Food Network's CityEats Bringing Text Alerts, App as Alternative to OpenTable

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It's nothing new, but technology is changing the way we do everything. We order cabs via apps, follow directions through our cell phones' GPS, find recipes online -- you could probably go on forever.

Now, a new website and app, CityEats, by the Food Network has brought restaurant dining reservations to another level. In addition to numerous industry-side benefits, the platform features an app and text alerts for consumers.

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A direct competitor to OpenTable, the site features more than 60 restaurants across the South Florida market, such as 3030 Ocean, Casa D'Angelo, 32 East, and numerous other spots in Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami.

The application offers a cloud-based table-management and reservation system that works through tablets, smart phones -- iPhone is up and running; Android is on the way -- and regular old computers. Consumers can set up a profile to access content about individual restaurants -- including professionally taken photos and restaurant descriptions -- make reservations, and write reviews.

To write reviews, customers must have actually visited the restaurant. They make a reservation online, check in, and can go online afterward to write about the experience. Customers can trust they are reading real reviews and restaurants don't have to worry about negative reports from disgruntled ex-staff or competitors. Restaurants can then follow up with the customers to get helpful feedback.

Sign-up is free, and users can earn more points on CityEats than OpenTable, redeemable for Amazon or iTunes gift cards, or donations to Share Our Strength.

"We have an editorial staff that goes to a lot of these restaurants," says the vice president of marketing, Peter Weingard. "They're in the scene, so they're reading the local food blogs and the journalists who cover food. We hire local writers, people who are really intimate with the area, and we visit the restaurants and dine there."

The wait-list technology, which sends a text message to customers alerting them that their table is ready, is definitely the most convenient aspect. No more squeezing into a crowded doorway waiting for a table.

For restaurants, the site helps track all sorts of data, including table turnover, customer demographics, what was ordered, and how much individual customers spent. When users book through the online reservation system, the system assembles their data, which helps restaurant staff identify them and their dining habits.

Plus, special sections like the Blog and Exclusive Eats, which has not arrived in South Florida yet, allows participating restaurants to market their special events, menus, food and wine pairings, and whatever else is happening.

For more information or to book a table, visit CityEats.com/South-Florida.

Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.

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