It was the diner’s guilty secret and the restaurateur’s private fury. Tables would be booked, but the more polite patrons would cancel at the last minute and the rude ones would just never bother to show – leaving the establishment with empty tables and lost income.
Now, however, it seems the restaurant industry is biting back, led by a Glaswegian chef who once told The Independent he liked the taste of chicken testicles.
The Clove Club, the east London domain of the Michelin-starred chef Isaac McHale, is to become what is believed to the first restaurant in the UK to introduce a ticketing system, making diners pay for their food in advance and ensuring the establishment gets its money, regardless of whether anyone turns up.
From June anyone hoping to enjoy Mr McHale’s Orkney scallop with hazelnut, clementine and Perigord truffle or his flamed Cornish mackerel with rhubarb will have to go online and pay upfront for the £65-a-head five-course menu or the £95, nine-course option. They will still choose and buy wine on the night, but if they don’t show, it’s tough luck and no money back.
Mr McHale told Bloomberg: “It’s going to ruffle a few feathers, but everyone has a problem with no-shows.”
The chef, who in June 2013 told The Independent he had recently eaten chicken testicles and found them “delicious, like a chicken mousse”, insisted that customers would also benefit from the new system. For example, those willing to dine early in the evening would get a reduced price.
“I want to continue to give people a great experience, and I hope this system will allow us to give them a better experience,” he said.
The Clove Club’s new Tock ticketing system was devised by Nick Kokonas, who found that it reduced no-shows at his Chicago restaurant Alinea to less than 2 per cent. US restaurants are adopting the innovation, and Jackie Grech, the policy director of the UK Restaurant Association, said she expected other British restaurants to switch to ticketing. “I think it will catch on, particularly with new restaurants,” she said.
Discerning diners: What the papers say
“Expertly cooked mussels… a heavenly, billowy cloud of ewe’s milk mousse… McHale could do with adding more salt.”
The Independent on Sunday
“This menu was devised to show off the chef’s innovation, rather than please the eater.”
The Evening Standard
“There will always be reactionary types who’ll hate the Clove Club. Their loss.”
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