Need A Reservation For The Latest Hot Restaurant? Buy One Online.

from the where-do-you-summer? dept

For those looking to score a reservation at the latest hot restaurant like New York City's The Little Owl, diners have to hit the phones exactly 30 days prior to their desired date and hope to be one of the few chosen. The result is less like planning a nice evening out, and more like trying to win a radio show call-in prize. is hoping to change that by allowing diners to buy and sell their reservations to hot restaurants in New York, San Francisco, and the Hamptons. The site, and others like it like Tablepronto (which covers San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas), work without the consent or knowledge of the restaurants -- in fact, when you "buy" a reservation, you are actually instructed to not change the name or details of the reservation, so you must check in under the original reservation's name. These sites are reminiscent of reservation scalper PrimeTimeTables, which was hotly debated last year. Unlike these marketplace sites, PrimeTimeTables charges their members a $500 annual fee and uses their supposed "connections" to score the hard-to-get reservations (annoying some restaurants in the process). Tablexchange claims that they are less shady since they simply provide a marketplace that is more efficient than, say, Craigslist for this purpose. However, if the Tablexchange model gains traction, it could create a legion of professional reservation traders that would then compete with diligent foodies who are trying hard to get a reservation through normal (free) means.

This debate is much like the ticket scalping debate that we have seen here again and again. This market for reservations has simply surfaced the fact that there are people willing to pay for reservations that are currently free. With any limited good, charging money is a good way to decide who ultimately ends up with that limited good. That said, the power still lies with the restaurant -- if they are really against this practice, they are free to take measures against it, such as check their diner's IDs. Or, perhaps they can recognize the existence of this market and capitalize on it by setting aside a few tables that are "biddable." The Little Owl already does the converse today -- every night, at least three tables are set aside for walk-in customers, with the rationale that this practice maintains the "neighborhood" feel of the restaurant. So, it doesn't seem like a huge stretch to allow for some reservations to be bought and sold as well.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2008 @ 8:06pm

    It is also possible to go to one of the many more local resurants.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    houghty-toughty, Jan 16th, 2008 @ 9:38pm

    When will the restaurant demand a cut of the action ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Blake (profile), Jan 16th, 2008 @ 9:40pm

    Credit Card Reservation.

    I think a simple solution to reservation selling is that the restaurant takes a credit card to make the booking. Your meal for the night will be automatically charged to the card on the reservation. No point selling your reservation then.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 17th, 2008 @ 4:16am

    Re: Credit Card Reservation.

    Then you just get a pre-paid credit card, and include the price of the pre-paid in the purchase price for the reservation, and you could always have the pre-paid mailed to the person after they made a reservation purchase, so they could use whatever is leftover on the pre-paid card.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Insane Driver, Jan 17th, 2008 @ 6:28am

    Parking Lot Spot

    I have a vehicle parked in a prime location. Fiddy bucks gets ya premo spot.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    James, Jan 17th, 2008 @ 7:01am


    This is just another example of trying to create a market where there is none (or shouldn't be). Seems to me this is in fact a scaled down example of what happened in the housing market.

    You have people so willing to pay to be in a prime spot that they'll accept lottery-style bidding on unfinished homes driving the prices skyward... then oops, we have a housing crash and your $475K home you financed with no $$ down is now worth $350k... oopsy.

    I have a tendency to think if people are stupid enough to pay for something like this, let them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Table for Two, Jan 17th, 2008 @ 4:03pm

    Re: Rediculous

    "This is just another example of trying to create a market where there is none (or shouldn't be)." - You can't really say there should or should not be a market for something. If an item or service is in demand, then a market will emerge. has nothing to do with should or shouldn't.

    "in fact a scaled down example of what happened in the housing market." - Insane analogy. Restaurant reservations and the housing market are completely different. I don't even know how you could compare the two.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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