Oh No You Didn’t, Reservation Hop
Last week, the reservations-industry sh*t finally hit the fan, and I must admit I’ve been waiting for this to happen for a couple months. I thought maybe it would happen when the public understood how much OpenTable charges a restaurant per cover – nope. Then again when a few services showed up that partner with top and trendy restaurants to charge for prime reservations — that caused a stir, especially in New York. But then came Reservation Hop, a “weekend project” out of San Francisco that sells highly-coveted reservations. Prices aren’t high, but it’s stupidly sketchy. Buy the reservation and Reservation Hop gives you the name under which the reservation was booked. (Is it real? Fake? Who knows.)
Besides an ethically questionable business model and a site that could use a proofreader, Reservation Hop doesn’t have much going on. The real story is in the reaction. TechCrunch panned it. Valleywag called it out. Twitter freaked. And then the guy behind the site tried in vain to defend himself. (I could barely get through this whole thing.)
Rant aside, I’m especially interested in the reaction to the service. There’s one almost identical that’s been operating in New York for a while (I wrote about it in April, second piece) , but without the major press and serious backlash. Maybe it’s because San Francisco is an industry town and we noticed it faster than New York City. Maybe it’s because we’re all tired of the entitled and elitist attitudes that are messing with things we enjoy. Maybe it’s because reservation technology is in the news. No matter why, this is an important moment for restaurants and reservations generally — in the last few months, no fewer than three brand-new (legitimate and non-sketchy) ideas have launched, with more on the way. The way we think about and value reservations and dining is changing quickly, and it’s up to those with the ethical and innovative solutions — not the disruptors-for-disruption’s sake — to set the tone.
When a Chef Wears a GoPro
If anything makes the case for Google Glass in my world, it’s the potential for chef’s-eye-view videos (as demonstrated so eloquently by Roy Choi a few months ago.) Last week, Katie Hagan-Welchel, Chef de Cuisine at Yountville’s Ad Hoc, made the case for the wearable GoPro when she wore one as she prepared smoked barbecue ribs. In an edited down, one-minute video produced by Food & Wine, @ChefK8t loads the smoker, adds the dry rub, smokes, glazes, waits (for five or six hours), then removes and serves. Of course the video is shot from a great perspective — a thousand times better than some chef-talent staring into a camera explaining the process. More like this, please!
Anthony Bourdain’s Thoughts on Instagram (and more)
In a recent interview, Anthony Bourdain shares what he really thinks about Instagramming food (and, unsurprisingly, doesn’t mince words):
“Chefs bitch about it when it’s going on in their restaurants, yet when they go out to dinner, they’re taking pictures of everything. And any notion that that’s sharing? It’s bullshit. It’s about making other people feel bad about what they’re eating. And a certain knowledge that what you’re eating is more interesting.”
Interesting observation. A year or two ago, I’d argue against this, but as Instagram feeds fill with photo after photo after photo of food daily, you gotta admit the man has a point. (At least we’re learning how to take better photos…?) The Instagram quote is of note for C+T purposes, but he also shares some smart thoughts about the state of food in America — and Americans’ heightened interest in our food. It’s another example of the larger trend: food is no longer a social afterthought, it’s the main event. The whole piece gives great perspective of the current state of food in the US and is certainly worth a read. In all he does — his show on CNN, his interactions with those he meets and dines with, the way he explains all of these things so succinctly to interviewers — this guy just gets it. (I’m a fangirl.) So great.
Sweet Marketing, Burritt Room
In an age where the “surprise and delight” marketing method seems to make the most noise, one San Francisco restaurant is generating buzz with a fun and totally different promotion. Reserve a table at Burritt Room + Tavern (it has to be a table, not just the bar), and order a “Wingtip Vieux Carré Me Away.” You’ll be issued the drink plus a coaster. After dinner, you, your guests and that coaster head downstairs where a waiting Uber takes you to a private club, where you’ll gain entry for the evening. Seriously.
In an age of legal cocktails, this speakeasy-style experience may be as close to feeling the same thrills as our prohibition-era predecessors. Cool stuff. [Disclaimer: I haven’t tried this myself, so if it’s not true, don’t shoot the messenger.]
- Food+Tech Connect’s dining hackathon in the press — Business Week
- Disrupting fast food — Salon
- The Awl on this Kickstarter potato salad madness — The Awl
- Tim Love vs. Todd English: Which celebrity chef douchebag are you? — Esquire
- Delivery.com launches park delivery, starting with Central Park — The Daily Meal