Tuesday, January 29, 2008

TableXchange Coming to Boston

If you could not book a reservation at a hot Boston restaurant, would you be willing to pay a fee to obtain that reservation? If so, then a new service coming to Boston may answer your prayers.

Today's Boston Herald as an article, "Company Has Reservations," about TableXchange, a new online service that will provide a way to purchase other people's reservations. TableXchange began last year and currently covers New York City, the Hamptons and San Francisco. It is now headed to Boston.

People who have a reservation for a popular restaurant, but who cannot make that reservation, can offer that reservation for sale on TableXchange. This would be like the Ebay or Craig's List for restaurant reservations. Sellers must charge a fee that is a multiple of $5 but the fee cannot be more than $40. It is free to post but TableXchange takes a 12% fee from all reservations that are sold. TableXchange only permits certain restaurants to be on their list, generally just the ones where reservations can be difficult to obtain.

Is there a real need for this service in Boston? How many restauarants is it that difficult to get reservations? In my experience, if you make reservations far enough in advance, it is rarely a problem gaining entrance to any Boston restaurants except for the most brand new places. It is when you try to make reservations a week or less ahead of time when you will have the most difficulty. Boston lacks restaurants like Per Se and Masa in New York City which are extremely difficult to obtain no matter how far ahead you try to book.

For last minute booking in Boston, the TableXchange service might be useful. Some people would not have trouble paying an extra $20 to get a last minute reservation at a restaurant they truly want to visit.

But, there is a potential downside where people could start making reservations at the top restaurants only so they can later sell them on TableXchange. TableXchange does put some protections in place against that, limiting the number of reservations a seller can sell during a given time period.

I am not sure I would ever have use for this in Boston, though I might when visiting New York City. I would pay a bit extra to be able to get a reservation at Per Se.

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