A full dining room at the Wise Acre Eatery.
Tom Wallace, Star Tribune
Rosenblum: Reservations about paid reservations
- Article by: GAIL ROSENBLUM
- Star Tribune
- June 27, 2014 - 3:09 PM
Now that the Twin Cities area has become an enviable multicultural food mecca, it likely won’t be long before Resy arrives.
New York-based Resy is the latest option for people who desperately hope to score that 8 p.m. Saturday table at the hardest-to-crack restaurant — so desperately that they’ll pay for the reservation.
The service follows similarly conceived Table8 in San Francisco and Killer Rezzy, also in New York. The price ranges from $10 to $25, which hardly is a huge expense.
Still, fellow foodies, resist!
I’m not here to save you 25 bucks. I’m here to suggest we stop buying into a myth that’s growing harder for us to shake. Resy, meet FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.
The term FOMO was coined by international marketing consultant Dan Herman in the 1990s, but thanks to social networking and the marvels of Google, the fear of missing out on pretty much everything fun has never haunted us more.
We “like” stuff on Facebook to feel like an insider. We retweet news, assess our rank on LinkedIn, read books we don’t want to read, and check our iPhones every 10 seconds. Make that five.
It’s exhausting. And it’s allowing other people to define for us what fun is.
Resy, whose website and app will launch soon, is just the latest example. Consider this from Greg Morabito, a food blogger for New York’s Eater.
Without Resy, he warned, and without a lucky break like, say, restaurateur Robert DeNiro taking your call, “it’s [a table at] 6:30 or 9:30, or you’re waiting at the bar.”
But, Greg, have you ever eaten at the bar? They serve food off the same menu, it’s fantastic for people-spying, and your server, who usually is also the bartender, will tell you the story about his crazy road trip with his grandmother where he almost hit an armadillo.
And what’s wrong with eating at 6:30? It’s a perfect time for enjoying good fare after a walk around a lake, and early enough to still catch a summer sunset. It’s good for Minnesotans, too, who are in bed by 9:30.
Resy’s creators predict huge success, of course, by tapping into the incomparable talent of human beings to feel insecure.
“When you open up the Resy app and get that great table by tapping the screen twice, you’re going to wonder how you ever lived without us,” they promise seductively. “Who doesn’t want to be treated like a friend of the chef?”
It’s fair to note that the rush for reservations didn’t start with Resy or its competitors. Open Table is one of many popular (and free) sites that allow booking a table up to 30 days in advance.
Caroline Glawe, general manager of Minneapolis’ Wise Acre Eatery, has heard of another strategy on both coasts, where restaurants sell “tickets” for, say, $50. The money is applied toward the cost of dinner and drinks. This guarantees foodies their table, and the restaurant revenue on that table, Glawe said, which is beneficial in dealing with the very real problem of no-shows.
Glawe sees reservation brokers on the horizon in Minnesota, although not anytime soon. “We are far too practical here,” she said, “with that farm sensibility stuck fast.
“That said,” Glawe added, “I am always amazed by the loads of phone calls I get on Friday and Saturday nights from people calling after 6 p.m. for 7 p.m. reservations.”
I understand that it’s sometimes essential to get a reservation on a busy Friday or Saturday night, for a special anniversary, birthday or graduation. I get that reservations help managers plan and staff appropriately.
But chefs want us to understand that they serve great food every day of the week.
“I’ve been trying to solve this puzzle for years now,” said Mike Brown, co-owner of Travail in Robbinsdale, and its new sibling, Pig Ate My Pizza.
Because it’s especially tough to get eaters out on Tuesday through Thursday, Brown and company now offer an “early-bird special” on those nights before 6 p.m. Many other restaurants offer similar midweek specials.
“Do we make less money on that? Yes, $20 less per couple,” Brown said. “But I would much rather have that restaurant full of people getting the same product.”
And it is the same product.
Or, maybe not.
Maybe it will be even more fun.
“Some people are crazy to have the Saturday 8 p.m. time slot,” said Wise Acre Chef Beth Fisher. “But I do believe you have a better experience at off-times in most restaurants.”
You’ll get the same delicious dishes, but servers have more time to talk about the food and the wine.
“It’s a more relaxed dining experience,” Fisher said. “And the noise level is bearable, to boot.”
But please, don’t tweet that tasty tidbit to the world.
Follow Gail on Twitter: @grosenblum
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