Will Paying for Premium Reservations Catch On?

By Mike Pomranz |
FWX BUSY RESTAURANTS

© Peter Cavanagh / Alamy

Diners who like to frequent the hottest restaurants know the pain of trying to land that perfect Saturday night reservation. But would you be willing to pay a premium to get the table you desire? Some think the answer to that question is not only yes, but the idea of premium reservations could be the future of eating out.

A recent article in the New York Times Magazine touches on the emergence of “surge-pricing” in restaurant reservations. The concept behind this price structuring is simple and increasingly common in our digital-driven world. Anyone who’s used the car service Uber is probably familiar with the price-varying model: getting a car is more expensive when demand is high, cheaper when demand is low.

Launched earlier this year, the mobile app Resy has brought a similar concept to reservations – premium reservations sold at a premium price. A quick perusal of the app has a Saturday table at Jamie Bissonnette’s Toro going for $10 and a table at Harold Dieterle’s Kin Shop going for $12. Reservations at other restaurants can be up to $20 for two people.

But though surge-pricing makes getting tables easier for some (i.e. those who are willing to pay more), it helps further alienate the reservation process from others, many of who probably found the difficulty of getting a good reservation unfair and stratified already. (“Who do you have to know to get a table at this joint?”)

If you have money to spare, premium reservations are probably no different than buying front row seats instead of languishing in the rafters. If you’re the frugal type, however, it’s just one more reason to cook dinner at home – until technology finds a way to complicate that too.

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