The increasingly distasteful "sharing economy," which is becoming more of an "a**hole economy" with every new greed-driven app, takes another step in a distasteful direction with ReservationHop, a site that lets people buy and sell restaurant reservations for $5 to $12 apiece.
As CBS 5 reports, the startup is just now launching in San Francisco, offering hard-to-get and not-so-hard-to-get reservations on Fridays and Saturdays at restaurants like Nopa, Park Tavern, and even State Bird Provisions. They're doing this by offering to pay people undisclosed sums (it says you can name your price) for reservations they already have in their name and are not going to use.
Available reservations then go up for sale on the site and are available up until 4 hours before the reservation time, at which point, if they're not claimed, ReservationHop calls the restaurant to cancel. This of course would not work for restaurants like Benu, where you're charged $195 per person if you cancel with less than 24 hours notice, or Saison, where you're charged the full menu price if you cancel with less than a full week's notice.
And ReservationHop is trying to mitigate restaurant objections to its business model by saying, "We believe that we can reduce no-shows through a paid reservation system, without putting tables at risk." It points to the ticketing system now being used at Grant Achatz's Chicago restaurants Next and Alinea, and how they were able to decrease the number of no-shows by 75%.
As for showing up to claim a reservation under someone else's name, they say that "99% of the time you can show up at the restaurant, give them the name and grab the table, no problem." But remember how that worked out in Date Night?
Restaurants are bound to object to a company profiting off of selling their tables, and they could even start checking IDs at the door, which would be weird. And it's kind of arrogant for one company to think that they can have an impact on no-shows, citywide, when this is hardly a uniform ticketing system like Achatz's restaurants have. There are always going to be other assholes, and the personal assistants of assholes, booking up multiple tables on OpenTable under different accounts and then canceling all but one at the last minute. In the case of places like Nopa and State Bird, their insurance against that is their constant flow of waiting walk-ins, so they definitely don't need ReservationHop to solve this problem for them—and profit from it.
At the moment, the system isn't yet flooded with reservation-sellers there's nothing available for next Saturday, and only a couple of tables for two for next Friday, at Park Tavern and Foreign Cinema, that probably would not have been too hard to get otherwise. But between this and those reservation bots, dining out is becoming more of a techno-war than ever before. And don't forget that you may need to purchase a street-parking space before arriving at one of these restaurants, and maybe someone will rent you their spot at the bar should you have to wait to be seated.