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App Review: Seated Rewards for Dining Out

Dec. 10, 2017
8 min read
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As many credit-card issuers have come to notice, Americans have an appetite for dining out — myself included. But what’s even better than just going to the most talked-about restaurant is getting paid to do so. Thankfully, the app Seated allows you to do just that. This mobile app rewards diners with $20 to $60 worth of gift cards for every restaurant reservation they make through the app. Here's what we found when we gave it a try.

The Market

With the average American couple spending 132 hours a year deciding what to eat, the app hopes to make the decision-making process easier and encourage diners to try new restaurants. There are over 3,000 restaurants participating across 15 major US cities, including Los Angeles, Miami and New York City. Since restaurants are vetted and must maintain an average user rating of four stars or higher to stay listed, the selection shouldn’t disappoint.

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In comparison, OpenTable has over 40,000 restaurants around the world in its network. However, OpenTable’s program is much less rewarding — each reservation typically earns 100 points, and you need 2,000 points for a $10 Amazon gift card.

How It Works

First, you need to download the app. Seated is available for free through iTunes and Google Play. You can also sign up using this link for an extra $15 reward for your first reservation. Once you've done that, you need to sign in with Facebook to set up your account. Unfortunately, this is the only way to create an account, but rest assured, they'll never post anything without your permission.

You’ll then be asked to select your preferred reward — Amazon, Starbucks or Uber gift cards — though you can change this whenever you want.

You’ll need to link the credit card you use before making your first reservation. The app itself doesn’t store any of your financial data, but rather uses Plaid's technology to make sure you spend the minimum required amount at the restaurant. (Some of Plaid's other customers include Venmo, Robinhood and Stripe.)

There’s no way around the credit-card requirement, so while there haven’t been any reported security issues to date, if you’re reluctant to connect your bank to a third-party system, this app might not be right for you. In my case, to earn 3x points on my dining purchases, I connected my Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

On the home screen, you’re presented with popular restaurants and any bookmarked restaurants near your location.

I prefer finding restaurants using the Explore page, which allows you to browse restaurants by cuisine or vibe. From there, you can also filter restaurants based on availability, price and neighborhood. After you become familiar with which restaurants are participating, you can use the search feature to go straight to your preferred restaurant.

Once you pick the restaurant you want to dine at, the reservation process is pretty straightforward. You can make reservations as far as a month in advance, with the one catch being that most restaurants restrict you from booking during prime weekend dining hours. Since Seated is all about discovery, you can only book the same restaurant twice every 30 days.

Every restaurant has different minimum spend requirements and rewards depending on the size of your party, though these are clearly listed before you complete the reservation.

When it’s time for your reservation, you simply show up at the restaurant and give your name to the host — you don’t need to mention that you made the reservation through Seated. Since the app needs to verify you’ve hit the minimum spend, though, you need to charge the entire bill to the card associated with your account. Note that taxes and tips do not count toward the minimum spend. If you want to split the bill when dining with a group, you can use Venmo to get reimbursed afterward.

Though you can’t change reservations, you can cancel and rebook up until 15 minutes before your reservation. If you get marked as a no-show too many times, your account may be suspended. About 24 to 48 hours after the reservation, you’ll receive a notification on your phone that your reward is ready. As long as you haven’t unsubscribed from the mailing list, you’ll also receive an email with your reward code.

What’s Missing

The biggest problem I see with the app is that there is no clear way to access your list of bookmarked restaurants. Currently, the only way to browse bookmarks is through a small box on the home screen that displays just one restaurant at a time. If you’re like me and like to bookmark a lot of places, then you’re in for a lot of horizontal scrolling. Instead, I’d like to be able to browse through all of my bookmarks on one page and have the ability to sort them — like on Yelp.

Speaking of Yelp, I wish that Yelp reviews would've been integrated into the app. Instead, the app is pushing its own review system, which lacks the ability to include photos.

Next, I wish it were possible to link more than one payment method to the app. That way, it'd be easier to separate business expenses from personal ones while still earning rewards for every reservation.

Finally, I wish that it were possible for solo diners to earn rewards. Although you should theoretically still earn your reward if you meet the minimum spend requirements, you’d have to be pretty hungry to spend that much when dining alone.

What’s Next

Seated is working hard to quickly increase its restaurant network and the number of cities where it’s available. It plans to expand to 50 cities across the US by the end of 2018. It also hopes to eventually expand internationally, though the current focus is the States.

Overall Impression

Although I was initially skeptical about using Seated because it almost sounded too good to be true, I’ve completed over 10 reservations without any issues and earned over $200 in rewards in the past month alone. I will definitely continue using it.

Possibly my favorite thing about the app is that it allows you to stack your rewards with other dining rewards programs you've linked your card with — such as an airline dining program, Yelp’s cash-back program and Visa Local Offers with Uber. This way, points-savvy diners could double-, triple- and even quadruple-dip on earning rewards. For instance, if you’re in New York, you could dine at the Japanese restaurant Megu for $40 to $50 in rewards through Seated, 7% cash back through Yelp and up to 5 AAdvantage miles per dollar through American’s dining program, plus whatever rewards your credit card provides. To maximize your rewards, you want to use a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which provides bonus points for dining purchases.

Image courtesy of Obicà Flatiron.

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