What makes a reservation a 'ticket'?

Admittedly I don’t go to super high end restaurants, except for a French Laundry experience maybe 10 years ago now. Lately I’ve noticed board posts (not necessarily here) that use the word “tickets” in place of what I’d call a ‘reservation’.

Do some restaurants actually print out tickets that you present on arrival (like at play, or is this just another one of those changes in language that keep driving me crazy? Anyone know where, how, and why this got started?

I don’t know exactly the context to which you’re referring. But yes - they are “tickets” to the restaurant.

The restaurant I know that started this was grant Achatz’s place Alinea in Chicago. It was a fixed price and fixed menu place. So you bought a “spot” in the restaurant for a given night/seating. You had what was on the menu (I think you could add the wine or not the night of).

This to me was the start of “tickets” to restaurants.

The context may be limited to pre fixe situations. I hadn’t thought of that and will look more closely. I’m still curious as to whether these ‘tickets’ are paid for in advance, with the price forfeited if you don’t show. If that’s the case, the whole things makes a lot more sense to me.

Yes that is my understanding of this situation.

1 Like


Words and language are our basis for communication. I refer you here: https://www.amazon.com/Strictly-Speaking-America-Death-English/dp/1412813271

When you buy a ticket it covers the entire cost of the meal plus wine pairing (if desired) and “gratuity”. At most places you can buy individual drinks on site if you don’t want the pairings. Lots of upside for the restaurant (no loss of revenue from no-shows, less food loss) but very little for the customer. If something unexpected happens after you buy the tickets and you can’t make it to the restaurant that night you either have to sell your tickets to someone else or just write off the total cost of the meal plus service charges. I personally avoid places that use the ticketing system.

The ones I have been to only charge the cost of the set menu in the ticket price you still decide on and pay for he drinks when you sit down to the meal. IIRC the gratuity is usually a flat service charge rather than a discretionary tip.

The only restaurants where I have seen this have been really popular and they offer a web site for secondary sales. So if you can’t make it you put your “tickets” up for sale. No different to buying theatre, concert or sports tickets.

Yup - that is the idea. Restaurants that use this are generally oversubscribed and relatively small so every no-show was a dramatic hit on their bottom line. I think I read that some restaurants saw something like a 10 to 15% no show rate which not only hits their profits but makes it harder for those that want to go.

You pay for the meal up front, and in some (Alinea) the price of the meal varies based on the time of the booking - so cheaper at the less popular times. If you can’t make it then they often have secondary markets to “resell” the tickets. So its just like theatre or concert tickets.

I believe that part of the reason restaurants have had to go down this route is that credit card companies have some rules in some countries that don’t allow for no-show penalties (the US for example ?). In countries that do allow no-show penalties its quite common for restaurants to take the credit card details on booking and charge a fee if you cancel less than 48 hours in advance or don’t show up.