New York Post

PAY IT AIN'T SO

Ticketed meals top the year’s worst dining trends

- Steve Cuozzo

IDREAD many things about dining out in the coming year, from closings of beloved restaurant­s to ever-weirder ramen mutations. But the scariest of all may be the expansion of the online reservatio­n app Tock, which makes you pay in advance for your meal at the time of booking — mostly at superluxe eateries, but increasing­ly at lower-priced places, too.

For instance, if you want to reserve a tasting of five Taiwanese teas and three “snacks” at Té Company on West 10th Street, you must first cough up $50 a head by credit card. The “experience” includes having a staff member sit with you for two hours to share the history of the brews.

What’s next — a prepaid cheeseburg­er tasting at Shake Shack?

The great Eleven Madison Park is the only place in Manhattan that currently uses 3-year-old Tock for all seatings (although it’s also one of the very few restaurant­s worth such hassle). In Williamsbu­rg, tiny Aska also uses the app exclusivel­y. Now, Tock — which is used by just 300 US restaurant­s, compared to 43,000 for OpenTable and 1,000 for Resy — is trying to lure in lesser joints such as Té with Tock Intro.

For a fee, the plan lets restaurant­s offer “prepaid experience­s” such as special events and menus on the site.

venture-capital funding, Tock promises great things to restaurant owners. Its platform can help them better manage reservatio­ns and reduce no-shows. Customers supposedly benefit from avoiding the hassle of reserving by phone.

But I hate having to buy a ticket for a meal, even for a world-class place such as Eleven Madison Park or Chicago’s Alinea — which is co-owned by Nick Kokonas, who also happens to be the

founder of Tock.

Certain places that use Open- Open Table or Resy require a $50-ahead credit-card deposit. I’m not crazy about that, but at least we’re not giving them an interestfr­ee loan of nearly $1,200, as a table for four would cost at Eleven Madison Park, reserved months from now on Tock.

I’m insulted by the implicatio­n that I won’t show up if I don’t pay first — a reprehensi­ble behavior that’s a nightmare for owners but of which only a handful of diners are guilty. guilty

Meals that must be paid for far in advance suck whatever spontaneit­y remains in the superheate­d New York dining scene. They also make me feel as if I’m paying twice. The upfront cost only covers food — we’re socked with a separate bill for wine and drinks at the evening’s end.

Tock is striving to make inroads here by handling New Year’s Eve bookings at places that would oth- erwise use OpenTable or Resy. “New Year’s Eve has notoriousl­y high demand and no-show rates, so we’re seeing a large number of restaurant­s using Tock Intro to combat the no-show issue,” says a company rep.

Among them: the Lambs Club and Lupa Osteria Romana — where you can book the $275-perhead “Roman feast” at 9:45 p.m. on Dec. 31 only if you use Tock.

Tock’s strategy is to persuade users of the limited service to switch to the site full-time. Tock's rep says.

“Many restaurant­s start with Tock by offering a single prepaid experience, which is what you’re seeing with Lupa’s New Year’s Eve dinner. After they see the full platform ... they often transition all reservatio­ns over to Tock.”

I hope they don’t. I’d rather spend 15 minutes on the phone than a month waiting for a meal that’s already taken a bite out of my bank account.

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