Trying to get an 8 p.m. Friday night reservation at a hot restaurant is nearly impossible. Mozza has been open for years and it's still a challenge; let's not even talk about Bestia. If you could buy a reservation, would you? Resy, a new restaurant reservation smartphone app, is hoping diners will dish out $5 to $25 to get a coveted table.
The free app, which launched in Los Angeles on Monday, (and in New York City earlier this year) allows users to buy reservations at participating restaurants around the city at optimum times. If you're looking for a table at Bar Marmont at 8 p.m. on a Saturday, you can buy one on Resy. Diners can reserve a specific booth or area of a restaurant if available.
"People are willing to pay a premium at restaurants, and it's not just about sustenance anymore," said Ben Leventhal, one of Resy's founders and creator of Eater.com. "And I've always been fascinated by how making a dinner reservation can be such a horrible experience."
With Resy, you open the app, put in a time, add how many people are in your reservation, then view the available tables. Each restaurant option comes with a short description of the restaurant and a photo. And if you happen to sign up for an account, without a profile picture, your default profile photo is A-Rod, courtesy of Leventhal.
The app currently has around 20 participating restaurants in Los Angeles, including Bar Marmont, Terroni, Eveliegh, Pistola, Saam at The SLS, Hutchinson, Terrine, Yellowtail, Pace and more.
The price for a reservation, per person on the app ranges from $5 to $25, and there's a limited amount of tables each night. But there isn't always a price. If a restaurant has a lot of open tables on a Tuesday night, the Resy reservation will be free. That same table at the same time on a Saturday night will most likely cost you.
A Resy employee or a software system keeps in contact with participating restaurants in real time to ensure tables are filled, and empty tables are released. If you purchase a reservation but something comes up, diners have 24 hours to cancel for a full refund. If you cancel with less than 24 hours, you receive a credit for a reservation at that restaurant. And if you cancel with less than four hours, you forfeit your payment.
Similar apps, including Table 8, a restaurant reservation app servicing San Francisco, and Shout, an app that allows users to swap reservations for a price, have come under scrutiny by those who believe diners shouldn't have to pay for a dinner reservation. But Leventhal says part of the goal is helping restaurants boost their profits.
"We're not trying to hold any table hostage or price gouge," said Leventhal. "We're just trying to put a fair price on a table."
Leventhal also added participating restaurants make more than 50% of the price for each reservation. He also claimed guest checks from Resy users in New York City are 15% higher than other diners' checks, and that the no-show rate is less than 1%.
Resy also partnered with Uber to allow users to grab an Uber car, using Resy, to take them to dinner.
Throughout the month of December, all reservations booked through Resy are free. And you also get a glass of sparkling wine when you arrive.
I think my grandma's dinner table is the hottest ticket in town. Follow me on Twitter @Jenn_Harris_