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Fat Guy

Reservations and Regulars at Momos and

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[Moderator's note from "weinoo": On the Momofuku Ko topic, there has been a rather lively discussion of what it takes to become a regular, whether indeed there are regulars at the Momos, the gall of regulars for expecting certain treatment, do regulars get special treatment, what is special treatment, etc. etc.

So, I've decided to split posts off of that topic (as best I can) into this topic, where a nice discussion may be had about all of the above points, as they relate to the Momos and any and all other places where one may deem themself to be a regular. This will hopefully keep the Ko topic focused mainly on the food, wine and reservation system, sans talk about regulars.

This discussion initially started in response to the new, in-house reservation system at Momofuku Ko, and whether indeed it is egalitarian (defined thusly - adj. Affirming, promoting, or characterized by belief in equal political, economic, social, and civil rights for all people), and if so, will it remain that way? -Mitch ("weinoo")]

And at Ko, unlike those other places, the prime time tables aren't held in reserve for regulars and VIPs.

You say that like it's a good thing. But for someone who builds a relationship with a business as a repeat customer, it's entirely reasonable to expect priority in making reservations. For now, Ko has rewarded loyal customers of Momofuku with preview seatings. But what will happen going forward?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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And at Ko, unlike those other places, the prime time tables aren't held in reserve for regulars and VIPs.

You say that like it's a good thing. But for someone who builds a relationship with a business as a repeat customer, it's entirely reasonable to expect priority in making reservations.

I was responding from the perspective of the original commenter, who does not aspire to become a Ko regular, but simply wants a reservation at a reasonable time without a lot of hassle.

It so happens that's my own perspective too, so I'm gratified that there's a popular place where, at least for now, my chances at an 8:00 p.m. reservation are identical to everybody else's.

For now, Ko has rewarded loyal customers of Momofuku with preview seatings. But what will happen going forward?

I wonder too. I would add, when Chang says it's absolutely democratic, I'm taking him at his word.

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And at Ko, unlike those other places, the prime time tables aren't held in reserve for regulars and VIPs.

You say that like it's a good thing. But for someone who builds a relationship with a business as a repeat customer, it's entirely reasonable to expect priority in making reservations. For now, Ko has rewarded loyal customers of Momofuku with preview seatings. But what will happen going forward?

It may be bad in a business type way and restaurants are a business of course, but chefs on the whole aren't entirely business minded (at least the best ones in my opinion, thank god). I think for chefs and restaurants with a large following they can afford to look out for the people who really care about what they're doing vs. the type that just show up b/c of the hype, name recognition etc... (i.e. all the people who would go to Per Se but then want to request to change the menu b/c they don't like fish or something ridiculous, the hedge fund diners, etc...) I think David Chang has shown more balls / integrity than anyone else as far as being as much about the food as possible.

It makes sense b/c usually chef's enjoy to cook for people who really love food, I think the way David has structured the res system is trying to reflect that. Unfortunately I haven't got one, I guess I will try before 10am tomorrow.

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me too. and I think it's a good thing. I'm tired at overpaying at too many destination restaurants for poor experiences due partially to the staff and kitchen paying extra attention to vip and soigne tables.

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Me too. And I say this as someone for whom the reservation system has been a long, unrelenting nightmare of intense and protracted agony. (This id checking announcement is the latest disaster...I may point out why later.) But despite the inexcusable incompetence with which Ko's online reservation system has been implemented, the design and ideas behind it are absolutely perfect.

This is in complete contrast to the previous world record holder for Most Painful Reservation System, the pre-Opentable system at per se, which in both concept and execution was a gigantic Fuck You to the people trying to spend $400pp at their restaurant.

But for someone who builds a relationship with a business as a repeat customer, it's entirely reasonable to expect priority in making reservations. For now, Ko has rewarded loyal customers of Momofuku with preview seatings. But what will happen going forward?

They'll get off-menu/in-development Ko dishes comped at Ssam Bar, same as always.

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and it was obvious even at F&F that there will be soigne action at Ko....

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Right. The choice is between 1- alienating the regulars, and 2- practicing some form of hypocrisy (making egalitarian claims but actually maintaining a hierarchy).


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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(i.e. all the people who would go to Per Se but then want to request to change the menu b/c they don't like fish or something ridiculous, the hedge fund diners, etc...)

You say this as though 50% of the customers at Per Se don't do that. Per Se is not filled with foodies on a nightly basis.

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Right. The choice is between 1- alienating the regulars, and 2- practicing some form of hypocrisy (making egalitarian claims but actually maintaining a hierarchy).

Only if having to participate in the reservations system makes regulars feel alienated, which I don't think most of us feel. We'll be the ones who will hit Ko on a Tuesday night in 2 months, 6 six months or however many years it takes for it to quiet down. Of all the restaurants that I eat in regularly, I could hardly complain about the amazing treatment I've received at the Momofuku restaurants and the obvious regard they have for repeat customers.

From a business perspective, it seems like utilizing significant nepotism with seating at Ko would cause major problems expanding the customer base later. They basically need to be full all the time.

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Right. The choice is between 1- alienating the regulars, and 2- practicing some form of hypocrisy (making egalitarian claims but actually maintaining a hierarchy).

That presumes they'd be alienated, but the Momofuku regulars seem to be people who've bought into this whole "New Paradigm" thingy, and who are intrigued, rather than offended, at a place that allegedly "shatters" the traditional restaurant concept.
Edited by oakapple (log)

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Only if having to participate in the reservations system makes regulars feel alienated, which I don't think most of us feel. 

Because the regulars haven't participated in the system. They've been invited to previews. It will be interesting to see how those same regulars feel later on.

nepotism

It has nothing to do with nepotism.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Right. The choice is between 1- alienating the regulars, and 2- practicing some form of hypocrisy (making egalitarian claims but actually maintaining a hierarchy).

That presumes they'd be alienated, but the Momofuku regulars seem to be people who've bought into this whole "New Paradigm" thingy, and who are intrigued, rather than offended, at a place that allegedly "shatters" the traditional restaurant concept.

As a Momofuku regular and co-founder with Nathan of the New Paradigm labeling movement, I find it alienating.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Only if having to participate in the reservations system makes regulars feel alienated, which I don't think most of us feel. 

Because the regulars haven't participated in the system. They've been invited to previews. It will be interesting to see how those same regulars feel later on.

nepotism

It has nothing to do with nepotism.

We're not dead. Some of us went last week and already have plans to go back. There are plenty of regulars, many of whom are my close friends, who did not have the opportunity to participate in previews. We have either actively participated or watched our friends doing so. I think we understand what will go into making a reservation at Ko.

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I don't know about anyone else, but when it comes to reservations for a restaurant, I don't want to have to deal with it like I have to deal with Ticketmaster for hot concert tix... jmo.

Jesikka, apparently you don't speak for all regulars. Sure, some will follow Chang to the gates of Hell in his grand egalitarian experiment (unless of course it's just a facade), but some are already fed up and it's only day two.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Only if having to participate in the reservations system makes regulars feel alienated, which I don't think most of us feel. 

Because the regulars haven't participated in the system. They've been invited to previews. It will be interesting to see how those same regulars feel later on.

The momofuku restaurants have always been fair in the way they've handled waits for seats at both Noodle Bar or Ssam Bar. There have been busy nights at both restaurants where I have had to wait a very long time for a seat, so I know for a fact that regular customers do not get priority in seating. In this regard, the online reservation system is no different from how it currently works at Noodle Bar and Ssam Bar. Having to wait for a seat has never made me feel annoyed or alienated. When I experience difficulty making a reservation at Ko, rather than feel alienated, I will happily go to Ssam Bar and just try again for Ko on another day. You can hold me to that statement.

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I don't know about anyone else, but when it comes to reservations for a restaurant, I don't want to have to deal with it like I have to deal with Ticketmaster for hot concert tix... jmo.

Jesikka, apparently you don't speak for all regulars. Sure, some will follow Chang to the gates of Hell in his grand egalitarian experiment (unless of course it's just a facade), but some are already fed up and it's only day two.

I would never presume to speak for all regulars. But I don't think there is a need for regulars to panic and presume they'll never be able to try the food at Ko (nor do I really understand the need to rush there immediately- but as you've said I was lucky enough to try the food on preview). In the meantime I'll continue to eat at Ssam Bar and look forward to my next visit to Ko.

Dealing with ticketmaster for a hot concert is one thing- the concert ends, the band moves on. This show is playing for the long term, not everyone gets to see the first show. IMHO if you're fed up by day two then you might as well let the people who really want it get in line ahead of you.

Do your complaints apply to all tough reservations?

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I don't know about anyone else, but when it comes to reservations for a restaurant, I don't want to have to deal with it like I have to deal with Ticketmaster for hot concert tix... jmo.

Jesikka, apparently you don't speak for all regulars. Sure, some will follow Chang to the gates of Hell in his grand egalitarian experiment (unless of course it's just a facade), but some are already fed up and it's only day two.

Waiting for a seat in a restaurant is a bit different from following some guy I don't know to the gates of Hell.

From what I understand, Martha Stewart needed to wait for a seat when she ate at Noodle Bar.

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I don't know about anyone else, but when it comes to reservations for a restaurant, I don't want to have to deal with it like I have to deal with Ticketmaster for hot concert tix... jmo.

Jesikka, apparently you don't speak for all regulars. Sure, some will follow Chang to the gates of Hell in his grand egalitarian experiment (unless of course it's just a facade), but some are already fed up and it's only day two.

It will be partly self-correcting, because presumably the website's bugs will get fixed, and the demand for seats will become less intense.

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Do your complaints apply to all tough reservations?

I think Steve is saying that at those places where he chooses to become a regular, he wants V.I.P. treatment in return, and other places do indeed give that to him.

He realizes that at all restaurants where he isn't a regular—that is, most of them—he needs to wait in line like everyone else.

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I don't know about anyone else, but when it comes to reservations for a restaurant, I don't want to have to deal with it like I have to deal with Ticketmaster for hot concert tix... jmo.

Jesikka, apparently you don't speak for all regulars. Sure, some will follow Chang to the gates of Hell in his grand egalitarian experiment (unless of course it's just a facade), but some are already fed up and it's only day two.

Yeah, what he said.

This is entirely equivalent to a doorman at a nightclub. Those guys make good money and are important because they know the regulars and VIPs and keep out the riff-raff.

Chang's opened a small-ass nightclub with no doorman. Those don't tend to last.

And yeah, I'm pissed cuz their shite website didn't even give me a poor man's chance at a res.

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Do your complaints apply to all tough reservations?

I think Steve is saying that at those places where he chooses to become a regular, he wants V.I.P. treatment in return, and other places do indeed give that to him.

He realizes that at all restaurants where he isn't a regular—that is, most of them—he needs to wait in line like everyone else.

Ok, but there are plenty of restaurants where I am a frequent diner- an unassuming and reasonably quiet (not by personality but with regards to demands) diner and I don't get any VIP treatment at all. Or the extent of my VIP treatment is getting seated more quickly as a walk-in. It's like you're suggesting that because they are so over-the-top generous to their customers at Ssam and NoodleBar that they have an obligation to those people at Ko. I just don't think that's the case because the model isn't as flexible as the others. I'm sure regulars at the other restaurants will be treated spectacularly at Ko and will be able to walk in once the mania dies down. How long did it take for Tailor to be reasonable to get into?

I agree completely that they need to get the reservations system running properly, but that is a different issue. Fat Guy seems to be saying that the democratic reservations process in and of itself is the problem.

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It has nothing to do with democracy. Throwing around terms like "nepotism" to refer to treating your good customers well and "democracy" to refer to not doing so simply doesn't reconcile with the definitions of those words. And while I do think it's a little ironic that the defenders of the egalitarian system are the ones who've been invited to previews, my point is simply that the restaurant eventually will need to choose between true egalitarianism and some fake, hypocritical, patronizing version of it.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It has nothing to do with democracy. Throwing around terms like "nepotism" to refer to treating your good customers well and "democracy" to refer to not doing so simply doesn't reconcile with the definitions of those words. And while I do think it's a little ironic that the defenders of the egalitarian system are the ones who've been invited to previews, my point is simply that the restaurant eventually will need to choose between true egalitarianism and some fake, hypocritical, patronizing version of it.

The customers of Ko are the people who are eating there with reservations that they got on the website. Treating them well would mean giving them great service while they're there and perhaps comping a dish or sending something extra out sometimes. Nepotism, which widely translates as "patronage bestowed or favoritism shown due to relationship" is what would happen if all of the regulars at Ssam Bar and Noodle Bar were able to make reservations at Ko more easily/frequently than other people in the general public.

Democratic reservations system is how Chang has been describing it, so I picked up on his terminology, which probably doesn't translate perfectly. Regardless, I think everyone understands that he means this to imply "everyone has an equal chance of getting in," as well as, "this is going to be a pain in your ass but we only have 14 seats and we have to regulate it somehow if we want to be open in 6 months."

Are you objecting to the fact that they held friends and family and then implemented a reservations system afterwards?

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It has nothing to do with democracy. Throwing around terms like "nepotism" to refer to treating your good customers well and "democracy" to refer to not doing so simply doesn't reconcile with the definitions of those words. And while I do think it's a little ironic that the defenders of the egalitarian system are the ones who've been invited to previews, my point is simply that the restaurant eventually will need to choose between true egalitarianism and some fake, hypocritical, patronizing version of it.

I don't see how you think that their online reservation system is an example of a fake, hypocritcal, patronizing version of egalitarianism. Can you please explain how an online reservation system that is providing seats based on a faceless request would be biased?

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Are you objecting to the fact that they held friends and family and then implemented a reservations system afterwards?

Or are you just being angry for not getting invited to f&f given your "regular and co-founder with Nathan of the New Paradigm labeling movement" status?

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