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TableXchange: NYC, Hamptons, San Francisco


Joe Riley
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My apologies if this has already been brought up here, but this service in New York seems fraught with peril to me: http://nyc.tablexchange.com/

A story about it here: http://www.news.com/8301-13577_3-9850164-36.html

Could this happen in D.C.? It doesn't seem likely that it would succeed here to me.

Demand for limited goods often breeds scalping, but I find it hard to believe that anyone here in D.C. would pay a couple of hundred dollars to scalp a reservation at a particular restaurant. After all, there are always other restaurant alternatives, right? Is this a service for people who can't accept the word, "No", as in, "I'm sorry, Mr. Moneybags, but there are NO tables available for that evening."?

Is there anyone here for whom it would be worth paying a premium to guarantee that you're going to get a table at a particular restaurant for a given night?

Managers and hosts, please enlighten us civilians as to how this usually works. From what I understand, if you want a table at a restaurant, you phone it up, give them the date and time and see if a reservation is available. Negotiations for earlier/later seating may occur. If you get a time that suits you, you provide your name, the number of guests in your party and a contact phone, right? At certain establishments, a credit card might be required to "hold" a reservation, and one might be charged for a cancellation or no-show, yes? But that is probably made clear ahead of time to head off the folks who make multiple reservations at different restaurants, "just in case"?

Alternately, you have services such as OpenTable which take care of this for you, am I correct? (I've never used any reservation services of any kind, so I'm a little "green" where this subject is concerned).

I find that, in our increasingly complicated world, many dining decisions are made the day before or day of (please correct me if I'm wrong, I'm sure that there is trade data to support or refute my assertion). I certainly find this to be true in my business (essentially, supplying beverages for caterers and events) and the sheer amount of walk-in/phone-in business that I get on Fridays and Saturdays. So I'm guessing that most Friday/Saturday night restaurant reservations are called-in the day of.

How often do those day-of reservation attempts get seriously adversarial?

(By the way, I heard that some lady once complained about not getting a reservation at Marcel's and actually told the host that she had "spoken to Marcel earlier" and he'd promised her a table! How hilarious is that? :mellow: I just about busted my gut laughing about that one.)

Love to get an inside view of how the reservation system works and varies from establishment to establishment and even city to city.

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Managers and hosts, please enlighten us civilians as to how this usually works. From what I understand, if you want a table at a restaurant, you phone it up, give them the date and time and see if a reservation is available. Negotiations for earlier/later seating may occur. If you get a time that suits you, you provide your name, the number of guests in your party and a contact phone, right? At certain establishments, a credit card might be required to "hold" a reservation, and one might be charged for a cancellation or no-show, yes? But that is probably made clear ahead of time to head off the folks who make multiple reservations at different restaurants, "just in case"?

Correct so far...but for the record, I'm positive that any charge put on a credit card for a "no show" would not hold water with the credit card company. Because the guest never signs anything that serves as a binding contract with the restaurant for a reservation, that charge would certainly be returned to the customer. Most restaurants take the number but have no legal right nor do they have any intention of ever charging you for a no-show.

Alternately, you have services such as OpenTable which take care of this for you, am I correct? (I've never used any reservation services of any kind, so I'm a little "green" where this subject is concerned).

Yes...and if a guest who uses OpenTable no-shows, you simply enter that into the system. They get a warning from OpenTable and then are actually suspended then finally booted from their membership if the occurs with frequency. (I have no idea what number of no-shows activates disciplinary measures by OpenTable, though.)

I find that, in our increasingly complicated world, many dining decisions are made the day before or day of (please correct me if I'm wrong, I'm sure that there is trade data to support or refute my assertion). I certainly find this to be true in my business (essentially, supplying beverages for caterers and events) and the sheer amount of walk-in/phone-in business that I get on Fridays and Saturdays. So I'm guessing that most Friday/Saturday night restaurant reservations are called-in the day of.

Most reservations are made within three days of the time requested. Fridays and Saturdays are actually the two days of the week where most restaurants start getting full 7-10 days out, in my experiences. There are usually some 5:30-6:30 reservations left on the day of, but most guests will try and push you to 7:00-7:30. I usually will do anything I can to get the guest the time they want, but I will tell them what time the next reservation is arriving so we have an understanding. Want to come in at 7:15? Fine, but that table is reserved again at 8:45. Will that be enough time for you to enjoy your dinner? Great. See you then!

How often do those day-of reservation attempts get seriously adversarial?

Depends on the people on the phone. :) I completely understand that last minute dinner plans get made. I also understand that getting home from work, changing outfits, waiting for the babysitter, sitting in traffic, etc. happens and makes people late. I only hope to have the understanding from my guests that I know what I'm doing and if I tell them that there are no 7:30 reservations left, then there are none. Please don't argue or beg with me. It's embarrassing for both of us! I will do just about anything to get customers in my chairs...without them, I cannot pay my mortgage or my bills. Some guests are knowledgable of that fact and treat me and my staff like servants, in person and on the phone. I've found that honesty always works out and explaining to a guest what I can and cannot do to get them in at the time they want usually results in two happier people. (BTW, I have gotten into confrontations with guests, but thankfully, just like at home with my wife, I have always been right. :mellow: )

In response to the table exchange, I can't imagine this idea ever really being popular around here in the near future. It is parasitic and just plain dishonest to snag a reservation under a false name and scalp it later. I personally have a problem with it ethically, although to some restaurant owners, they could just look at it as a guaranteed seat filled and not think about it twice.

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Correct so far...but for the record, I'm positive that any charge put on a credit card for a "no show" would not hold water with the credit card company. Because the guest never signs anything that serves as a binding contract with the restaurant for a reservation, that charge would certainly be returned to the customer. Most restaurants take the number but have no legal right nor do they have any intention of ever charging you for a no-show.

I'm not so sure about this- if you've ever bought anything over the phone you've entered into a contract to use your card. I really don't have a problem with restaurants doing this within reason.

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I'm not so sure about this- if you've ever bought anything over the phone you've entered into a contract to use your card. I really don't have a problem with restaurants doing this within reason.

I have been on the receiving end of a few credit card disputes of the no-show charge. Haven't won one yet.

FTR, I don't have issues with restaurants doing this either, if only to be used as sort of a scare tactic.

Edited to add: I think the issue really is that you're trying to convince the credit card company that you indeed charged the person for no goods or services and that you have the right to their money. If you order a product over the phone, you're receiving goods and there is proof of shipment.

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I have been on the receiving end of a few credit card disputes of the no-show charge. Haven't won one yet.

When you reserve thru Open Table for a major holiday (NYE, Valentines Day etc) you can have a no show fee added to the reseravtion process. In addition, you can also have a cc requirement for any reseravtion. If a customer gives OT this information, I think that would serve as proof of entering into a contract between the customer and the restaurant: the exchange of things of value- the reservation in exchange for the promise to pay if the reservation is not honored.

Having said that, I rarely have applied the no show fee. In fact I think I have done it 2 times, and both times the guest did not protest. Once was for a party of 20 that showed up as 4 people and the other time was for a New Year's Eve reservation.

As to TableExchange.... if someone showed up to Dino saying that the reservation was in the name of a customer I know and they weren't that customer, I would not seat them. How would I know that he actually was not going to show in a few minutes?

Another add on fun with reservations: The way our open Table is set up, the customer can see the screen when they are at the front. I often have had people claim to be one of the reservations they see on the screen. Let me tell you its fun on a Saturday night having someone come in at 8:00 asking for their table for 2 when someone else just weaseled their way into that table by reading the name from the screen. Then having to tell the party of 2 WITH the reservation that I won't be able to seat them for 30 minutes and then face the rest of the night with all my 2 tops running a table behind. I went to the folk who claimed to be the "Smiths" and asked them for the name of their reservation again as I forgot to mark it off and they couldn't tell me. At least it was fun to bust their chops. It has actually happened!!!!!

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I often have had people claim to be one of the reservations they see on the screen.

This has happened to me, though a long time ago and in another city. Waiting in a noisy bar, we didn't hear "Miller, party of 2", but someone else must have. After 40 minutes, we checked at the hostess stand. "But we already seated you!" We were the only Millers on the list.

There is a special circle in hell reserved for people who pull this shit. It's near the circle that's for people who are slow in the buffet line.

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When you reserve thru Open Table for a major holiday (NYE, Valentines Day etc) you can have a no show fee added to the reseravtion process. In addition, you can also have a cc requirement for any reseravtion. If a customer gives OT this information, I think that would serve as proof of entering into a contract between the customer and the restaurant: the exchange of things of value- the reservation in exchange for the promise to pay if the reservation is not honored.

You're right but we were talking about a telephone exchange. You cannot (at least, I never could) convince a credit card company that you entered a verbal agreement when the guest made the reservation that they would be charged for a no-show. It just doesn't hold water with them and they'll take the side of the consumer every time. If you had OpenTable proof or a written contract, you're of course, in the clear to charge away.

Another add on fun with reservations: The way our open Table is set up, the customer can see the screen when they are at the front. I often have had people claim to be one of the reservations they see on the screen. Let me tell you its fun on a Saturday night having someone come in at 8:00 asking for their table for 2 when someone else just weaseled their way into that table by reading the name from the screen. Then having to tell the party of 2 WITH the reservation that I won't be able to seat them for 30 minutes and then face the rest of the night with all my 2 tops running a table behind. I went to the folk who claimed to be the "Smiths" and asked them for the name of their reservation again as I forgot to mark it off and they couldn't tell me. At least it was fun to bust their chops. It has actually happened!!!!!

Gotta love that F1 button! I've always instructed my hosts to hit F1 anytime they're not actively using the screen to make it immediately go to a screen saver. That'll help keep the "nosy nellies" out of your book.

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