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New App Reserve Is Your Concierge to SF's Hot Restaurants

Tough-to-get seats run $5 all-in, and you can pay for dinner on your phone.

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The battle to gain space in the crowded online reservations market in SF continues apace, and as of today, an interesting new player is entering the field: Reserve, which bills itself as a "digital concierge service" that will get you a reservation and ensure you're treated like a regular—even if it's your first time dining at the restaurant.

Reserve has amassed a pretty solid stable of early players that are offering tables through the service, including Flour + Water, Foreign Cinema, Kusakabe, Bar Agricole, Mason Pacific, Outerlands, Namu Gaji, and Piccino. The app is free to download and use; just tell Reserve your party size and when you want a table and at which of their restaurants, and they'll get on the case to find you a seat, updating you on their progress via text message. If they score you a table, they extract a $5 concierge fee, regardless of party size; at the end of the meal, you're presented with a card letting you know the check is taken care of, via the credit card information stored on your phone. (You can set your tipping preferences in advance.) But the real kicker is this: if tables are hard to come by, you can offer to pay more than the standard menu price in order to plead your case, and increase your likelihood of snagging a table. (Reserve splits this extra cash with the restaurant, though it's apparently not a common phenomenon; the company says only 1-2% of its beta testers opted to bid up.)

So what's in it for the restaurants? Well, for starters, Reserve cuts down on dreaded no-shows by charging fees that are just onerous enough to discourage making idle reservations ($15-20 per screwup). And it's not a big drain on the book, either: Reserve doesn't require restaurants to reserve a single advance table in its name, saying it's up to the restaurants to find slots that make sense for them. Restaurants can also offer special tasting menus or other unique items exclusively through the app, building customer loyalty. The service has been a hit so far in New York, L.A., and Boston, where the likes of Carbone, ABC Kitchen, Bestia, Lucques, and Craigie on Main are on board.

Here's the full SF lineup for Reserve's debut (FYI, it's iOS only for now):

Abbot's Cellar

Bar Agricole

Central Kitchen

Dosa on Fillmore

Dosa on Valencia

Flour + Water

Foreign Cinema

Kusakabe

Maruya

Mason Pacific

Namu Gaji

Nico

One Market

Outerlands

Ozumo

Piccino

RN74

Spruce

Trou Normand

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