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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Reserve tables with a click

Restaurant reservation websites have popped up to help diners book tables with ease
The Straits Times - July 2, 2011
By: rebecca lynne tan
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Reserve tables with a click Founders of Chope, Arrif Ziaudeen, 30, and Clowie Tan, 28. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

Making a restaurant reservation just got more convenient.

Two new online dining reservations websites that offer instant real-time confirmation of dining reservations in Singapore have been set up.

They are Chope, which was launched two weeks ago, and Reservations.SG, whose website went live last November. The service is free.

There is also the Restaurant Week website which goes live in time for its third week-long dining event in October. The website and event are run by online dining guide and reservations website

Other websites that also offer instant checks on table availability with real-time reservation confirmation include OpenTable, a popular dining reservations website in the United States and other parts of the world, and Eat2Eat, which also lists restaurants globally. Singaporeans seem to be more receptive to making online dining reservations, if numbers are anything to go by.

More than 24,000 online reservations were made during Restaurant Week in March, a week-long dining event where restaurants offer three-course meals at $25 a head for lunch and $35 a head for dinner.

Newly launched Chope has already placed 120 reservations through its site for the 12 restaurants that it has tied up with while Reservations.SG averages about 100 reservations a month for its 69 restaurants.

The advantages of making online reservations include being able to book a table outside of operating hours. Also, there is no need to leave voice messages on answering machines that could be misinterpreted.

The online websites tell you immediately if a table at a desired restaurant, on a particular date and at a particular time, is available.

Founders of Chope, Mr Arrif Ziaudeen, 30, and Ms Clowie Tan, 28, say they started the website to offer customers easy access when making reservations. Ms Tan says: 'When I make a reservation and if a restaurant does not answer, I move on to the next. Restaurants are losing customers because of this.' Mr Ziaudeen used to be a management consultant and also worked in private equities while Ms Tan is an ex-auditor who went into the hospitality industry.

Chope also serves as an integrated and customised table management solution for restaurateurs whom it has tied up with. The online reservation immediately goes into the restaurant's table management system and automatically places the diner at a table. This helps restaurants with table arrangements and optimal seating plans, stores diner's data and even manages the flow of diners during prime- time slots so that the kitchen can cope accordingly.

Reservations.SG, developed by former IT consultant and IT sales manager Terence Tan, 33, works a little differently.

While it offers the same, real-time confirmation concept as Chope, the website functions on seat allocation. This means that a restaurant allocates a certain number of seats daily to the website, which can then be booked instantly. If these seats are not booked by a cut-off time stipulated by the restaurant, they are released back to the restaurant.

Mr Tan has also developed a pre-pay option where diners who make reservations more than 24 hours in advance can pay a fixed amount upfront with a credit card. The amount varies with each restaurant.

Restaurants, in turn, offer varying benefits and discounts such as $10 off the total bill for diners who pay a deposit upfront. The deposit also protects the restaurants from no-shows. Still, website operators acknowledge that there will still be people who prefer to make reservations by telephone. Also, there are limits to what you can do online. For example, your dinner party may be larger than the stipulated number available on the website, or you want to book the entire or part of the restaurant.

Most restaurants are open to the idea of online reservations. Says Mr Wee Teng Wen, 31, director of restaurant and lifestyle group Lo & Behold, whose restaurant The White Rabbit in Harding Road started using Chope recently: 'Online reservations are a natural progression for the Singapore restaurant industry.

'Not only does it make the reservations process smoother and easy to track, but it will also allow us to manage reservations across our five outlets in one central location.'

But not all restaurateurs think Singapore is ready for online reservations just yet.

Mr Ignatius Chan, 48, co-owner of high-end modern European restaurant Iggy's at Hilton Singapore, says: 'We are not a city that is so developed just yet. The system might work, but we will have to wait until Singapore hits a point where we have an intense flow of international guests such as in New York or Paris, and it becomes a little more challenging to get into restaurants.'



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