Thursday, July 17, 2014

Will there soon be large-scale markets for restaurant reservations?

I've been hearing the drumbeat for a while, and here's the NY Times on some new apps that seek to charge for restaurant reservations and make them exchangeable...Getting a Good Table by Flicking an App, Not Greasing a Palm

"Nowhere is the competition for tables more cutthroat than in New York City, where a black market in restaurant reservations already exists online. But since February, several new apps have taken the fight to the streets: ZurvuShoutKiller Rezzy and, starting Monday, Resy are all striving to become the favored portal for people willing to pay a premium to get into the best restaurants, at the last minute, via a few taps on their mobile devices.
"Whether diners and restaurateurs will play along is unclear. Some of the new apps, like Zurvu and Resy, cooperate with restaurants, sharing revenue (now ranging from $10 a person to $50 a table) in exchange for access to prime tables. Others, like Shout, simply make reservations under assumed names, then sell them for a flat fee or at auction. One online service, Food for All, began openly scalping reservations for $50 in April; it has already folded, with a plaintive farewell post, lamenting that restaurants “are very resistant to the idea of selling reservations.”
"In March, the entrepreneur Sasha A. Tcherevkoff started Killer Rezzy, an app and website that sells reservations obtained with or without the cooperation of restaurants; buyers do not know whether their transaction is authorized or not. He had no intention of causing an uproar, he said, but a social media bloodletting began, bringing accusations of scalping, price-gouging and elitism on him and his business model. He now offers to remove any restaurant from his roster upon request.
But restaurants do not necessarily know that they are on the roster. Last week, Killer Rezzy charged $25 for a table for four in a coveted slot — Saturday at 8 p.m. — at Peasant, in NoLIta, providing the name to give at the front desk. On Tuesday, the restaurant’s manager, Dulcinea Benson, said she had no idea that her tables were being sold online.
“Of course that bothers me,” she said. “We’ve been building up this restaurant and our relationships with customers for years,” she said. All of its 100 seats can be reserved free on OpenTable.
Many hard-to-get-into restaurants use OpenTable, but mostly for “shoulder seatings,” before 5:30 and after 9:30 p.m. They use their own software (or even pencil and paper) to manage prime time, when they can fill the room for free. The service charges restaurants a monthly fee, plus $1 for each customer it supplies. The Priceline Group said that the acquisition would add restaurants to its existing travel and hotel booking services, Kayak and, and OpenTable told its members that the service would remain free. For now, restaurateurs are waiting to see where the wind of public opinion blows."
And here's some further discussion, also from the Times. Some people think all this might even be repugnant...


RFDreservationsA reservation at Jean-Georges in Manhattan is always highly sought.Brian Harkin for The New York Times
In the past few months several new apps have let people pay to get reservations at restaurants where tables are in a great demand. Some essentially scalp reservations. With others, like Resy, the restaurants themselves sell reservations.
Are these services a useful way to let people get into popular restaurants, or are they just another way for restaurants to sell something that was once free?


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