This dining app is trying to break OpenTable's stranglehold on the market

Founder Mark Egerman wants Cover to be the only dining app you need, and on Tuesday the company rolled out a major update that makes a play toward managing not just how you pay, but how you discover restaurants as well.

Cover’s original premise was being a “dine-and-dash” app that let you pay for your meal in the same way you do an Uber. You check into a table, you eat, then you leave. Your bill then appears on your phone without the annoyance of getting the check. That experience is still central with the new update, but now there will be added support for discovery, Egerman says.

“People wanted more help finding where to go,” Egerman says. “We now have the ability to feature restaurants and menu pages. We can give recommendations: places to get wine bars, restaurant week.” Egerman wants to break the 15-year monopoly that OpenTable has had on the industry. And he take his inspiration from an earlier era of dining.

When our grandparents were dining in New York City they would keep a tab,” he says. “We are about deepening hospitality. We want to make it like you’ve been dining at this restaurant your whole life, like you have an account.”

And Egerman says Cover, which is now in over 350 restaurants (over 250 of which are in New York City), has seen results — many restaurants who use Cover have seen their total receipts go up, he says.

By crunching the data, Egerman’s team has found the increase comes from drinks ordered halfway through meal and dessert at end. “They don’t have to be worried about getting the check or whether they will they make it home in time.” It’s not about gamifying the system, or getting a better deal, it’s about ease.

Another major group that has taken to Cover’s brand of streamlining is business people, Egerman says. Cover’s repository of receipts makes it easy for people to just forward them to their assistant instead of collecting paper receipts and stapling it to a form.

The second major component of the update besides discovery is aimed squarely at maximizing the ease that has made this app popular. Instead of having to manually select what table to join, which can be a hassle at restaurants that have a lot of Cover users, the app will now suggest a table for you based on your history and who is in your address book.

“The reason you go to a sit down restaurant is to be treated special,” Egerman says. He’s experimenting with the ways technology can enhance that.

Download the updated Cover app on iTunes or Google Play.

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