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Apr 15, 2014 02:10 PM

Startup Sells "Prime" Reservations (Table8)

Startup Table8 is now partnering with select restaurants to keep some reservations off the books and selling them at a premium to diners.

Not sure how a I feel about this yet. Although OpenTable charges restaurants, diners have an equal chance to get the reservation. With Table8, the table goes to those willing to pay extra.

Although not stated in their plans, it would make sense to extend the concept to allow bidding.

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  1. Seems like a smart idea as the simple fact that there's demand for it suggests that these restaurants are actually (at least at certain times) underpriced. Although I'm not sure their current pricing - effectively a $5-10pp "tax" on those who want reservation priority - will really do much to encourage market efficiency and minimize the headache of waiting for a table as a walk-in. Instead it seems like this is basically going to be a small extra profit for the restaurants, leaving about the same number of frustrated diners who can't get a table but aren't actually priced out, while giving a big cut to Table8 for providing a service that the restaurants either weren't competent to figure out themselves, or didn't want to be directly associated with.

    2 Replies
    1. re: bigwheel042

      They basically take 2 tables out of rotation each night and let someone else sell them for a $20 premium. Those tables would have gotten booked regardless. The blockheads paying a premium for these tables are doing so only because the restaurant's sold them to this app. So essentially the restaurant is charging 2 tables an exorbitant booking fee each night... for no good reason at all. And this is good/helpful to diners how?? Because it allows people willing to fork over the fee a chance to dine at the same table they could have otherwise booked for free through the restaurant or OpenTable directly? Because... why??

      Any restaurant that can fill it's seats on any given night of the week would surely see no merit in this. What's the purpose or benefit to the restaurant... an extra $40 / night?

      Any restaurant that struggles to pack it in (I could walk in to Waterbar any night of the week and wait 10-15 min. MAX for a table) would also not really benefit because who is suddenly willing to spend $20 for a reservation at a place that isn't filled?

      Unless they are holding these tables and releasing them at the last minute (on the very night of - or the day before) then I don't understand who will benefit or even use this app. If I wanted to get into Boulevard for example, I could go on OT right now and make a reservation for this coming weekend without issue.

      It sounds like a fairly useless resource for nobody but the developpers. Basically they attempt to guage prime hours when these restaurants are typically filled, pull out a couple of tables thereby creating the problem... and then charge for the solution. They're banking on people who wouldn't rather just eat an hour earlier, later, or somewhere else entirely... I'd sooner chose any of the above before supporting what seems like a brainless tool that does more harm than good (if any - I still can't figure out how).

      1. re: OliverB

        I dont think you can discount the potential value, to the restaurateur, of knowing two tables will be filled with people who dont mind paying a fee for something they could easily avoid. id assume these people will order more and pay more than my other tables - and it comes with the distinct benefit of not having to count on this type of customer for 100% of ones business (as moving to an exclusively pay-for-reservations system would do).

        your underestimating the interest in a "brainless tool that does more harm than good" by people with more money than good sense.

    2. Next up: restaurants to charge extra for; a) phone calls for reservations, b) chairs while waiting, c) chairs while dining.

      Extra charges for use of a fork is currently under discussion.

      Okay seriously, sounds like this will only fly at a few places that are always over booked. I'm inclined not to use it, or go to a place that does.

      23 Replies
      1. re: ML8000

        Which is exactly the point - if the restaurant is finding demand so far outstrips their capacity that having more potential customers does them no actual good anyway, it makes sense for them to start segmenting their customer base into "customers who want to eat here so so much on Saturday at 8 PM that they will pay extra for the privilege" and "customers who want to eat here somewhat less and won't." Sort of the flip side of coupons/ gift certificates/opentable 1000-point tables, which segment the other way for restaurants that are underbooked: "customers who like our restaurant enough to pay full menu price on Wednesday night" and "customers who won't come here unless we give them a deal."

        While the price increase makes me marginally less likely to want to eat at Slanted Door or whatever, on the whole I welcome this because it encourages new restaurateurs to open more places to try and capture some of the market for themselves, since the status quo clearly seems not to be meeting all the demand for it.

        1. re: bigwheel042

          I don't understand this reasoning... if the restaurant is so successful that demand outweighs capacity, why would they feel the need to up-price a table for a measly $20 instead of just fill it like every other table in the restaurant, since the demand exists and they have the client base?

          How could having "more potential customers do them no actual good anyway" - are you suggesting they are understaffed or something? Filling a table is always good. There's no such thing as customers doing no actual good to a restaurant.

          Consider this in another light... every restaurant in San Francisco will now charge $25 for the privilege of reserving a seat every Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

          Probably not a very popular suggestion, huh?

          This one is just as shitty but makes even less sense, as they're only pulling out 2 tables a night and charging a minimal amount... so creating less capacity despite the existing demand... but charging a "privelege" fee. How pretentious can you get? So some schlub sitting next to you might end up paying $20 more for the same table at the same time for no good reason.

          This is the very definition of creating a solution for a problem that doesn't exist to begin with.

          If they really wanted to "level the playing field" they would charge a $20 booking fee for every single table in the restaurant at prime time on a weekend... then see their app fail miserably and watch as bookings decline.

          By limiting it to a couple of tables, they're creating some elitist lotto that is anything but "level". I like how the sf.eater article mentions "normal people". Normal people either plan ahead or make do if they don't for whatever reason and can't get a seating. Let's not pretend that this is creating more capacity... it's doing the opposit by limiting capacity but charging for it, thereby kicking the "normal people" in the ass. Seems disloyal to any restaurant's customer base and a paltry amount to make any difference. $40 is really a negligible increase in nightly earnings for a popular restaurant.

          1. re: OliverB

            If you have 100 seats and 3 seatings/night, and are drawing 300 every single night with an extra 50 walk-ins who wait in frustration for 75 minutes before leaving, then drawing another 100 potential customers a night does you no good. You can't serve these people without building yourself another restaurant (which Charles Phan has assiduously been doing, it just takes him a few years every time). Maybe Boulevard really has empty tables at peak times all the time, but clearly they think there's extra money to be made here or they wouldn't be signing up.

            1. re: bigwheel042

              The good it does is perpetuates demand... which is what every successful restaurant in the world wants and needs. I'd rather have a dining establishment with long lines around the block and one-month advance bookings, then a place with regular nightly walk-ins, obviously.

              This app doesn't attempt to solve these restraints though... it exagerrates them by keeping more regular diners out when space is already full (if not, why bother because who'd pay more??)

              Frankly, I've never had a problem getting into Boulevard with a couple of day's notice. If I were visiting from out of town and needed last minute reservations and absolutely had to visit Boulevard, chances are slim the app would help if they're only setting aside 2 tables... unless they're planning on it being as unpopular a tool as it is useful! ;)

              If the restaurant is not SO popular that you *might be able to squeeze in on a prime night ocassionally, then this basically creates demand wher it was borderline before. Now there's no chance of scoring a table whereas before it was a possibility. Selling water to fish, right?

              1. re: OliverB

                Not sure why you keep saying that there are only two Table8 tables per restaurant. Eater says a "handful", so probably each restaurant is setting aside however many they think will book.

                Frankly I find the economic logic used in your last paragraph tortured. Either the demand for seats is there or it isn't - the quantity of available seats supplied has negligible/no effect on it. If the restaurant isn't so popular that there's some softness in demand for seats on prime nights, then it doesn't make sense for the restaurant to use Table8 for those tables and they'll open them up so walk-ins can snag them. Clearly the restaurants who are piloting Table8 believe they are unlikely to often encounter such a situation.

                1. re: bigwheel042

                  I thought I had read that they were only allocating 2 tables nightly, which may contribute partly to the confusion on my end.

                  I don't understand how you find the conomic logic tortured... I was merely suggesting that if a restaurant such as Commonwealth for instance, which is not terribly difficult to get into (there are typically a couple of walk-in seats available on any given night) were to restrict several seats in their already limited space to Table8... then suddenly a restaurant that is able to fill it's dining room to near capacity yet doesn't have the demand to oversell... could suddenly find itself in a potentially different position. Someone like myself who might have otherwise called for a last-minute reservation, could find it completely sold out... if I were some privileged tech guy who thought this Table8 was a great resource, I might then go ahead and book the table (that would have otherwise been available were it not for this app!) at extra cost.

                  If you have 20 seats in house and only fill 17 by reservation on average per night with ocassional last minute calls or walk-ins... then suddenly reduce the 20 seats to 15... you've just created demand.

                  1. re: OliverB

                    No. No. No. You have reduced the quantity of seats supplied, which is not at all the same thing as "creating demand".

                    The demand for (on average) 17 seats (+whatever you average in walk-ins and call-aheads) exists regardless of how many seats you actually can supply. You can mess with the channels for how that demand manifests (say, by switching to a no-reservations policy or moving some tables over to Table8) but it fundamentally doesn't have a meaningful effect on how many customers are going to want to eat at your restaurant every night, which is what demand is.

                    1. re: bigwheel042

                      Okay, well I suck at math/economics (which is why I'm not building pretentious apps like this!) so I'll take yoru word for it. :)

                  2. re: bigwheel042

                    I think I may have had a one too many glasses of rose this afternoon as it's confusing to read it back to myself...

                    Basically if you have a small space that can accommodate x-amount of people and then suddenly reduce that space even more, you are creating more demand because it can accommodate less people. The quantity of seats certainly factors in.

                    I just sent an out of town friend to Bar Crudo this aft as she was in the mood for a crab sandwich and oysters. There are not many tables and there's ocassionally small line-ups at happy hour. If Crudo eliminated 10 seats then the small line-ups might be a bit longer. The demand isn't really a variable factor when it's proportional to the capacity... Once you reduce the capacity, you increase the demand because there are more people who want to patronize an establishment than the space can accommodate.

                    There's more of a demand for limes right now because there is a shortage of supply. That doesn't necessarily mean that more people love limes... it means there are less limes than there are people who want them. When a restaurant takes away seats, it increases demand... unless nobody cares about the restaurant eitherway and it isn't ever near capacity. In which case, I think this app would be useless to all.

                    1. re: OliverB

                      NO. Reducing the quantity of product you can supply has no effect on demand, any more than Foxconn torching one of its own iPhone factories is going to cause another million people to want to buy iPhones. The only things that are going to change is the market price and the quantity purchased - the quantity has to decrease because Apple can't make as many iPhones, and the price will theoretically increase because the existing customers will now be facing a shortage of iPhones and some of them will be driving the price up. This is literally economics 101 - if you're unclear on this, you might want to read up on the difference between "quantity demanded" and "demand curve".

              2. re: OliverB

                That was my second reaction: this got VC money and launched because in the moneyed tech world the idea makes sense, and if they want something now, they want to NOW and they wait for no one damn it!

                So basically they're paying extra for not having planning skills or social skills to figure it slipping someone $50 bucks, or just being nice.

                  1. re: bigwheel042

                    Yeah but the person getting the $50 in person will remember you, give you a better table and there's next time. (something an app can't do) People remember $50 bucks and can respond again. You just have to ask their name and remember to thank them on your way out. See what I mean by lack of social skills? :)

                    1. re: ML8000

                      As much as it doesn't sound nice to say it, I imagine that restaurants might figure that the target customers for Table8 aren't the type to always come back after trying a hot place once. (Does anyone honestly think that Slanted Door relies on regulars for the health of its business?)

                      Plus, under Table8 the restaurant gets to pocket the $25, rather than having $50 go to grease the host (assuming this would even work at a crowded Spruce or a Slanted Door, which I doubt because it would essentially entail infuriating someone else with an extant reservation).

                      1. re: bigwheel042

                        Call me old fashion but I'd rather give money to a person who can use it, appreciate it and help me right then and there.

                        As for infuriating someone - again, social skill.

                        1. re: ML8000

                          That's great but we're not really discussing what's morally optimal for hipster customers who totally went to these places before they were cool. The discussion is about why it would be rational from the restaurant's perspective to adopt Table8 rather than encourage the old-school system of greasing.

                          1. re: bigwheel042

                            I'd still like to understand how these restaurants project that this tool will be an advantage to them at all. Obviously they believe this... or they're just being paid off to participate by targeting a few popular names and hoping that others will want to follow suit, which I highly doubt is what's happening.

                              1. re: bigwheel042

                                have you looked at the list? Most of these places aren't currently the most in demand places at all. I could get a table at any of them for this weekend or for tonight. I personally like Farallon and Fleur De Lys but it's been years since either was considered cool or must go places.

                                Here's Table8's current stable of SF restaurants:

                                Central Kitchen
                                Fleur De Lys
                                Hard Water
                                La Folie
                                Roka Akor
                                Slanted Door

                                1. re: tjinsf

                                  I've made same-night reservations at Acquerello, Aziza, Boulevard, and Waterbar on multiple ocassions (well, only once for Aziza). I've also easily gotten res at Fleur de Lys and La Folie at the last minute; I think I had to cancel both times the day before for different reasons, but I don't understand how holding back tables and charging a premium at places that can't even fill to near capacity would benefit or be of use to anyone. They'd have to hold back a LOT of tables. Waterbar is great btw and I love that I can walk in any day at just about any time and get a seating. The views are unbeatable!

                                  1. re: OliverB

                                    I think that your experience as a San Francisco resident trying to eat by yourself or with one companion, is very different from the people who would use this service.

                                    I had very bad luck getting reservations for 4 at Waterbar when there were limited dates and times that would work for everyone in my party. Tried Open Table and tried calling them - they were booked solid. And I was trying a month out. If this service had been available, I could have tried that as well.

                                    When people are meeting up and coming from very different starting points, you can't be casual and just stroll around looking for a place. You need a reservation.

                                    I would imagine that the restaurants that have signed up are considering this a trial run and seeing how it affects their business. That's how you run a successful business.

                      2. re: ML8000

                        If I knew how to create an app, I'd restrict posting on all messageboards including Chowhound between 5:00-7:00 PM daily, except for those willing to fork over $5/day or $20/week. As these are the peak times for site traffic at the close of the work day, it levels the playing field by freeing up space on the servers and allowing those who truly appreciate the website to contribute to it's continued operation... meanwhile, I'd get rich from sponsorship and ads, probably with other people's startup money.

                        1. re: OliverB

                          What you expect "advice neutrality"? Well forget that!

                1. Of the restaurants listed, I can say from experience that Boulevard, Acquerello, and Waterbar are never difficult to get into making this seem rather pointless. I could see someone paying a premium for a table at Nopa or something... but this whole concept seems stupid to me as it's not that difficult to plan ahead and it's the fault of the diner for not considering to do so thereby not being able to score a seat. The fact is that any restaurant with a long wait list weeks in advance will not benefit from this app because the nightly tables will get booked just as soon, meaning that people will needlessly be paying $20 for a seat that could have been booked by the same person on the same date, were in not allocated to this new app. Unless I'm misunderstanding, this doesn't exactly "level the playing field" as the article suggests. It seems more elitist if anything.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: OliverB

                    Oh, it's definitely more elitist - that line about "leveling the playing field" is clearly PR mumbo-jumbo that hinges on how you define a "normal" person. Seems like it really means "someone who's not food-obsessed enough to think about booking weeks in advance but wants to try somewhere on a whim and has no problem giving up a little more disposable income for it."

                    Still, on balance I'm OK with restaurants charging what the market will bear. I don't have a God-given right to a table at Spruce if someone wants to pay more than me for it, and there are plenty of less-trendy and cheaper restaurants in this town that will be more than happy to serve me.

                    (The alternatives to adopting a system like this, for a restaurant, are to a) leave some money on the table that they could have actually made and b) just hike menu prices a little so the increase falls on everyone. Both are inefficient - you can only hike prices so much before you start ending up with empty seats off-peak, so using a Table8 allows you to keep prices lower for off-peak diners while getting a little more out of some tables at peak times.)

                    1. re: bigwheel042

                      I just don't think that pulling out 2 tables per night will be enough to make any difference in diner's booking habits as nobody will notice... it's not like your or I will know which tables are being allocated to Table8 at precisely what times. We'll just try to get a reservation per usual and if it's booked solid and one were so inclined to check out Table8, we'd still not be at any advantage - with a 2 table limit, they'll either be available or not. So why is it a significant benefit to anyone? It seems like a wheel of fortune kind of thing... if you're lucky enough to have booked during peak hours and a table is avail. on the app, you can pay more to book it (assuming there are no earlier/later reservations and you have a flexible dining shcedule) but there's no rhyme or reason to using this. It's not an app that's very well though out imo, nor does it make much sense. I really don't think it will create more demand for off-hour seats because we're talking about 2 random tables nightly and most diners will be clueless to this. It's literally just... "let's create an app selling water to fish!"

                  2. Is this concept even new? I seem to remember some website many years ago that sold reservations for popular places at a premium. But why not? Restaurants already do the converse by offering 1000 points on OpenTable for hard-to-fill slots. So if it's OK to give a discount for the least popular slots, why not charge a premium for the prime ones in so far you can get away with it?

                    19 Replies
                    1. re: nocharge

                      Because of the basic principles of supply and demand.

                      The restaurant is operating at a loss when the kitchen and staff are paid but the room is empty. They offer points as incentive to create demand. When demand exists, there's no good reason in the world to charge additional costs for the same experience and service. It's a silly concept.

                      The solution is to scrap the OT points, forgo happy hour, and just open later in the evenings... or if the foot traffic gained from the offer of added amenities at otherwise hard-to-fill time slots outweighs the loss of revenue from not operating at all, then keep on. That's how business works.

                      It's pointless to create solutions to problems that don't exist. Having a full house in a restaurant is the very essence of a problem that isn't.

                      1. re: OliverB

                        Airlines do everything they can to maximize profits by adjusting prices to demand. Charge less for challenging time slots, charge more for premium ones. Restaurants do the same, to some extent, by offering 1000 OT points for some time slots but not for others. Restaurants have to pay their rents, retain their staff, etc. If giving points on OT or having happy hours help to retain the staff by giving them more hours, it may be worthwhile even if the restaurant just breaks even.

                        1. re: nocharge

                          I hope we're not using the commercial airline industry as a standard or prototype now... you couldn't really chose a worse example to follow. What I want to know is why anyone on here, as conscious consumers, would actually defend these bad decisions and poor business practices?

                          1. re: OliverB

                            Oh, the US commercial airlines are horrible. Everyone knows that. But they have lots of issues including unions and stuff. However, I don't think that adjusting pricing to supply and demand is a "poor business practice". If you make more money by lowering your ticket prices to fill up a plane that would otherwise be half empty or jack up the price when there is strong demand, how is that a "poor business practice"?

                          2. re: nocharge

                            And that's why some of us don't fly certain airlines. Restaurants should choose to emulate airline policies at their own peril.

                            1. re: tjinsf

                              Of course, it's not just airlines, it hotels, Uber, and pretty much any kind of business. If you don't react to supply and demand when it comes to pricing, your business is not running a tight ship.

                              I hear limes are kind of expensive right now. Why? Supply and demand issues.

                              1. re: nocharge

                                Mr. Charge:

                                This isnt a supply and demand issue, it is an issue of price discrimination. i.e. it is a change to the *price structure*, having multiple prices for one good, not the *price level*.

                                price discrimination is efficient for the seller even where there isnt excess demand, since what is at issue is not the price+quantity but the disposition of the consumer surplus.

                                [You can argue it is not a complete clean case of price discrimination because the goods are not exactly the same, but that's more or less accounted for in the more robust version of the analysis ... creating a "close good" just to justify the multi-tired price. Following A. PIGOU, it will be interesting to see if this ends up looking more like 2nd degree [different classes of plane travel ... bootstrapping a "luxury good"] or 3rd deg [student discounts] price discrimination.]

                                1. re: psb

                                  Not sure if we are discussing the same thing here since the thread has been all over the place. But an airline or a hotel or a restaurant (by giving fewer OT points) charging more during peak demand is a matter of supply and demand. An airline having different pricing categories, including student discounts, is a matter of price discrimination. Of course, anyone familiar with Ramsey pricing will know that under certain circumstances, price discrimination may maximize total welfare.

                                  1. re: nocharge

                                    Supply and Demand is more a case of flights to Europe costing more in AUG than FEB ... all tix are more and ostensibly there are more flights as well.

                                    A nice and clean example of price discrimination are higher-priced hardback copies of certain high-demand books, such as H. POTTER books only being available at first.

                                    I believe one of Chowhound Farris's associates was involved in the recent Sup Ct case on ASIAN DISCOUNT MATH BOOK ARBITRAGE:

                                    Movie pricing is also a bit cleaner than the airline example ... of course there are supply-side responses like showing the same movie on multiple screens at the same time, or in a larger theater, more theater. But the price-discrim cases are traditionally student tix, and matinee discounts [yes, in a G.E. approach you can argue a 2pm and 8pm showing of the movie are different goods, but we can avoid that issue fairly easily]. Now there are innovations in price-discrimination like the KABUKI is doing ... dont they have some highly granular surcharges, like for Fri/Sat night? Now it it is interesting that theaters have not traditionally charged different prices for different movies in the same theater. In some countries, different seats have different charges, but even in theaters with reserved seating, I am unaware of a "center of the theater" premium or a front row discount [maybe the Kabuki does this? IMAX reserved seating appears not to do that] in the United States. I think one of the mega-blockbusters had a first-show premium ... like $20, no?

                                    So it seems the Kabuki's innovations in price discrim have been successful in the movie business. We'll see if it works with restaurants.

                                    On a supply and demand note, it appears TAQUERIA VALLARTAS increase in taco prices from $1.50 -> $1.75 -> $2may have gone awry, as now they are offering 4tacos/$7 with a free agua fresca. I am not 100% sure if this is true at both the 24th street and excelsior branches ... I'm also not a 100% sure this is correct, but I believe the prices in the Excelsior may have lagged 24th street. Although I suppose there is not really an opportunity for TACO ARBITRAGE.

                                    >may maximize total welfare.
                                    you say that as if it is a good thing :-) i think a wholesale vacuuming up of consumer surplus is not a great thing. without side-payments, it is not pareto-improving.

                                    does cheeseboard still do age-based price discrimination? maybe if you can find a 100 y.o., you could CHEESE ARBITRAGE.

                                    i'm a little curious if any ethnic restaurants do any price discrimination, either verbally, or based on reading ability in a foreign language. i have been offered a "cash discount" at a certain restaurant from the country whose passport i carry. but i think that was based on their perception that i'd be open to helping them engage in tax fraud [it was a 10% discount, so much larger than credit card charges] rather than WTP/3rd deg price discrimination.

                                    1. re: psb

                                      "i think a wholesale vacuuming up of consumer surplus is not a great thing."

                                      Depends on what you're comparing it to. Compared to the price status quo, it's a net loss for consumers, who are reaping the benefit of an underpricing situation. Compared to the blunt alternative wherein the restaurant just hikes prices across the board, it could be a benefit for the subset of consumers who aren't facing an increase and otherwise would.

                                      High-end sushi bars are reputed to give significant discounts for better-quality fish for their regulars.

                                      1. re: bigwheel042

                                        > it's a net loss for consumers
                                        yes, i agree. i think tweaks here and there (may) change the dining experience in interesting ways.

                                        i.e. what's going to the be resto equivalent of "no you cant use the business/first class bathroom".

                                        for example it would obviously be "odd" for a restaurant to say "we have three porterhouses left ... we will auction them off". under premium seating, what are the odds a kitchen may allow for "out of order execution" ... the Big Spender wants the porterhouse? ... tell the Country Cousin we're out, eventhough he ordered his first."

                                        one of the posts in this thread was from a dood who was a regular at a resto and got his friends a table right then and there. so did the resto lie to the friend when they said no tables or did they bump some lower status guest? i have no problem with regulars getting comped items or perhaps a nicer table when there is a "tie' in precedence, but if you honor your side of the reservation and you're bumped for an insider, that's kinda lame in my book. you can retort "it's a business", but this kind of standing on your rights rather than a more collegial, put yourself in the other persons shoes, attitude leads to assertions like "once i am seated, i can linger as long as i want ... it's their problem if the resto is crowded".

                                        yeah, there are definitely gaps between aggregate effects and individual outcomes ... e.g. obviously i am not pro sleazy practices of credit card issuers and banks w.r.t. to fees and penalties, but at a certain level these are great for me, because the more they can gouge "them", the less likely they are to come after me with fees for routine services.

                                        seeking to monetize/optimal price/nickle and dime the whole resto experience will likely change it for the worse, eventhough in the abstract, it certainly efficient to say charge for bread. but i would find a bread charge annoying ... with free bread or olives, you feel like it is a little gift. on the other hand, i am always happy wtih places that dont bundle fries with a burger.

                                        [although i realize bundling things with close to 0 cost like soda and fries are a bit special, as opposed to bread which may have to be sourced from a third party].

                                        1. re: psb

                                          "one of the posts in this thread was from a dood who was a regular at a resto and got his friends a table right then and there. so did the resto lie to the friend when they said no tables or did they bump some lower status guest?"

                                          I don't think you understand how a large enough restaurant operates. It doesn't necessarily fill every possible seat, especially if some of them are marginal. What if some VIP comes by? The kitchen may be busy enough already. In addition to the 125 people in the dining room, you have 75 people drinking in the lounge. Some of them might be ordering food, you just don't know exactly how many. And you know that there will be no-shows. The bottom line is that restaurants that are large enough often have a lot of room for juggling things around when it comes to giving someone a table.

                                          1. re: nocharge

                                            75 people drinking in the lounge? What restaurant is this massive, or does this much business in the bar? Let's put it this way, 75 is also the total players who are in the starting lineups of all the teams in the NBA Western Conference. Imagine squeezing 15 basketball teams into a single restaurant lounge.

                                            1. re: dunstable

                                              It was a hypothetical example, but there are places with substantial lounge areas, like Ozumo, where coincidentally I've seen both Michael Jordan and Dirk Nowitzki dine, though not at the same time. Pretty sure you could squeeze in 75 there although some of them might have to stand. The now-gone Cosmopolitan could probably squeeze in quite a few people between its two bars and lounge area that also included a bunch of seats outside. Might have been able to squeeze in 75 with a lot of them standing.

                                              1. re: nocharge

                                                Oh, and I totally didn't think about Americano. Count the number of people having drinks there after work in the lounge or on the patio on a Friday when the weather is nice and the number is mind-blowing.

                                            2. re: nocharge

                                              >I don't think you understand how a large
                                              >enough restaurant operates ...
                                              that's why i expressed the issue in generic terms.

                                              if favoring customer A essentially comes out of the restaurant's pocket, or they are "breaking ties" [who gets the nicer table for people who arrive at the same time], that is fine. if favoring A comes at B's expense, that's kinda lame ... yes i recognize in some cases B may not know, in some cases B will know, in some cases B may think he knows and it may be denied by the resto, and in other cases B may be wrong.

                                              I think the most common case of this is your 8pm RSVP is delayed and you dont know if they are "in the weeds" or you've been bumped. Let me think ... I think one such case was at ChaChaCha? ... a friend lived near by and ate there a few times a week and he'd be on an express queue. I think I got bumped at Charanga ... I am almost certain our table was given to a Friend of the House and we ended up with a wait and then 3 of us were put at a ridiculously small table for two. Sure a resto has the "right" to do that and you have a right to call them out on it, as long as you do so honestly.

                                        2. re: psb

                                          "i'm a little curious if any ethnic restaurants do any price discrimination"

                                          You're really all over the place, but anyway, in regards to your question, it's common knowledge there are ethnic places that have cheaper non-English menus, sometimes with different dishes. We shouldn't equate all VIP services like the OP's with "discrimination" or biased.

                                          1. re: sugartoof

                                            Price Discrimination is the standard term for this. It's not picked to be inflammatory.

                                            Yes, I know about the "chinese menu" with different dishes.

                                            I am talking about disparate treatment on price:

                                            Or in my case, openness to tax fraud collusion, based on "identity".

                          3. This is so gauche The restaurants listed aren't even that in demand. I'd rather just contact a restaurant directly for a last minute reservation or plan ahead. Maybe if it was a really in demand place and I had a client that really wanted to go to a place I'd use it for them but for me personally just like I wouldn't use a bot to get a reservation, I wouldn't pay extra to get a table. I know it's not that different than a publicist calling a GM to get a table but it is really needed?

                            I am sure the same folks that are paying 4500 for a 1 bed near the Tenderloin will use it.