Friday, March 20, 2009

iPhone Dining Out Apps: OpenTable

The Zagat Guide application was one of my favorites on my old Palm Treo. So of course after I got my iPhone I surfed right over to the App Store to see if they had an iPhone application. Good news: Yes! Zagat's app included the reviews I love, plus is location aware and supports making reservations. The bad news: it costs $10! Damn ! So I went on a mission to see what free Zagat alternatives there might be. I'll be writing a series of posts about what I find.

First up: OpenTable - I originally learned of OpenTable via using its website. Though its site allows for user reviews and links to professional reviews, it is not a restaurant review site primarily. Instead, it is designed first and foremost for making reservations for restaurants that participate. That may sound very limiting, but many many restaurants participate and the list is growing, particularly in major metropolitan areas. OpenTable online saved me more than once, most recently when I needed to find a restaurant that had reservations available for New Years Eve when I got stuck at the last minute.

The OpenTable iPhone application follows nicely in the footsteps of the website. It links easily with your account (and can save your login information), and enables you to get directions to a restaurant, email your reservation, or cancel an existing reservation. It is also location-aware, so it lets you easily locate restaurants nearby. It also saves recently accessed locations for search. All of these features cool to have, and the application is very easy to use and works flawlessly.

My only problem with the application is that it lacks one key feature of the website--the ability to add the newly created (or other existing) reservation to your calendar. As of now Apple restricts third party applications from creating calendar entries, so I can't fault OpenTable for that.

I would suggest to users that they create an account at first before using the application. I didn't try creating an account through the application, but I imagine that it must be easier to do in a browser.

Next up: Yelp!

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