Turning the Tables
Credit: Lulu

Even as other aspects of travel have been revolutionized by new technology over the past decade, making a restaurant reservation has remained relatively static: either head to OpenTable or pick up the phone. But a handful of services are changing that picture. Foremost among them is Tock, a platform by Chicago restaurateur Nick Kokonas (co-owner of Alinea and Next) that enables restaurants to sell “tickets” from their websites, requiring diners to book a table and pay for the meal all at once. For restaurants, this reduces no-shows and opens the door for dynamic pricing; diners get more transparency in the booking process and the chance to score deep discounts on slow nights. Tock is already being used by Kokonas’s restaurants and Thomas Keller’s Per Se and French Laundry, among a growing number of other big-name spots.

The idea of supply and demand is also at the heart of Table8 and Resy, two apps that sell reservations when they’re most limited—at the last minute. Those VIP tables that hot restaurants traditionally held for concierges are now available to the public for a $20 to $30 surcharge. The app Reserve, on the other hand, actually channels a concierge, recommending restaurants and arranging your bookings for a $5 fee. It also links to your credit card, so you can skip the bill.

The T+L Test

How the services performed in a coast-to-coast trial.

TOCK: Best for finding a high-end deal. Tasting menus at Qui, in Austin, Texas, normally run $120, but we paid $95.

TABLE8: Best for prime last-minute tables. It landed us seats at San Francisco’s Slanted Door for a $20 fee.

RESY: Best for skipping the line at walk-in-only spots. It got us into no-reservations Frankies 457, in Brooklyn, though bookable options were on OpenTable for free.

RESERVE: Best for low-hassle diners. Its concierge reliably matched us with otherwise unavailable tables.