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In Chicago, Chef Grant Achatz Is Selling Tickets to His New Restaurant


KristiB50
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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/05/dining/05achatz.html?ref=dining

Anyone wishing to eat at Next after its scheduled opening in the fall will pay in advance on its Web site. Like airlines, Next will offer cheaper tickets for off-peak hours. A table at 9:30 on a Tuesday night, say, would cost less than one for Saturday at 8. Ticket prices will also vary based on the menu, but will run from $45 to $75 for a five- or six-course meal, according to the site, nextrestaurant.com. (Wine and beverage pairings, bought with the ticket, will begin at $25.)

Interesting concept for a restaurant. Not just the ticket sales but the themes.

The menu will change four times a year, with each new edition featuring the cuisine of a particular place and time. When the restaurant opens, Mr. Achatz said, the theme will be Paris in 1912, with painstakingly researched evocations of Escoffier-era cuisine. Three months later, the kitchen will turn out a fresh set of recipes — evoking, say, postwar Sicily, or Hong Kong 25 years from now, with modern techniques employed to imagine the future of Chinese cuisine.
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Aren't you guys offended by the fact that if you can't make the dinner, the risk of loss shifts to you? I lose thousands of dollars a year on tickets to theatrical and musical performances I have to miss because of unexpected work obligations. Now I have to lose money on restaurants as well?

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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I like the theme concept. I don't mind the ticket concept as long as there is some policy in place that allows for emergency cancellation without financial penalty. I find it mildly interesting that Heston Blumenthal has been doing a modernized-historic thing for a while now and many people (mostly people that haven't been to his restaurants) think it's kinda silly and he's a bit of a wanker for doing it but Grant Achatz announces he's doing it and many of those same people herald it as the second coming of Escoffier. Note: that is not aimed at this thread, it's based on other discussions I've had and things I've read. Personally, I'm very interested in seeing what Grant does with the themes but I was/am equally excited over the things Heston has been doing with his historic-based themes so this is an easy leap. I do find it kinda interesting that Chef Achatz is opening something so radically different at a time when many already popular restaurants are struggling. Hopefully the pricing will open his food to a whole new audience in addition to his current followers and allow it to succeed.

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Aren't you guys offended by the fact that if you can't make the dinner, the risk of loss shifts to you? I lose thousands of dollars a year on tickets to theatrical and musical performances I have to miss because of unexpected work obligations. Now I have to lose money on restaurants as well?

Offended? why? Why should a reservation at a restaurant be any different than the tickets to theatrical or musical performances. If you cannot make it to any of those events it's not their fault, be it restaurant, theater or baseball game. I am not saying it shouldn't happen, I am just saying that "offended" is definitely not the right word to use.

That being said, I am sure there will be a cancellation policy, probably more similar to a one at a hotel. Cancel within X number of hours and you wont get charged. If I am not mistaken, Alinea and many other top restaurants will charge a card that you give them at the time of reservation if you do not show up. I am pretty sure I had to give them a CC number when I made my reservation a couple years ago. Same deal here.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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1. It should be different because restaurants can often fill unused tables with walk-ins, which is not a tradition at theaters.

2. If restaurants traditionally haven't operated the same way as theaters, why SHOULD they change? Or at least, why should we APPLAUD the change, when it's so obviously worse for us? Are you so self-abegnating that you think that everything that can be stacked against you as a customer SHOULD be? Why in the world aren't your and my interests as important, for purposes of discussion, as the restaurant's?

(Of course, as you and FG point out, if they have a reasonable cancellation policy my whole complaint becomes moot.)

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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A firmer seating policy can work in the customer's favor by eliminating the need to overbook. Overbooking results in restaurants not being able to honor reservations on time. Also, although what Achatz is doing is transparently a shift to a ticketed model, the trend over the past decade has been towards taking credit-card deposits at in-demand restaurants, and even at not-very-in-demand restaurants for larger tables, holidays, etc.

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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Not to be overly argumentative -- because once again I don't know what their cancellation policy will be -- but if I had to choose between waiting 15 minutes or a half hour at the bar before being seated and losing $300-$500 every time unexpected work obligations cause me to cancel dinner plans, I'd easily choose the former.

Edited by Sneakeater (log)
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Not to be overly argumentative -- because once again I don't know what their cancellation policy will be -- but if I had to choose between waiting 15 minutes or a half hour at the bar before being seated and losing $300-$500 every time unexpected work obligations cause me to cancel dinner plans, I'd easily choose the former.

I am not being argumentative either, just reasonable. I do not think just because that's how restaurants have always been is a good argument against what Achatz is proposing. Again having NO cancellation policy is not an option and makes no sense. He will have one. In light of what I already said and FG mentioned (restaurants taking a cc at time of making res) this new process is just a modern way of streamlining everything. I do not think I am in any way in worse shape because of it. Now if your work just forces you to cancel last minute all the time, then of course it's your personal choice as to what you should do.

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Speaking as someone who rarely cancels reservations, in part because I recognize the adverse impact on restaurants in doing so, I think it's great that restaurants are developing ways to avoid that impact. Whether it's by charging in advance, or by requiring a credit card number with a policy for charges for last-minute cancellations.

If your work obligations entail a significant chance of cancelling a reservation, I suggest making one at a restaurant with enough walk-in traffic that they will not suffer when you do so. And not feeling so entitled that every restaurant should be willing to suffer the entire financial burden when your work requires you to cancel your reservations there at the last minute (which I consider highly inconsiderate except in the case of true emergencies, which work requirements rarely constitute).

I also think it's great that they will have pricing that varies by time of day and day of the week. Granted, some restaurants already do this with special pre-theater and other deals at off hours, but this makes your options and savings a lot clearer.

Edited by nsxtasy (log)
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I think the point that everyone has failed to address is that this restaurant's concept is that it's a destination. Traveling to different time periods, reserving "tickets," etc. To address Sneakeater's arguments that this breaks with restaurant "tradition," that seems to be just the point. This is not a traditional restaurant. And clearly, if you're shocked or offended that a restaurant isn't "traditional," Chef Achatz's restaurant(s?) are not for you. Don't make it a point to check out Alinea, either, if that's the case. The argument that there can't possibly be anything wrong with something because it has been done for a long time is not very helpful. Television was free for a long time, and then cable came along. That seems to be working out alright. For just a few years, people had to walk or uses horses to travel. Planes, trains, and cars seem to have upgraded that situation.

And to be clear, I understand that from your perspective, it appears that this would make you less likely to try the restaurant. But I think there are probably enough people who can say with a fair amount of certainty that work will not interfere with their dinner plans on a certain day.

ETA: Re nxtasy's post, I don't think it's fair to say that people with unpredictable jobs shouldn't be able to eat where they want, either. There are plenty of people with such jobs that cancel as soon as they're aware of a conflict, as I'm sure Sneakeater does. A dinner reservation is not a doctor's appointment, or a court date. If you can't make it, and you let them know in advance, in all likelihood, they'll be able to fill your spot, and at the very least, there will still be other customers in the restaurant.

Edited by MikeHartnett (log)
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I very much appreciate MikeHartnett's recognition that being a litigator doesn't necessarily make you an evil inconsiderate self-entitled person (I guess a lot of people would disagree with that). It just means that your obligations to courts and clients are unpredictable in the extreme. And I'll repeat: I loose thousands of dollars a year on unused theater, opera, and concert tickets. I'm not making this up.

I just want to note that just because you appreciate traditional accommodations given to customers by restaurants, it doesn't mean you're apt to be culinarily conservative. It just means you appreciate the accommodations. The suggestion that I'd like Alinea less than anybody else on this board is risable.

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ETA: Re nxtasy's post, I don't think it's fair to say that people with unpredictable jobs shouldn't be able to eat where they want, either.

Well, that's quite an exaggeration of what I said!

In my experience, the restaurants that currently require credit card numbers with cancellation penalties for no-shows usually have their policies explicitly stated when making a reservation. Typically, they allow for cancellations with no charges if you give them at least a certain advance warning on your cancellation, usually 24 or 48 hours, which strikes me as eminently reasonable. A quick check of Chicago restaurants on Opentable shows that TRU charges $50/pp for no-shows or cancellations with less than 24 hours notice, at Charlie Trotter's it's $100/pp under 48 hours, at Everest it's $50/pp under 48 hours, at L2O it's under 48 hours with the charge not stated, and at Sixteen it doesn't state the charge or the time required.

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  • 2 months later...

I'd say both sides have some pretty valid points about the topic.

Still, I'm looking at it more from a business point of view. What Chef Achatz is doing is flipping everything on its head. Given that he already owns Chicago's hottest restaurant, which also just so happens to be ranked the best restaurant in the US according to the Top 50 Restaurant List, he can really afford to do whatever he wants, and it's still going to be popular. The fact that he went out of his way to create an innovative, never-before-seen experience (whether for better or worse) is only going to make the restaurant that much hotter, as everyone is going to be intrigued by Chef Achatz's ingenuity.

Whether you agree with the principle behind the concept or not, you have to admit, Achatz is a smart chef, and he's probably going to make a ton of money off his new concept. I applaud him at least for his business savvy.

Edmund Mokhtarian

Food and Wine Blogger

http://www.thefoodbuster.com

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 8 months later...

I'll be there in two weeks...I was part of the first or second wave of mailings, but the DNS update hadn't propagated for my ISP (I was still getting the old website), so I had to have a friend log in and book the table for us. It was a mess, their technology let them down...both their e-mail server and their understanding of how the DNS switchover would work. Still, once I was able to get into the site (about an hour after my table was booked by my friend), I found it quite functional and easy to use. I look forward to future releases being slightly less hectic (hopefully).

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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Luckily I was in the first wave and got tickets for the week I had already planned to be in Chicago in June.

As someone who views a great meal as entertainment or an event - conceptually it makes sense to treat it as I would a concert ticket. I'm also one who rarely cancels - especially a hard to come by reservation.

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