DeRusha Eats: Admission Tickets for Dinner

When we fly, we all pay different prices for our tickets based on demand. When we book a room in a hotel, the same theory applies. But when you eat at a restaurant, you pay the same for dinner whether you eat on a Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. or at the true Minneapolis dining time—a Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

One of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country, Alinea in Chicago, has come up with a very interesting new concept, which I personally would LOVE.

Next Restaurant will do four menus a year, exploring different world cuisines (Jim Ringo and his St. Louis Park restaurant should think about going to four instead of 11 menus). But here’s the thing: Next is selling tickets to dinner.

According to the website, Next will do a five- to six-course meal. Depending on the menu and the time of your visit, food will range from $40 to $75. Wine + drink pairings start at $25.

This is potentially a great bargain, if you pay $65 for dinner in Chicago from the people who designed the Restaurant of the Year.

Look at how they explain it: “Instead of reservations, our bookings will be made more like a theater or a sporting event. Your tickets will be fully inclusive of all charges, including service. Ticket price will depend on which seating you buy—Saturday at 8 p.m. will be more expensive than Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.” They’ll also offer an annual subscription to all four menus at a discount.

Geoff Roether wrote about this idea at Shefzilla, the blog run by Stewart Woodman (formerly of Heidi’s).

To me, this is not that different than the half-price wine nights some places run to try to get you in there on a Tuesday or Wednesday. (I had a fantastic meal at OM last Wednesday, with a delightful $60 bottle of 2007 Steltzner Claret that cost me $30!)

And it takes the idea executed by Ad Hoc in the Napa Valley of a fixed-price menu being the only choice (although Ad Hoc changes daily).

Two questions: Would you support the idea of a flexible pricing system for restaurants based on demand? And what do you think about buying a ticket that includes the entire cost of an evening?