In the seemingly never-ending expansion of its frequent flyer scheme, Qantas has added an online restaurant booking service to the menu.
Qantas Restaurants lets you browse and book at any of over 2,000 restaurants – and score an extra serve of frequent flyer points into the bargain.
Sure, it's just 100 points per diner for each booking, but add that to what you'd earn by paying the bill with a Qantas partner credit card or prepaid Qantas Cash debit card and that's better than a poke in the eye with a breadstick.
Australian Business Traveller tried out Qantas Restaurants this week (and yes, we paid the bill ourselves) to see how the serve shapes up.
The Qantas Restaurants home page is fairly self-explanatory.
Qantas Restaurants is powered by Dimmi.com.au, and Dimmi in turn provides the reservations technology for all the restaurants listed.
In fact, Qantas Restaurants is a re-branded version of the Dimmi site – if you click through to Dimmi.com.au you'll see the exact same featured restaurants, specials, reviews and so forth.
But of course if you book through Dimmi instead of Qantas Restaurants you won't get that side-serve of frequent flyer points.
For choosing where to dine, Qantas Restaurants offers several options: enter the restaurant's name if you've already got a certain place in mind, or type in a suburb postcode to check out all listed restaurants in a particular area.
Here's the list of possibilities for Surry Hills, one of Sydney's most popular spots for great dining.
Scroll through the selection of restaurants or fine-tune the results using the sidebar on the left of the screen to choose the star rating (based on diner reviews), type of cuisine or even the purpose of your meal.
I clicked through to 4 Fourteen, which has quickly become a personal favourite in this part of town.
Under the basic directory listing unfolds a set of Trip Advisor-style reviews from the public along with write-ups from more established channels and an aggregate rating from Urbanspoon.
So far, so good. But Qantas Restaurants – well, to be entirely fair, Dimmi.com.au – is not without the odd fly in the soup.
The ability to browse a restaurant's menu is welcome but in the case of 4 Fourteen the main menu and wine list had both been flagged by diners as being out of date.
Given that the links take you straight to the 4 Fourteen website, I can't help but wonder if an eager diner was a bit too quick on the trigger to tag the menu as being out of date.
Other restaurants offer the menu as a PDF download, which certainly could be out of date – but again, if the restaurant happened to be a bit slow in updating its online PDF menus, there's no way of knowing if a menu flagged as 'out of date' is in fact old or current.
There's also a tab to spotlight special deals and discounts for a restaurant, but don't get too excited...
On 4 Fourteen's listing this just turned out to be a caveat about early bookings: that if you take a table at 6.30pm the restaurant will want it back by 8.30pm.
Ready to book? Just click away. Seeing the availability right there on the screen certainly beats calling the restaurant, and it's got to beat ringing around a half-dozen restaurants to see if they have a table for your business lunch or dinner.
The next screen takes your details, including your Qantas Frequent Flyer number.
There's no booking fee: Qantas and Dimmi both take a cut from your bill, which Dimmi says ranges between $1 and $3.
Each dinner can pick up 100 Qantas Points but of course those are only credited after you've paid your bill.
Would I use Qantas Restaurants again? Absolutely.
It's a fast and easy way to book a table at my favourite restaurants or discover new ones, and the special deals spotlighted on the home page are worth keeping an eye on... especially if there's a "50% off" deal for 4 Fourteen!
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