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Use Your iPhone or iPad to Save Money On Dining

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Most people think of their Apple iPhone or iPad as a business and communications tool, and/or as a mobile entertainment device. However, it can also be used to save you money on dining and finding local restaurants a snap, wherever you happen to be. Jason R. Rich describes a handful of apps that will save you time and money when choosing where to dine.

Most people think of their Apple iPhone or iPad as a business and communications tool, and/or as a mobile entertainment device. However, it can also be used to save you money on dining, plus make finding local restaurants a snap—wherever you happen to be.

If you're a frequent business traveler, for example, you're probably bored with the overpriced room service dining options offered at the hotels where you stay. Ordering from a hotel's room service menu typically offers few meal choices, but plenty of extra fees. In fact, hotel room service can often cost twice what eating similar cuisine in a restaurant would cost. Yet the idea of dining alone in a nearby restaurant while you're on a business trip isn't appealing to most people.

Or maybe you're forced to work late at your office and need to have food delivered because even taking a few minutes' break to grab some food out of the office won't fit into your schedule.

Perhaps, you've work hard all day, and when you get home at night, the last thing you want to think about is cooking or preparing dinner.

Well, using the free GrubHub app on your iPhone or iPad, if you're within one of 15 participating cities, such as Boston, Denver, Philadelphia, San Diego, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago or Seattle, for example, you can access the complete menus of dozens of restaurants in your immediate area— whether they typically deliver—order food by taping on menu selections on your iPhone or iPad's screen, pay using a major credit card, and then have the GrubHub service deliver your meal right to your hotel room, office or home, typically within 30 to 60 minutes.

What's great about GrubHub is that there are no additional delivery charges. While some restaurants have a minimum order of $10.00 to $20.00, this is typically how much you'd spend ordering a meal for one person.

Using GrubHub, you're no longer limited to meal options from just one single menu because the service works with thousands of restaurants in each participating city (more than 13,000 restaurants nationwide).

Your iPad or iPhone will automatically detect your location, and within seconds, provide a listing of nearby participating restaurants, along their complete menus. The free GrubHub app is available from the App Store, and cities in which this service works are constantly being added. For details about the GrubHub service, visit http://www.GrubHub.com.

Other Options for Saving Money on Dining While on the Go

GrubHub offers a tremendous amount of convenience, will save you money when used as an alternative to hotel room service, and will provide you with healthier dining options compared with fast food. However, there are also a handful of apps that can help you find a restaurant to dine at in whatever city you happen to be, and even help you make a reservation or receive money-saving offers for dining at those restaurants.

To help you make dining reservations at one or more participating restaurants simultaneously, without having to sit on the phone and call restaurants separately, the free OpenTable app for iPad (which has 15,000 participating restaurants in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom), offers a convenient solution.

Once you know your travel itinerary, for example, in one session, you can make restaurant reservations everywhere you want to dine during a trip, and receive an instant confirmation from each restaurant. Or you can book a reservation while driving to your favorite dining establishment to ensure that a table will be waiting.

Frequent users of this OpenTable service earn rewards that include free or discounted dining. The app can even make restaurant suggestions, based on your location, budget, and/or type of food you're looking for.

To help you find places to dine, the App Store offers many different apps for your iPhone or iPad. For example, there's the FastFood—Top Restaurant Finder ($1.99), which can be used for finding the location of a restaurant and then provide you with directions and the phone number to that dining establishment. The Restaurant Finder Premium app ($2.99) also allows you to find nearby restaurants based on what type of food is offered, as well as other criteria.

The Zagat To Go app ($9.99) offers the entire contents of 45 printed Zagat city–specific restaurant guides in one app and allows you to find local restaurants based on your current location, sort them by the type of food served, or choose restaurants based on dining cost. You can also read detailed and reliable reviews of each establishment.

Another tool for helping you find and select restaurant dining options is the free Urban Spoon app. There's a separate iPhone and iPad version of this app available. The iPad version allows you to sort through hundreds of local restaurants and compare several establishments on-screen at the same time. You can pick restaurants by location, food type, or average meal cost. This app has restaurant data for most North American cities, as well as cities in the United Kingdom and a few other countries.

To help you save money when dining out, the free Groupon app for iPhone and iPad delivers an updated listing of money-saving offers from restaurants and businesses right to your mobile device each day. Like Groupon, the SeizeTheDeal app for iPhone and iPad also provides a new listing of local area discounts, which includes money-saving dining offers, each and everyday.

If you happen to be traveling to London, download the Capital Eats app ($1.99) onto your iPhone or iPad before you leave. This app pinpoints your location and then provides a listing of restaurants that offer a discount of 30 to 50 percent for yourself and up to five guests, when you present your iPhone/iPad (and the on-screen voucher code provided) at a participating restaurant. The only drawback to this app is that it needs to be connected to the Web to operate, so you'll either need to find free Wi-Fi service or pay for international data roaming to use it.

For AAA members, there's the free AAA Discounts app. This easy-to-use app pinpoints your current location and then provides a detailed list of restaurants, attractions and businesses that offer discounts to the organization's members. The nationwide database includes discounts from more than 110,000 businesses and restaurants, and can save the average iPhone or iPad user more than $100.00 per year.

To find more dining-related apps, like the ones described here, including many city-specific restaurant guides, or apps designed for vegetarians, vegans, or people with specialized diets, visit the App Store. Within the app search field, enter the phrase "Dining."

Not only can the various dining-related apps available for your iPhone or iPad save you time and money; they can help to ensure that you pick only the best-quality restaurants to dine at, whether you're in your home city or traveling.

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