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Ticket to Dine (medium.com)
53 points by Hansi on Dec 8, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 21 comments

Obligatory: the first thread on HN about Tock, including a writeup from Patrick McKenzie, wherein Nick Kokonas himself shows up to answer questions:


The only issue I see with implementing a ticketing system with a restaurant is how long people stay at the table. If you're having a great time you might stay at your table for a bit longer and have dessert and a few more drinks, while if it's bad you might box up your meal and head out pretty soon. I supposed this is not a huge problem since the only places likely to implement ticketing are these blockbuster restaurants with reservations months in advance.

Doesn't the same problem occur with reservations?

Right. But a ticketing system doesn't solve this problem either.

A pre-paid ticketing system could make this problem worse because there is no "cue" as it were. At least a bill being placed on the table, paid, and then picked up later by the server. Having the bill picked up by the server is, ostensibly, the last interaction aside from refilling the water.

Of course, tickets could get handled in some special way like being redeemed at the end of the meal, or the ticket pays for the core meal, and a separate bill is given for drinks and extras not handled by the ticket.

At Alinea, it works just like you suggest - the ticket price is just covers the core meal, with the drinks being extra and settled at the end of the meal. Interestingly enough, though, the sister restaurant Next does require you to purchase your drinks option as part of the ticket. But I doubt there is much problem, as they provide a highly-coordinated service that already requires a constant awareness of where you are in the meal at all times.

For the non-high-end, non-pre-fixe market, the ticket is normally a deposit on the meal price, so you'd still have to settle the remainder of the bill when you're finished.

A simple cue is warmed towels for washing your hands.

Or maybe some minty breath freshener.

Or maybe some coffees.

Social cues do not have much to do with the money exchanging hands.

I think that in most of the cases, there is still a bill presented at the end. The article itself points this out:'

> The system also allows for different kinds of tickets, allowing for variable pricing. (Most restaurants are not prix fixe and will sell tickets as down payments on a meal as opposed to a full prepay.)

I don't think length of table use is generally a problem. Most restaurants have it figured out. Shit happens and you move people around. I don't think there is any solution for this beyond proper table management.

This will start to normalize the process of asking people to leave when their slot is up . Faux pas now, but i could see it becoming the norm. Afterall, its in a businesses interest to have people that spend $10 and stay 2 hrs to be someone else's problem.

It will be the same as it is now. The restaurant will find ways to get you to leave if you only spend $10 and stay another 2 hours. The amount you stay is directly proportional to how much you spend. If you stay 5 hours but you bought a $10,000 bottle of Screaming Eagle then don't expect to hear a peep from the restaurant.

I've long felt that if you're not on time for your reservation then you get sidelined and accommodated when it is convenient for the restaurant. I understand things happen but unless you call in advance and explain that you're going to be late then you're really just not respecting the restaurant's time and they should not have any obligation to you.

Great move to address the historically paltry and inconsistent profit margins of restaurants. Looking forward to seeing what this does for the industry - I'm hoping it helps push forward other big-kitchen / small-dining-room places like Achatz's restaurants.

Paying to book a restaurant? Probably just for an event. Otherwise I don't see people paying for it. Also, what is more easy? making a simple call or using an app/website, enter payment methods, accounts, etc....?

I know there is an app for everything, but making a call is 1000 better than using any app at the moment.

Well to be fair Next and Alinea have been dramatically successful with the model. And for that class of restaurant, I much prefer the model of "buy ticket" to "call and be told there is nothing available".

But how many of those restaurants are there really?

Probably at least 5 in every major metro, and more in NYC, Chicago, and San Francisco. With the current customer perception, that is: for "destination" restaurants, like Alinea, Saison, Ko.

There could be more of them with this kind of system.

I think the $$ is often an exchange for more than just a place. It includes food or credit towards food, prefixe meals etc.

So this addresses a 'need' but that 'need' doesn't have a market. In fact, that shadow-market is merely a consequence of the failure other markets. The need for this service is completely dependent upon the failure of the local restaurant industry to properly manage its demand, which in turn is likely due to the failure of a real estate market to provide profitable space for restaurants.

If EITHER of these two markets are disrupted, your market evaporates. Considering how popular food blogs and food trucks are becoming, I would not bank on this.

The 'need' is that there are open seats at restaurants that don't have any open reservations, due to people showing up late or not showing up at all. This inefficiency can be looked at as unavoidable friction, or as opportunity for innovation.

Other industries in the hospitality world have their own ways around this. Most hotels have 24-hour cancellation policies and airlines have dynamic pricing. This is a new one for the (fine) dining industry, and one that will likely spawn different models for different types of restaurants.

Some higher-end restaurants do take a deposit when you make a reservation but it's not common. I find it interesting that there's so much variation among different types of services (hotels, rental cards, hotels, restaurants, theater) with respect to cancelation or no show policies. It doesn't obviously always track to the cost.

I don't think the restaurants that this is being marketed towards are competing with food trucks and blogs.

To assume that the real-estate market will suddenly become perfect is kinda ignorant considering how unscalable commercial real-estate is. And this product that they're claiming to make IS THE THING that will solve the local restaurant's demand management issue.

So what you've said basically is that IF unicorns exist OR their product doesn't work THEN they'll fail. ( A+B' = B')

Well I can remove a logic gate for you: IF their product doesn't work THEN they'll fail. (B')

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