If you’ve read my blog you know I hate customers who call at 7 on Saturday night and demand the best table in the house to be readied for them by 8. Not only are these people suffering from delusions of grandeur, they forget the simple economy of restaurants. Theres a limited number of choice tables. Chefs, owners, and maître d’s try and ensure heavy spending regulars get the nicest tables. Its a simple business tactic. Regular customers make or break a restaurant. Loyal patronage can and should be rewarded. Setting tables aside for rich connected regular patrons lowers the numbers of tables available for mere mortals. Thats a fact of life. Some foo foo New York eateries require reservations be made weeks, if not months, in advance.
Of course, instant gratification Yuppie types cant wait for anything. They’re always trying to get around reservation roadblocks. An article in todays NY Times discussed a new internet service called PrimeTime Tables. For a fee this service will snag that coveted eight o’clock table you’re so desperate to have. The service secures reservations at fancy restaurants in advance, often making them under a fake name. When a frantic Yuppie needs a last minute reservation the service sells them the time slot. Once the slots sold, PrimeTime changes the reservation to the new diners name or the diner has to use the fake name PrimeTime made the reservation under. Sneaky huh? Sounds like ticket scalping you say? The Manhattan District Attorneys office says its not illegal.
Restaurant owners, however, hate PrimeTime Tables. According to The Times the restaurateur Danny Meyer called the service disingenuous and parasitic, saying it “undermines the beauty of the dialogue that takes place when a restaurant and its patrons have a healthy, dynamic relationship.” Beauty of the dialogue? Dynamic relationship? Gimme a break. I think Danny’s been spending too much time reading his own book. He’s upset because this service is curtailing some of the control he exercises over his restaurant. Trust me, all restaurateurs, especially the successful ones, are control freaks.
Many restaurants have relationships with credit card companies, concierges, and outfits like Open Table to help fill their dining rooms. These services have been around a long time. But they differ from PrimeTime Tables because restaurant owners have the final say over the reservation process. When a stranger they have no control over whores out their restaurants precious time slots for $35 they go ballistic. I can understand why. Controlling the reservation process helps them build and maintain relationships with regular customers. That’s how restaurants make their money.
I don’t like Prime TimeTables’ system because its another example of greedy impatient Yuppies thinking they can buy their way out of waiting like everyone else. Its akin to the special tickets the well heeled buy at amusement parks so they can cut in front of the general admission plebeians waiting on line. Restaurateurs are trying to figure out how PrimeTime makes their reservations so they can stop them. It ll be interesting to watch the moves and countermoves. Will restaurants start requiring credit card deposits to secure reservations? Biometric signatures? DNA samples? Hostages?
If I’m honest part of me is jealous. Pascal Riffaud, the guy who started PrimeTime Tables, is simply exploiting Yuppie greed and entitlement for his own enrichment. My hat’s off to him. Why didn’t I think of the idea myself?
And I wouldn’t worry too much about the fancy restaurants in the city. They’ll survive.