Alinea reservations are about to become even more difficult to get, as Grant Achatz says that the restaurant will soon be moving to a prepaid e-ticket system for all its seats.
Alinea has long been considered one of the country’s best restaurants, and took the number two spot on The Daily Meal's 101 Best Restaurants list this year.
Last year, Achatz expanded his reach by opening Next, which changes menus and gets more ambitious by the season; it opened as Paris 1906, then became a Tour of Thailand, then explored Childhood. Now, it’s elBulli. But, as experimental and noteworthy as Next’s menus are, its online ticketing system may have them beat.
To get a seat at Next you don’t have to be a VIP or slip the host a $50, you just need a lot of luck and a really good Internet connection. Tickets go up in blocks and are snatched up almost instantly. Tickets are prepaid, including tax and gratuity, so if the buyer is a no-show, the restaurant loses nothing. Scores of ticketless masses wait on Craigslist and Facebook to pick up tickets if, for some reason, a buyer can’t make his or her reservation.
The system has worked out so well for Next that Achatz told The Huffington Post that Alinea would move to e-tickets sometime after June, and he expects more restaurants to adopt the model in the future.
"What people don’t realize is that profit margins at restaurants are extremely small — between 5 and 15 percent overall," Achatz said. "Let’s say you have a reservation for a four-top, and at the last minute one person gets sick. There goes your entire profit for that table. But with tickets, you solve that problem right away."