Next Restaurant, a brand new restaurant in Chicago run by Chef Grant Achatz and partner Nick Kokonas, Just started selling dining seats for opening night. But they're doing things a little-- scratch that, completely different from any restaurant. Instead of the usual "pay after the meal" that were all very much used to as diners, you buy tickets for a certain time and table (less for a two top, more for a four top, and much more for the Chef's table). This is a pretty genius system because they can inflate or deflate the price based on the day and time. For example, 2 tickets would be less expensive on a Monday then on a Saturday.
This brings to mind the idea of 'scalping'. You've been to those college/pro games where you saw the guy on the corner of the stadium with a sign in his hand that says he has tickets and will sell them to you more than box office price, call it a 'convenience charge'. Well for the first time that I've ever heard of, possibly in history, this is actually happening for a restaurant. I predicted this, so the day after the tickets went on sale, I searched Craigslist for Next Restaurant, below is what I've found, which is a step above the guy on the corner with a sign, which would turn anyone off a restaurant, unlike a Cubs game.
Keep in mind, the basic tickets are ~$85. I haven't seen an exact price for the Chef's table, but I'm certain its not $3000.
Then, like sport scalpers, you have to take into effect the validity of these tickets, some are selling the tickets along with the confirmation e-mail, but that can be easily faked. I'm sure someone is going to lose money on this, unfortunately.
Chef Achatz has accepted nothing but perfection and I'm sure, even with a smaller price tag than Alinea (by about $100), that this will be no different. I'm glad someone has realized that there are people who can't afford a $400 tasting menu with wine pairing, but can enjoy the food more than those that can.
This is a new and exciting chapter in the industry and I'm sure Chef Achatz won't be the last one to use this system. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce you to the Culinary Black Market.