Forget your hastily arranged tissue packet, these days it’s all about reserving a table online. Charles Chia surveys the options.
Over the past few months, a number of new, home-grown sites, including Chope and Reserveit.sg, have sprung up to meet a growing demand for such reservation services. Chope co-founder Arrif Ziaudeen says his website “currently processes a reservation roughly every eight minutes.”
The idea is simple. You log on to the site, choose a restaurant from a range of options—they’re listed alphabetically or you can also enter your preferences such as cuisine, price, location and in the case of Reserveit.sg “even mood or occasion,” says founder Jesper Gustafsson, select the date and time, and you’re done. You’ll get an email confirmation in your inbox before you can say, “I’m hungry.”
The best bit: All these sites are free and available 24/7, so you don’t have to wait for a restaurant to open to make a booking. This can be especially useful during public holidays. As Terence Tan of Reservations.sg explains: “During CNY, many non-Chinese restaurants were closed, but users were still able to place their reservations (for after CNY) online.” Another plus is that you can make multiple bookings, ideal if you’re super busy or double-booked for the night. So if you’ve yet to try one of these sites, maybe it’s time you did. Here’s who’s offering what...
I-S PICK: Chope.com.sg
Relative newcomer Chope boasts a sizeable and carefully curated selection of 83 restaurants at last count—including some of our own top picks such as The White Rabbit and FiftyThree. Its sleek design and layout makes it easy to navigate (we especially like the A-Z list of all their restaurant partners), and the abundance of good-looking visuals don’t hurt either. Our favorite part is the “The Buzz” tab, which incorporates critics’ opinions from publications like Wine & Dine and, yes, I-S to provide users with a better sense of what to expect. One gripe: their cuisine options could do with some expansion.
A regionally-focused portal established in 2000, Eat2Eat.com suits frequent travelers in the Asia-Pacific region who want the convenience of online reservations beyond our shores with listed establishments from Hong Kong, Thailand and Japan. Frankly, it’s not a real contender in the local market as far as we’re concerned, with only about 20 restaurants to choose from at present. Even if you can look past the severely limited options, it takes a while to find your way around this poorly-designed site. Also, the webpage is plagued by being periodically down (not terribly reliable), and frustratingly slow at other times.
Those who love different Chinese cuisines will devour this site. It offers the usual filters, but takes it up a notch with everything from Hainanese to Hakka to Sichuan to Shanghai cuisine. While considerably more cluttered than the competition, NineLogic wins hands down when it comes to sheer quantity; we’re talking over 3,000 eateries, dominated mostly by Chinese restaurants (not great if you’re in the mood for Western food). The portal also has a loyalty program that incentivizes consistent usage through a tiered, points-based membership scheme.
A US-based reservation portal that’s worth noting for its growing presence in Europe and cities like London, Dubai and Kuala Lumpur; sorry to say, it’s not a real contender in our local market with only four Singapore restaurants listed at the moment. The good news is, they’re excellent establishments such as Cherry Garden and Morton’s (it’s no coincidence that all four are located in Mandarin Oriental Singapore). Here’s hoping they’ll add more eateries to the list, although the fact that the last addition was back in 2007 doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
RUNNER UP: Reserveit.sg
Although only eight months old, Reserveit has recently undergone a facelift and emerged with a sexy black/white/red color scheme and a search bar with multiple preference filters. We dig the “mood” filter which lets you choose from “First Date,” “Out with the Boys” and “Business Lunch.” Like Chope, it hosts a similar wealth of alluring visuals and offers a fine selection of restaurants (130 and counting) from long-time favorite Senso Ristorante to oh-so-chic Open Door Policy. A mobile app is currently in development, too.
Admittedly, Reservations’ layout could do with some work, but it’s still got a decent selection of close to 70 venues including Magma German Wine Bistro and relative newbie Skyve Bistro & Bar. You can search for the most booked restaurants, the newest additions, as well as by lowest and highest average main course. What sets it apart is a rewards program called ResPoints that gives you points every time you book through its site, which can later be accumulated to redeem Res-Vouchers. While the site is slightly more cluttered than others, it integrates a real-time Facebook news feed which gives users additional information about ongoing promotions.