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Rail Paul

Buying Reservations

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One could construct an argument that this service might enhance the efficiency of allocation of scarce tables. Because it allows a diner who derives greater utility from having a given table (and therefore who is willing to pay the extra $35 (or other applicable amount)) to get the table, including on short notice after events develop that call for the table.

 

Consider the case of two diners who hypothetically would spend the same amount at a given restaurant

"PS" of $400/person for a table of one.

 

> Both diners derive negative 15 hypothetical units of utility from having to pay $35 for using this service.

 

> Diner C derives 10 hypothetical units of utility from having the meal, perhaps because she doesn't consider the restaurant a very good restaurant by world standards, but, given the options, she might still go if the table reservation were "free".

 

> Diner A thinks the restaurant is great, and derives 50 hypothetical units of utility from the meal experience.

 

> If there were a table available and nobody had to pay for it, Diner C could compete with Diner A for the table, even though, in order to maximize the aggregate utility of the two diners, the table should go to Diner A. If Diner C were to persist and get the reservation to the exclusion of Diner A without using the reservation service, the total utility derived by the two diners would be 10 (10 for Diner C, and 0 for Diner A).

 

> Under the reservation service, Diner C is unwilling to pay the $35, because her utility from the whole meal is only 10 units and paying for the service would confer negative 15 units, leaving her with negative 5 units net. So Diner C doesn't use the service and does not go to restaurant "P.S.". However, Diner A is still eager to use this service, and derives a net utility from using the service and going to the restaurant of 35 (50 minus 15). The total utility derived by the two diners would be 35 (35 for Diner A, and 0 for Diner C), even before taking into account the utility derived by the reservation service from the revenue.

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How different is this from showing up someplace without a reservation, letting the maitre d' or host know that it's a special occasion, and greasing him a $20 for the table?? Similarly wrong or a creative use of $20??

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Or you could achieve the same result by putting up the restaurant prices when at least the dosh would go to someone who'd worked for it.

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Working the phones (or other channels) or paying a restaurant service are different ways for a diner to express how much she wants to go to a given restaurant.

 

One might argue as to whether it is equitable, in the above example, for revenue to be received by the restaurant service, but it is hard to argue that there are no situations where the restaurant service can enhance the aggregate utility of diners, taken as a whole, by helping to allocate tables to those who would really derive utility from having the meal.

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One might argue as to whether it is equitable for revenue to be received by Murder Inc., but it is hard to argue that there are no situations where Murder Inc. can enhance the aggregate utility of the Mob, taken as a whole, by helping to allocate hits to those who really deserve to sleep with the fishes.

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Working the phones (or other channels) or paying a restaurant service are different ways for a diner to express how much she wants to go to a given restaurant.

 

One might argue as to whether it is equitable, in the above example, for revenue to be received by the restaurant service, but it is hard to argue that there are no situations where the restaurant service can enhance the aggregate utility of diners, taken as a whole, by helping to allocate tables to those who would really derive utility from having the meal.

 

I'm not sure how much the restaurant considers the patron's utility or perception of value, as long as the seats are filled with high paying customers. As Mr Bruni noted last week, some restaurants believe they're doing the customer a favor by allowing them to partake of a chef's bounty.

 

Ultimately, the restaurant has an interest in capturing this spread (money paid for the reservation) and cutting out the middleman or middlewoman. As noted a few times upthread, the restaurant would fill these seats, so why is it allowing an intermediary to capture an element of pure profit?

 

I like the idea of menu prices which change based on seating time, that's an impressive contribution to the capitalist art.

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And that reason is the confirmation of something everyone knows, bemoans and deals with whenever joining the clamor and battle to get into a hot restaurant: the playing field isn’t even.

 

Duh!

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And that reason is the confirmation of something everyone knows, bemoans and deals with whenever joining the clamor and battle to get into a hot restaurant: the playing field isn’t even.

 

Right, no kidding :lol:

Is it any surprise that the reservation process favors:

 

1) The diligent -- Those who take note of when different restaurants start taking reservations, try to call again for late cancellations, those who keep on dialing, those who plan ahead in their home city or when they travel. Is that any suprise, or is that like everything else in life that is a scarce good or service?

 

2) The informed -- Those who care about good restaurants and allocate time to learning about restaurant industry developments? Does a diner who doesn't get an El Bulli reservation because they try for one too late deserve to a have a chance at the reservation?

 

3) Those who are willing to pay -- Through tipping of maitre d's, having credit cards that offer concierge-type services or reserved tables, staying at nice hotels that have more connected concierges, having the flexibility to change travel plans to facilitate restaurant going?

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One might argue as to whether it is equitable for revenue to be received by Murder Inc., but it is hard to argue that there are no situations where Murder Inc. can enhance the aggregate utility of the Mob, taken as a whole, by helping to allocate hits to those who really deserve to sleep with the fishes.

 

You can't sleep with the fishes! Because the fishes...don't sleep!

 

(er...that's a song...)

 

As a footnote to all this, I'll briefly make my perennial comment that the number of good restaurants in Manhattan which are truly hard to get into is about - what, three, four? Let's not lose sleep.

 

As for raising menu prices, I commented earlier that for some psychological reason customers will feel ripped off if a restaurant prices itself way ahead of the pack. Ironically, many diners will not feel ripped off by paying a separate charge, apparently unrelated to the food. Like I said, restaurants should sell tickets.

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Like I said, restaurants should sell tickets.

 

I'm sure OpenTable are working on that as we speak (they already have the opposite in the form of $10 coupons for dining at off hours in off places)

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I still dream of a site like Open Table which actually displays available tables over a range of dates, just like the airline sites where you can choose your seats. Click to reserve (not available tables are just shaded out, so you can't tell if they've already been clicked or are not released by the restaurant).

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I still dream of a site like Open Table which actually displays available tables over a range of dates, just like the airline sites where you can choose your seats. Click to reserve (not available tables are just shaded out, so you can't tell if they've already been clicked or are not released by the restaurant).

 

 

John Valentin's restaurant in Atlantic Highlands NJ used to have that feature on their own website. I see they are now on the OpenTable platform, so that feature is now gone.

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in the end it's still best to be a regular - they will always squeeze you in. and if you are not stuck on prime time, that helps too in getting a resy you want (and food & service are often better in the 'off times')

The Shaw argument. The difficulty is that it's impossible become a regular at Per Se if one can never get a table.

not easy but not impossible.

 

it's easier to get a table at Per Se than at Rao's, where, incidentally, it's all about being a regular

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