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Restaurant Ticketing to go National


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#1 Really Nice!

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 04:55 PM

http://www.chicagotr...ory.html#page=1

For years, Nick Kokonas was warned. No one would ever prepay for a ticket to eat at a restaurant. For years, Nick Kokonas was undaunted.

He was collecting data, reams of it, showing prepaid tickets increased revenue and wiped out no-shows at Alinea, the restaurant he owns with chef Grant Achatz.

And now, Nick Kokonas is prepared.

He is unveiling a new company with Achatz called Tock, challenging OpenTable and taking restaurant ticketing nationwide.

Fueling the company are A-list investors, including chef Thomas Keller, of Napa Valley's The French Laundry and New York's Per Se; Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, who used to live in Chicago; chef Ming Tsai, of Blue Ginger and cooking-show fame; salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff; and Chicago's Melman family, whose Lettuce Entertain You empire could supply an early and stable source of revenue for Tock.

Next year, after a remodel at The French Laundry, Keller plans to switch his restaurants from phone and OpenTable reservations to Tock meaning at least one-quarter of the Michelin three-star restaurants in America will run on Kokonas' system.

Guests at Per Se and The French Laundry will prepay for food but not beverages. Staff will call ticket holders ahead of their meals to gauge food preferences.

#2 Rail Paul

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 07:20 PM

That sounds like they've turned the corner in gathering premium restaurants.

 

The next step will probably be a VIP access or "premium seating" for otherwise sold out places.  I like the fact that most of the skim will be in the restaurant's pocket, not some middleman or broker.


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#3 LiquidNY

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Posted 30 November 2014 - 10:18 PM

But it can't be long before a scalping industry develops, can it?

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#4 Really Nice!

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Posted 02 December 2014 - 09:37 PM

That sounds like they've turned the corner in gathering premium restaurants.

I'm not so sure. With The French Laundry, per se, and Alinea they have 1/3 of the Michelin 3- star restaurants in the US. They'll have to get a few high-end NY restaurants on board to make it work, which shouldn't be a problem. And once that happens then they'll be at the corner.

FYI, the Melmen line of Lettuce Entertain You restaurants truly is an empire in Chicago. With 52 restaurants, mostly located in Chicagoland, I agree with the article that it'll supply an early an stable income.

#5 Wilfrid

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Posted 02 December 2014 - 09:43 PM

I think this makes perfect sense for restaurants of that type, and in that class.  A big improvement on the idea (whether or not practiced) of threatening sanctions for no shows.

 

As for touting, yes, but is that necessarily a problem?  Stubhub was one considered touting.  Everyone seems to like it now, because the price of tickets finds its natural level.  The real, market-led price of a 5.30 Tuesday table at Per Se might be $600.  But it also might be $100.



#6 Really Nice!

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Posted 02 December 2014 - 09:44 PM

But it can't be long before a scalping industry develops, can it?

I think hotels near the three star restaurants might try getting a Friday or Saturday reservation ahead of time with the idea that someone at the hotel will ask if they can get them in. For a $200 'finders fee', sure! :)

#7 Rail Paul

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Posted 02 December 2014 - 09:48 PM

 

That sounds like they've turned the corner in gathering premium restaurants.

I'm not so sure. With The French Laundry, per se, and Alinea they have 1/3 of the Michelin 3- star restaurants in the US. They'll have to get a few high-end NY restaurants on board to make it work, which shouldn't be a problem. And once that happens then they'll be at the corner.

FYI, the Melmen line of Lettuce Entertain You restaurants truly is an empire in Chicago. With 52 restaurants, mostly located in Chicagoland, I agree with the article that it'll supply an early an stable income.

 

 

 

The new process has many benefits for restaurants, that's for sure.  But it wouldn't be too hard for OpenTable or Google, etc to introduce a competing pre-paid ticket.  And make it transferable.  Which would tie back to Liquid's observation about scalping.

 

Might also lead to a futures market.  A hotel might pay for an option to hold three tables nightly, with a release or full payment at  5pm. Restaurant could resell them, pocketing both the options price and any revenue from the actual sale.


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#8 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 02 December 2014 - 09:48 PM

But it can't be long before a scalping industry develops, can it?


Already exists.


I can't wait for the first place to have the secondary value of its tickets trade for less than face.

I'd be interested to know how big the market is for this per Kokonas.

Who doesn't love free working capital loans BTW. Its genius.

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#9 Wilfrid

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Posted 02 December 2014 - 09:55 PM

Mm, you get baseball and other sports tickets less than face value on Stubhub, so why not?  :)



#10 Wilfrid

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Posted 02 December 2014 - 10:05 PM

Scalping is only really a problem when scalpers can control the universe of tickets and therefore the prices, but venues make that difficult by restricting numbers of purchases, and I think it's much less of a concern with the tiny populations of tickets we're talking about here.



#11 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 02 December 2014 - 10:17 PM

Mm, you get baseball and other sports tickets less than face value on Stubhub, so why not?  :)


Yeah sure, but you have to buy a ticket to those no matter what. I doubt below the three star level you'll be faced with that.

When you don't have to pay face you won't buy in advance

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#12 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 02 December 2014 - 10:20 PM

Scalping is only really a problem when scalpers can control the universe of tickets and therefore the prices, but venues make that difficult by restricting numbers of purchases, and I think it's much less of a concern with the tiny populations of tickets we're talking about here.


Scalpers are pretty good at figuring out if the market is viable. I suspect someone will make a market in emp or alinea. More marginal places probably not.

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#13 Wilfrid

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Posted 02 December 2014 - 10:22 PM

 

Mm, you get baseball and other sports tickets less than face value on Stubhub, so why not?  :)


Yeah sure, but you have to buy a ticket to those no matter what. I doubt below the three star level you'll be faced with that.

When you don't have to pay face you won't buy in advance

 

 

Yes, we're talking about a small number of restaurants here.  But I can imagine a scalper holding a bunch of tickets for Per Se having to let some go at face value or less. Doesn't mean making a loss on the batch, of course.



#14 Wilfrid

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Posted 02 December 2014 - 10:25 PM

There are six tables between now and Sunday open at Per Se on Open Table (maybe more if you call).  How times have changed.



#15 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 02 December 2014 - 11:06 PM


 

Mm, you get baseball and other sports tickets less than face value on Stubhub, so why not?  :)

Yeah sure, but you have to buy a ticket to those no matter what. I doubt below the three star level you'll be faced with that.

When you don't have to pay face you won't buy in advance
 
 
Yes, we're talking about a small number of restaurants here.  But I can imagine a scalper holding a bunch of tickets for Per Se having to let some go at face value or less. Doesn't mean making a loss on the batch, of course.

Yep. Hence my interest in understanding how big the market for this is in the eyes of Kokonas. I think the market will be quite small. Maybe 15 places nationwide.

"This is a battle of who blinks first, and we've cut off our eyelids"