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What's Next? Restaurants Selling Tickets?

Hot & Cool Trends

By Cari Martens

Grant Achatz

It’s been said that dining out has replaced going to movies and live theater as our chief form of entertainment these days, and that big name chefs now have as much celebrity status as today’s entertainers and pro athletes.

So if celebrity chefs have become today’s entertainers, maybe they should sell tickets to their restaurants.

Don’t scoff. One of these celeb chefs has decided to do that very thing.

Grant Achatz, the acclaimed chef of Alinea in Chicago, says his next restaurant (actually to be called ‘Next Restaurant’) will in fact sell advance tickets on its website when it opens this fall.

Ticket prices will be based on time and day preferred. Tickets for off-peak hours (say, 9 p.m. on a Wednesday) will be less expensive than those for peak times, such as Saturday night at 8. Prices will vary based on the menu, but will range from $45 to $75 for a five- or six-course meal, according to the Next website. Tickets will be fully inclusive of all charges, including service.

The menu will change quarterly, and will feature the cuisine of a particular place and time. Achatz says the first theme will be “Paris 1912,” with carefully researched recreations of Escoffier-era cuisine. Three months later diners will get a glimpse into the future of fine dining as the theme switches to “Hong Kong 2036.”

Next’s first theme: “Paris 1912”

Next will also offer an annual subscription to all four menus at a discount with preferred seating. For those people who just can’t plan ahead that far, two walk-in tables will be available every evening.

There are practical reasons for this new system as well. ‘We now pay three or four reservationists all day long to basically tell people they can’t come to the restaurant,’ Mr. Achatz said of Alinea in a New York Times article by Pete Wells. At Next, Achatz hopes to eliminate those and some other costs.

If things go as planned, no monetary transactions will take place in the restaurant. Next diners will be able to come in, sit down for their meal and leave whenever they’re ready—with no need to flag down the server, and no fighting over who picks up the check.

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