Ever make a dinner reservation and fail to show up to the restaurant? Sometimes it just happens.
Well, there is now a trend by restaurants to ask customers to pay upfront for their meals just in case they decide to skip out on the reservation. Like airlines, most restaurants will slightly overbook in case of no-shows. But this isn’t stopping some restaurants, such as high-prices Per Se in New York and its sister restaurant the French Laundry, in California’s Napa Valley, from turning to an advance-ticketing system in 2015.
Restaurants are switching from conventional reservations to this new system called Tock, which has been used since 2012 at the Chicago eateries Alinea and Next, where the co-owner, Nick Kokonas, created the proprietary software. “Diners at those restaurants reserve tables and pay online, in full, weeks or months in advance for nonrefundable tickets. Service charges are included, leaving only liquor charges to be added at the end of the meal,” reports The New York Times.
Thomas Keller, the chef and owner of the French Laundry and Per Se, has invested in Tock as has Rich Melman, an owner of the restaurant conglomerate Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. So far more than 80 restaurants are using Tock, which generates about $400 million in revenue annually.
Some restaurant owners say that by using Tock and having customers pay up front to guarantee a full house, they can actually keep menu prices down. And according to data published by Kokonas, the system gets rid of the expenses of maintaining a reservations staff and virtually eliminates no-shows. Normally, about 10 percent of restaurant reservations go unclaimed every night at restaurant.
But will diners want to pay up front? It seems to depend on the restaurant. “To go to Per Se or the French Laundry, of course I’ll pay” in advance, said Lauren Silverman, a publicist in the fashion industry, tells the Times. “I know I’m going to spend that money anyway.”
“But,” she added, “for some new restaurant in Williamsburg (Brooklyn), or any place that isn’t definitely amazing, no way.”