Restaurants and Variable Pricing

WABC-TV New York recently had a story about restaurants charging more for premium dining times. They indicated that people pay extra to board a plane early or for a hotel room over a holiday weekend, and they will soon pay more for prime time reservations.

That’s just not the whole story. Their report was based on a NY Times article about a new approach to filling tables at non-peak dining times.

A table in a restaurant, like an airline seat, hotel room, even a theatre seat is a perishable commodity. If it’s not taken, it’s gone forever at that date and time. What many restaurants have been doing is using variable pricing tools like Groupon or Gilt City for deals to consumers for anticipated slow times.

A new website called Savored, which seems to be growing in popularity, uses discounted meals based on reservation time. You sign up, make a reservation online and get a discount from participating restaurants offering different times on the day you want it. The discount can range from 15 to 30% and might be at 7:30 or 9:00 depending on their offering. Although, many of the times offered can fall into the early bird special category.

The discount is automatically deducted from the bill so no coupons or printed downloads need to be presented. Perfect for those businesspeople entertaining clients and don’t want to appear tacky.

In addition to NYC, they are in nine other cities around the country.

We’re not talking about Mo’s Diner either. Some of the restaurants in NYC include Le Cirque, Zengo, Olives, 21 Club, Kittichai and other top stops. Apparently, discounts are offered based on a restaurant’s traffic pattern as well as those of comparable places.  For example, a Wall Street area steakhouse is slow on a Saturday night so all time slots are discounted. But, a hot place in Chelsea might only have a discount on Saturday night at 11 pm.

In effect, you pay full price for prime time eating and a discount for off peak.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

The way I look at it, the money saved can be used for a better bottle of wine.


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