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Since 1963, A Nice Place To Fall In Love…

The Missouri Restaurant Association is taking to the phones — smartphones, that is.

The organization, which includes more than 1,500 Missouri restaurants, this week announced its Dine Missouri app for the iPhone. The app offers a comprehensive place for users to look up member restaurants nearby.

The MRA also announced a partnership with Aireal Mobile to allow the restaurants to develop free-standing apps.

Greg Hunsucker, owner of V’s Italiano Ristorante at 10819 E. U.S. Highway 40 in Independence, said his restaurant was starting to use mobile apps to attract a younger customer base.

“We see social networking and the mobile applications as the marketing of the future,” Hunsucker said. “The way that we have traditionally marketed our restaurant has changed so dramatically in the last five years.”

Hunsucker, who has been involved with the MRA for about 20 years, said the organization includes mostly independently owned and operated restaurants. Smaller businesses might not be able to pay for their own mobile apps, he said.

“When we combine all those independents together, it makes that buying power much greater,” Hunsucker said.

Bob Bonney, CEO of the MRA, said the mobile apps open up new avenues for member restaurants to connect with customers and gain more exposure.

“Missouri has a lot of diamonds in the rough,” Bonney said.