We’ve all been to a restaurant, and the way we pay is always the same. You make a booking, turn up on the day, eat your meal and then pay the bill. Michelin starred Coi in San Francisco is trying to do things differently. The company is introducing a ticketing system for its reservations, enabling diners to pay a flat fee in advance and managers to avoid the headache of cancellations.
The venue is no longer accepting reservations from customers who aren’t paying in advance. Instead, diners can buy tickets for between $145 and $195, depending on the time and date, The ticket will get them a set tasting menu of 12 courses for each guest, with drinks purchased separately on the night. If diners don’t turn up they can’t get a refund.
This system means that the restaurant has a more accurate idea of how many covers they’re going to get because reservations can’t be cancelled. If diners don’t turn up, the venue still gets paid anyway. For customers, the scheme enables them to take advantage of a flat fee for their meal, meaning they won’t get an unexpectedly large bill at the end.
Might this be a system that could be used in UK restaurants? If it works in the US, there’s no reason why not. And there’s another interesting thing to take from this story too. We all employ payment systems that are cast in stone, whether that be payment in advance, payment before despatch, payment on receipt, payment on invoice or some variation on one of these. The system we use tends to be governed by what everyone else in our industry does. But do what everyone else does and you get what everyone else gets. It could be worth examining whether employing a different payment model could give you a useful point of difference or a competitive advantage.