Mobile Commerce Daily is now Retail Dive: Mobile Commerce! Click here to learn more!

Urbanspoon furthers mobile push with real-time reservations

Urbanspoon is continuing its push to be a leader in the online dining space with an update that lets users see restaurant reservations in real-time.

Urbanspoon is rolling out the update after seeing a large percentage of mobile reservations being made for on-the-spot times. The Right Now feature uses a consumer’s location to find nearby restaurants that are currently available.

“One of Urbanspoon’s strategies is to provide restaurants with tools that allow them to reach more diners,” said Kara Nortman, senior vice president of consumer businesses at City Grid Media, Seattle.

“Restaurants that don’t take reservations have the ability to market their open inventory on and our iPhone app,” she said.

“In addition, it’s a great customer service tool for restaurants because they can communicate table availability and wait times with their customers easily.”

City Grid Media is the parent company for Citysearch, Insider Pages and Urbanspoon.

Streamlined reservations
The updated version of the Urbanspoon app includes the Right Now section, which is prominently displayed in the middle of the home page.

Users who tap on the section can see all nearby restaurants that have open reservations at the moment.

From there, consumers can access each restaurant’s individual page to view information such as reviews, contact information, menus and the company’s Web site.

To make a reservation, users can either sign in via an account or create an account with their name, phone number and email address. Additionally, consumers can sign up for email updates from Urbanspoon via the new feature.

For restaurants that do not take reservations, consumers can view wait times via the app.

“We specifically built Right Now because we were finding that of the reservations made from mobile devices most were diners looking to eat within the hour,” Ms. Nortman said

“People want to see what’s around them when they’re looking to eat. Making it easier for diners to close the loop from a mobile device is the biggest trend in mobile dining,” she said.

Dining wars
The new update puts Urbanspoon in closer competition with other online dining sites that have aggressively been going after mobile as a way to increase the number of restaurant reservations.

For example, OpenTable, which traditionally is a Web-based company, has made being on every platform one of its main mobile goals.

Recently, the company rolled out an Android application formatted for the Kindle Fire after seeing  the trend of consumers doing more on the devices than just consuming media (see story).

In Urbanspoon’s case, the app update shows that consumers not only want to make reservations via their devices, they also expect to instantaneously find what they are looking for without having to filter through unrelevant content.

“Urbanspoon is about restaurant discovery – we give diners restaurant content from across the Web including newspapers, professional food critics, bloggers and diners,” Ms. Nortman said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York