New Trend: Pop-up Restaurants Selling Tickets

The trend of restaurants selling tickets in lieu of taking reservations has now expanded to include so-called "pop-up" restaurants - like Travail in Minneapolis Minnesota. Is the increasing momentum of restaurants selling tickets proof that the days of taking telephone reservations are coming to an end?

"Get as many butts in the seats as possible."

When the New York Times published ‘At Pop-Ups, Chefs Take Chances With Little Risk’ the concept was expected to be a short-lived trend in reaction to the 2008 economic crisis. But pop-ups proved to be so popular - and proven to be more than a fiscal band-aid - now there seems to be a new one every week.

The term “pop-up restaurant” generally means an established restaurant decides to branch out in a new market, but without all the expense of a new permanent location. Such is the case for Travail in Minneapolis Minnesota.

Travail restaurant was established in 2010, and is known for its edgy, experimental dining experience, something the owners call “hacking fine dining.” During the experimentation period, two types of experiences (a multi-course tasting-menu experience and a beer-and-bar-food experience) were a hit, but the space in which Travail was housed was too eventually deemed to be small. So the owners decided to open a new “pop-up” location, but lacked the cash-on-hand funds.

Using Kickstarter, the owners of Travail successfully "crowd funded" the means to open a second location, called Umami. Even more interesting is the decision to sell tickets instead of taking telephone reservations. Travail’s co-owner explains that the reason he is selling ticket is "to get as many butts in the seats as possible." It may be that the up-front equity the Kickstarter campaign provided is the impetus of the decision to sell tickets (more about that below).

The very nature of pop-up restaurants makes them more like a miniature rock concert- here today, gone tomorrow. Music bands on tour are often the purveyors of their own concert tickets. This is possible because tickets are sold by the date of the performance and not necessarily tied to a given venue.

It is important to note that selling restaurant tickets is not exclusive to pop-up restaurants. Traditional restaurants can sell tickets too, and here's how...

Restaurants Selling Tickets In Lieu of Reservations

The up-front capital from selling tickets is a big benefit for restaurants, since it pays for food and ant additional staffing well in advance of a diner service "event." And because the restaurant owner knows exactly how many people will be dining, the working capital is spent on exactly what is needed - no more, no less. Restaurants still using telephone reservation must roll the dice every night, guessing how much food and staff is required, leaving profits (or losses) to random chance.

Next restaurant in Chicago has famously switched from accepting telephone reservation to selling tickets. A previous post quoted Next owner Nick Kokonas about his experience with selling tickets in lieu of telephone reservations and let slip some eyebrow raising dollar amounts:

Nextcan sell $3 million worth of season tickets within just a couple of hours, and altogether the restaurants have sold more than$20 millionworth of tickets

Furthermore, to address what some restaurant owners cite as a barrier to ticket adoption, Kokonas scoffs at the idea of anyone refusing to buy a ticket:

There have been some people that have said to me, ‘I’ll never come to your restaurant because I have to buy a ticket.’ And I go, ‘Awesome.’ Because the person basically just told me, ‘I could never make a commitment to going a certain night and I cancel all the time.’ So I've just eliminated exactly the person I want to eliminate.

Other restaurant owners dismiss the idea of selling tickets because they are not using the "rock concert" multi-course menu format like Next restaurant. But, one need not make a total commitment to selling tickets, many choose to sell tickets for private dining events or only on the busiest night of the week when capacity is at max. The up-front capital benefit still applies when only selling tickets for certain days and should the concept not be a good fit, it is trivial to revert back to taking telephone reservations.

ThunderTix Restaurant Ticketing Software

Crowd funded pop-up restaurants, like Travail, sell tickets to get up-front capital, but any type of restaurant can sell tickets in advance - including yours!

Ready to get started? Talk to sales

ThunderTix restaurant ticketing softwareis built with the same technology that powers some of the biggest music concert tours in the country. Plus, we makenightly depositsof your sales dollars directly into your bank account, giving you the liquidity to buy only what you need for the menu –no waste. Chef Ludo Lefebvre, owner of Trois Mec,says "the decision to operate on a ticket system allows the chefs to plan accordingly each night."

When you say “table d’hôte” we know what you mean. In addition to being the most restaurant friendly ticketing software available, know that ThunderTix has years of experience in enabling venues to sell tickets online. You will inherit all that expertise when you decide to make the move from telephone reservation to selling tickets, either all-at-once or gradually.

If you have any questions about a gradual transition to selling tickets at your restaurant, pleasecontact usat your convenience.