from Expa, a startup "studio" led by the cofounders of Uber and Foursquare. The developer, Reserve, recently announced $15 million in funding, including money from celebrity investors Jared Leto and Jon Favreau, director, star, writer and producer of one of my favorite 2014 films, "Chef."
Reserve aims to be your restaurant "concierge," and it helps you grab tables at top restaurants. However, the service is currently limited to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston, and relatively few restaurants are supported, at least compared to OpenTable.
You simply tell the app the number of people who want to eat, then specify the date and your preferred reservation times, and it presents a list of restaurant options. When you tap a restaurant in the list you see details, including addresses, executive chef names, cuisine types, awards or accolades, suggested attire and price ranges. You also get links to restaurant menus and websites. If you like what you see, you simply request a reservation via Reserve. The restaurant receives your request, and you get status updates via SMS.
However, unlike OpenTable, a restaurant listing for a given date and time in Reserve doesn't actually mean a reservation is available. For example, on Feb. 10 I requested a dinner reservation for a restaurant in San Francisco on Valentine's Day. Twenty minutes later, I received a text update saying that the restaurant I chose "filled up weeks in advance for Valentine's weekend," and that I'd been added to their waitlist.
Reserve also charges a $5 "concierge fee," which is automatically added to your tab after your meal. You give Reserve your credit card information in advance, and your meal is charged to your card along with your chosen tip percentage.
Reserve is a slick, minimalist app that's easy to navigate, but unless you want a more "curated" list of restaurants, compared to OpenTable's sometimes endless choices, I don't see a compelling reason to pay Reserve's $5 fee.
If you're looking to eat at home, but don't have time to cook, there's Munchery, an app for iOS and Android, and an online service, that's available in the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle. Ordering meals from this gourmet "heat and eat" delivery service is easy. Most of the dishes I had delivered to my home were delicious and reasonably proportioned, with one exception — a smoked rainbow trout potato cakes entree I ordered really should have been reclassified as an appetizer. Munchery donates a meal to a charitable organization for every order it receives, too, which is a nice touch.
EAT24 is another home-delivery option for Android and iOS that lets you order takeout or delivery from tons of nearby restaurants in a variety of cities. The app is easy to navigate and use, but as is often the case with restaurant delivery services, it can take as long as 90 minutes for your order to arrive.