Would you be willing to pre-pay your restaurant bill?
There's a new trend in restaurants and it has nothing to do with vegetable ice cream or communal punch bowls. The ticketing method is coming to the U.K. and it means parting with your cash long before you sit down to enjoy your dinner.
The Clove Club, in London's Shoreditch, will be the first pre-pay British restaurant from June 8. Following in the footsteps of Alinea in Chicago and The French Laundry in California, The Clove Club will require advance payment from all diners booking a table for dinner from Monday to Saturday, with no cancellation option.
Now this might sound controversial but there's a reason behind it: too many people are booking a table then not showing up. Tut tut. Is ticketing the way to stop this? Presumably yes — unless you have so much money that you can afford to be reckless with your dosh.
According to international food and restaurant consultants Baum+Whiteman, The Clove Club could be the first of many U.K. restaurants to opt for a ticketing system. In their annual trend report, the 2015 Food & Beverage Forecast, they note: "Restaurants with reservations backlogs are inching toward tech-enabled pay-for-tables systems… with people buying 'tickets' for dinner like seats on an airplane. Often non-refundable. Restaurants get paid before dinner; even before buying food… enhancing cash flow and cutting out excessive inventory because they've always got a guaranteed house-count."
Baum+Whiteman's report takes this concept even further, predicting that restaurants may introduce "surge pricing," whereby diners who reserve earlier get cheaper dishes, and considering the possibility that restaurants will "auction off their seats to the highest bidders."
Obviously sometimes people have genuine reasons for cancelling dinner reservations so what if illness prevents you from honouring your Clove Club booking? Would the establishment refund your money if you provided a doctor's note?
Before you start panicking that your local bistro is about to start pre-charging you for your Chicken Caesar salad and large glass of red it's highly unlikely. The pre-pay method only works for a certain kind of restaurant. We're talking five-course taster menu rather than bring your own bottle.
If it's a high-end dining experience you're after why shouldn't you be required to pay for the privilege in advance? After all it's what we're accustomed to doing for theatre tickets. And if something comes up — contagious disease or otherwise — you're allowed to give your tickets to friends or advertise them for sale on The Clove Club's Facebook and Twitter pages.
Visit The Clove Club for more information or to make a reservation.