Those who are prepared to pay a lot of money for a reservation at a popular restaurant in Amsterdam can now visit the Appointment Trader website. Restaurants are not at all happy with this online shadow circuit, but there is also little they can do about it. “It’s bizarre, but apparently everything is for sale.”
This article comes from Het Parool. Every day a selection of the best articles from the newspapers and magazines appears on NU.nl. You can read more about that here.
Planning a dinner at restaurant De Kas in Park Frankendael is not easy: if you want to be assured of a table, you have to book months in advance. Recently there is a shortcut: the Appointment Trader website trades reservations.
Those who are prepared to pay the fair can take over a reservation via the site from someone who has secured a spot in time. The site has been around for quite some time in New York and is also active in Los Angeles, Miami, and Paris. The Dutch version has been in operation since last weekend.
Appointment Trader responds to scarcity and, in its own words, brings supply and demand together and picks up a margin there. However, the system also spawns intermediaries who make reservations at popular restaurants just to sell them later for big bucks. Radio station BNR spoke to an intermediary who confessed to keeping a huge spreadsheet with data on which bookings can be made at popular restaurants in numerous cities, including Amsterdam. He had already earned about one and a half tons with it.
A day after launch, the Dutch version of Appointment Trader is not yet running a storm, but the first reservation for De Kas has already been traded, for just under a hundred euros. Terrible, says owner Jos Timmer. “We do everything we can to have a good price-quality ratio and to be an accessible restaurant where everyone can go. It feels like someone is taking control of your own restaurant, without you being able to do anything about it.”
From a legal point of view, there indeed seem to be few tools available to combat the online trade in reservations. “This is a typical example of a secondary market, as we have seen with the resale of tickets for concerts and festivals,” says Cyriel Ruers of Maverick Advocaten, who specializes in consumer rules, among other things. “The resale of reservations is not prohibited by law. It shows that people are willing to pay for certain reservations. The ‘resellers’ mediate in a sense between the demand and supply sides. Whether that is desirable is a political question: a recent proposal to curb the extortionate trade in tickets failed in the Senate. The cabinet has promised to investigate possible measures.”
Pieter Smits, owner of the Rijsel and Scheepskameel restaurants, calls the trade in reservations bizarre. “But apparently everything is for sale. Unfortunately, there is little we can do about it, although in the near future we will keep an eye out for people who make various reservations under the same name. But yes, you cannot screen everyone.”
Mara Grimm, culinary reviewer for Het Parool, calls the site exemplary for the ‘reservation madness’ that is currently going on in the hospitality industry. “Presumably this system will change soon. You are already seeing more and more restaurants that no longer take reservations at all. Other restaurateurs, such as Ron Blaauw, are experimenting with a so-called early fork advantage, whereby you eat cheaper if you come early or very late.”
Timmer says that it is quite possible to get a last minute table at De Kas – Barack Obama recently poked a fork there, and he hadn’t made a reservation months in advance either – but then that will happen on their terms.
“We always try to make room for regular customers or people from the neighborhood who call to ask if someone has cancelled,” says Timmer. “It feels wrong that intermediaries now earn from our restaurant. And the idea that everything is only for sale if you are rich enough, I find it terrible, De Kas does not want to be part of that.”
According to Grimm, while most restaurant owners are against the site’s arrival, there are plenty of high net worth customers for whom paying extra for a last-minute spot in a popular restaurant is no problem. “For people who really want to eat at a certain place, 100 euros is not too bad. Compare it with a concert ticket that you resell at a high price.”
But a case full of millionaires, not everyone is waiting for that. “We sometimes get calls from people who offer 500 euros to eat at Lille or Scheepskameel that evening,” says Smits. “We never go along with that, because it means that you have to disappoint people who are on the regular waiting list. It also doesn’t suit the kind of restaurant we are and the kind of people we want to serve. will be a success here, I think the people of Amsterdam are a bit too down-to-earth for that. At least, I hope so.”
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