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Should you be paying for restaurant reservations?
RESTAURANTS • The Apps
Is the easiest restaurant booking in Manhattan right now… Carbone?
So went a semi-serious provocation posed by a friend of FOUND when the deluge of new pay-to-play restaurant reservation services came up. But also: is it?
The two platforms of the moment are Dorsia, a slick app with membership obtainable at no fee through application (which we hear has been bestowed on ~3k people), and Appointment Trader, a wild-west marketplace with a janky Y2K-era web aesthetic. Both suggest the answer is yes. Let’s take them one at a time.
On AT, a primetime table for two for this Wednesday at Carbone goes for ~$250. For this fee, you’ll receive someone else’s Resy booking. You’ll check in as/impersonate them when you show up at your appointed time. (Restaurants mostly seem to be looking the other way on this, which is curious and perhaps ephemeral, but for now, enjoy the light role play.) And, of course, you’ll pay for your meal on top of the cost of the reservation.
On Dorsia, one books as oneself and pre-pays for a guaranteed minimum spend for that night. For most nights at Carbone, that’s $500 per person.
So is the Dorsia $500/pp guarantee a better or worse deal than dropping $250 for someone else’s Carbone reservation on AT? Assuming two apps ($30 each), one pasta ($36), and two mains ($85 each), that’s $266. Spend more than $484 on drinks and dessert and Dorsia is the better deal, even without the fear factor of pretending to be someone you’re not. Go big and spend more than $734 (an extra special bottle, maybe the porterhouse for two) and you’re not paying for that reservation at all.
Of course, the lower the guarantee, the less ground to make up. Other Major Food Group restaurants are available on Dorsia for smaller commitments, like Torrisi at $300 per and poor, sweet Dirty French at $85 per. What’s perhaps more interesting is that you could dine at Rezdôra tonight for $190 per, a $380 guarantee for two that seems likely to be met without even asking for the wine list.
And here, we have the makings of the Dorsia Index. More soon.