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New app lets you buy dinner or a drink for a friend at top Houston restaurants without being there

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Gratafy items at  La Casa del Caballo June 2014
Items you can purchase on Gratafy from La Casa del Caballo include tres leches, a classic shrimp cocktail and a Mexican burger. Courtesy photo
Gratafy gift app
Buy a friend a drink or food with Gratafy.  Courtesy photo
Gratafy gift app
Gratafy works on both iOS and Android devices.  Courtesy photo
News_Artisans Restaurant_chef_Jacques Fox
Artisans chef/ower Jacques Fox. Artisans Restaurant
Gratafy items at  La Casa del Caballo June 2014
Gratafy gift app
Gratafy gift app
News_Artisans Restaurant_chef_Jacques Fox

In the online world, celebrations can feel a bit impersonal. After all, it's so easy to click "Like" or type a perfunctory "Happy Birthday!" to a Facebook "friend" you met once and barely remember. While everyone wants to get together with friends for a celebratory meal or drink, sometimes distance or other activities make that impossible. How does one show regard for a friend without being physically present?

Gratafy aims to help solve this problem.

The app, which launches in Houston Thursday, allows people to purchase over 600 gifts from area bars and restaurants — everything from a 12-ounce ribeye at La Casa del Caballo to cupcakes from Ooh La La or a bourbon flight at Haven. Other participating Houston restaurants include Table on Post Oak, Ouisie's Table, Frank's Americana Revival and Mr. Peeples. 

 "In the world we live in, it is imperative to reach our customers outside the four walls of our establishment through mobile and online channels," explains Artisans chef/owner Jacques Fox.  

"We’re excited to help Houstonians share their favorite culinary adventure by giving them the ability to send family, friends and co-workers a gift from their favorite restaurant or bar with just a few clicks on their mobile device,” said Gratafy co-founder and CEO Brian Erke in a statement. 

As explained on the company's website, the process is seamless. Gifts are purchased from the free app, which is compatible with both iOS and Android devices, and the recipient receives a notice by text or email that she has a present. Diners claim their gift by giving the server a three-digit code. The price adds tax and an 18-percent tip at checkout. 

"In the world we live in, it is imperative to reach our customers outside the four walls of our establishment through mobile and online channels," explains Artisans chef/owner Jacques Fox. "Not only will Gratafy help our marketing team reach their short and long term goals but now we can let customers gift friends their favorite menu item and share the artisan experience directly from our website using Gratafy’s easy-to-install widget."

Restaurants can also use the app to send gifts to their customers. The company reports that this service, known as Gratafy Valet, has "seen an ROI in excess of 1,500 percent due to the large amount of overspend in-venue at the time of gift redemption." As in, people visit to cash in a free app and stick around for dinner and drinks.

Houston is Gratafy's fifth city. It started in Seattle in 2012 and has since spread to Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

Next time a close friend is celebrating a special occasion, skip the gift cards and Facebook messages. Buy her a drink, in person or via Gratafy. It's what being a good friend is all about. 

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