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NEXT Restaurant to Dark Lord Days - Hype or Hassle?

April 25 2011 - 5:14 PM

“I never expected that we would sell 20 tables in 1.5 seconds as we did this morning.”
-Nick Kokonas, co-owner of NEXT (on LTHforum)

These days people are waiting in line for hours to get into Aviary, they’re refreshing their Firefox browsers every second for hours on end to get tickets to NEXT. Craft beer fans had about a 2 minute window to score tickets online for Dark Lord Days and a slightly bigger window for Baconfest… Is it all worth it?

To quote Charlie Bucket from Willy Wonka, “I bet those Golden Tickets make the chocolate taste terrible.”

I have founded and been the Editor & Publisher of Chicago Foodies for over 6 years and when I read about Grant Achatz’s proposed restaurant, NEXT, I thought, Brilliant! He’s changing the experience. It’s about time. The ticket sales were a great angle to get prices down. Think about the new efficiencies in the kitchen! I geeked out.

I also was sure to get my email on the “list” to get tickets. Since then the list has processed. I was emailed a password. Great! Problem is that password allows you to hit refresh a million times hoping to catch a ticket-sales window which is open for only seconds.

Considering they are only releasing dozens of tables and there are thousands of people hitting refresh and you have no idea when they’re going to release these tables, it’s a total waste of time. The thing to really remember here is that they’re NOT giving anything away. They’re charging real money. Granted it’s not Alinea bucks but it’s not Alinea either.

I had never been able to get a table at El Bulli. I’ve been escorted out of the French Laundry. I missed out on Pierre Gagnaire simply because with the Euro conversion at the time, it turned out to be about $350 for lunch. Try landing a table at Schwa. I did eat there and didn’t have any incredible trouble but it wasn’t easy. There really are no good solutions for popular restaurants. Some folks on LTHforum are trying to figure out how to make it “fair”:

What they should have done is offer the first set of reservations to people who visited Alinea on a reverse reward basis. For example, if you ate at Alinea 6 times,they should have offered you the opportunity to book a table at Next before someone who visited 5 times. It would have been super simple to do that as the information is in their computer.

While that’s interesting, and completely ridiculous, I don’t think that these systems aren’t “fair”; they’re totally fair. It’s moreover whether they’re worth the hassle? If you’re in the know and have to have 2011 Dark Lord on tap you better be lucky or drop your money to get it. But you could also save your dough and stock up on other imperial stouts which aren’t anywhere near the price. Or buy an airline ticket to the Craft Beer show in Boston. I thought the best thing about Dark Lord Days was their open and sharing environment… seriously. I worry that the euphoria around the ticket process may re-populate the show with people looking to “get their money’s worth” instead of adding the value themselves (to what was a free event) .

Same goes for buying scalped tickets for Next. Is it worth the premium scalped price that the market undoubtebly bears? Many, many, many, many, (and many, many, more) would say, “Absolutely”. The system works. The hype is there big-time. It comes at the cost of the hassle. There are many people who love Grant Achatz, love Dark Lord, & love Bacon enough to suffer the constant clicking or suffer the marked-up price, but there are many more people who also love them but will simply say skip it.

All said and done I am trying to get Next tickets but not feverishly so. If it doesn’t happen, I’ll have a couple beers and get over it, especially since I did get lucky enough to buy Dark Lord tickets online.

That Willy Wonka quote is poignant but only because we all know the ticket is always worth it and if Wonka would simply auction them or sell them to the highest bidder the story would have only been about Veruca Salt.

–Josh Brusin

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