Auctioning off a dinner reservation is the future of dining?


Some day you might be handing one of these to the maitre d'.
  • Some day you might be handing one of these to the maitre d'.

In the future, restaurant dining rooms might never be full. However, if you want to get a seat, you may have to talk to your friendly neighborhood reservation scalper.

Next has created a wild auctioning frenzy in Chicago, as diners scramble to get seats in the new restaurant from Alinea's Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas. The restaurant's reservations and sales are all online; diners purchase all-inclusive tickets (fixed-price dinner, taxes and tip) for a set night and then show up and are shown to their table, as they would at the theater or the ballpark.

The tickets have replaced conventional reservations. And because demand for the food of chef Achatz (I offered my thoughts on his book Life, On the Line, last week) is through the roof, you can go on eBay right now and pay $700 for either a four-person reservation on April 13 or a two-top on May 6.

Next Restaurant developed the ticketing system in order to ensure a steady, reliable flow of patrons and revenue. It knows how many diners will want a given tasting menu -- the entire restaurant concept is expected to change every three to four months. The idea can theoretically eliminate food waste and help a restaurant run more efficiently. The diners benefit because the price of the ticket will vary based on time. An early Tuesday ticket would likely be a lot less expensive than a prime Friday-night table. 

What do you think of the idea of tickets replacing restaurant reservations? Would you ever bid on someone else's seats?

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