Websites and mobile apps have lifted the curtain on restaurant reservations, rewarding regular diners and advance planners. But if you’re winging it, there’s a new round of apps that help procrastinators find coveted tables at the last minute.
“It’s a jungle out there,” says Salvatore Rizzo, who owns De Gustibus Cooking School in Manhattan and has spent three decades in the food industry, most recently as director of house events for the James Beard Foundation. “Especially if you’re in a city, apps are your second best bet after facial recognition.”
The fact is, many of the old school strategies don’t work anymore. You can try calling ahead, but restaurants often lack enough staffing to tend to the phones during a rush and you'll probably have to show up before being promised a spot. And slipping the maitre d’ a $20 is a dated practice that’s widely considered poor taste, Rizzo says. If you don’t have the time or dedication to become a regular, your smartphone may be your fastest ticket in.
Here are six new apps and a Twitter feed that will make spontaneous dining less stressful.
If you live in Boston
Still in its early stages, SoonSpoon is a reservation service that texts or e-mails users up-to-the-minute data about requested restaurant availability. It also maintains a Twitter account that users can follow for breaking openings. The service launched in Boston in March and has a points system that rewards frequent diners with treats like chocolates or invites to pop-up dinners around the city. Be warned: Points are deducted when users cancel or don't show.