Restaurant-booking start-up Reserve buys Santa Monica app firm Hail

With a restaurant-reservation search engine and mobile-pay feature, Reserve aims to enable stress-free dining

OpenTable has become the dominant destination for restaurant reservations online. But dining concierge app start-up Reserve is coming at it, hoping to control more parts of the dining experience from the get-go -- not just reservations, but payment, and maybe even hailing your server to let her know you need a refill.

On Tuesday, New York City-based Reserve brought new features in-house by acquiring a tiny year-old Santa Monica start-up, Hail Inc., that developed an easy-on-the-eyes app that diners use to split checks. Demand for such a check-sharing capability was strong from restaurants as well as diners.

Reserve connects with more than 180 restaurants in four cities, including Bestia and Tar & Roses in the Southland. Users are charged a fee to reserve a table and pay their bill through the app. OpenTable allows mobile payments only at certain restaurants.

Hail had also been testing a button in the app to digitally “hail” a server at a handful of restaurants in the Los Angeles area. It’s uncertain whether that feature will be added to Reserve, according to the company.

Hail co-founder and chief executive Dan Anderson will move to New York to become director of payment systems. Hail’s two other employees will remain in California as advisors to Reserve.

Food ordering and delivery apps are one of the most crowded categories of mobile apps. But in an investment market flush with capital, food start-ups have continued to bring in cash. Restaurant ordering service ChowNow in Venice recently received $10 million from a group led by Los Angeles firm Upfront Ventures.

Reserve raised $15 million in February from Uber co-founder Garrett Camp’s start-up incubator Expa, musician Will.i.am, screenwriter Jon Favreau and several others.

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