How Kiwi app First Table helps halve the cost of dining out - and helps restaurants

For restaurant owners already feeling the pinch, offering half-price meals seems a crazy idea, but Kiwi technology is making it more palatable.

The First Table app has been around for a while, but it's now needed in the hospitality sector more than ever.

In the restaurant trade, the sight of empty seats is hard to stomach.

"Certainly we're hearing that this is some of the toughest times that operators have ever seen," said Nicola Waldren, Restaurant Association general manager.

Tightening our belts has changed our dining out habits making the Kiwi-made app First Table more popular than ever - serving up half-price meals while also solving the problem of slow evenings for the restaurant trade.

"We know that empty tables don't make any money, so it's just about helping restaurants fill those off-peak tables, whether it's the first table of the night or the last table of the night," said Mat Weir, founder of the First Table app.

The platform is the brainchild of web developer Weir who designed the app in 2014.

Although First Table has been around for 10 years, in recent months they've added numerous high-end eateries to their offerings like Auckland's French Cafe and Paris Butter.

"It's a really good chance for people to see potentially a fine dining establishment at a lower budget," said Paris Butter's restaurant manager, Ben Carmine.

"We are seeing quite a few first clients coming in which is really awesome to see."

First Table is partnered with around 850 venues around the country, with 1770 eateries in total when Australia and the UK are added.

Weir said the number of restaurants in London who are signing up is booming.

First Table is free to sign up to and diners pay a small booking fee (between $8-15) to secure a reservation.

The rules are simple, two to four diners get half-price meals at off-peak times and must buy a non-alcoholic or alcoholic beverage.

Co-owner of Paris Butter Catherine George was concerned the discounted dining would diminish their fine dining brand.

"That was our initial concern but actually it is getting people through the door, and when they have their next birthday their next anniversary, their next celebration... they're more likely to come back," she said.

Waldren hoped that the hospitality industry will see an increase in patronage once food costs ease.

"We're not always going to be in this period, we've got to get through this and there'll be great times ahead again," she said.