When OpenTable Doesn't Cut It: Two New Restaurant Concierge Services

Restaurant Concierge Services at a Glance: Today's Epicure vs. I Know the Chef

Photo courtesy of Fatty Cue

Need a reservation for four, tomorrow night, at the trendiest restaurant in the city? Good luck. We live in an age when securing prime time seats (between 6–9 P.M.) at top restaurants has never been harder. And for better or worse, deep pockets won't help. The only thing that gets results is a connection, but you couldn't buy one—until now. In the last six weeks two New York-based sites (with mobile apps) have launched membership-only dining concierge services that help secure reservations and even special perks at some of the most exclusive spots in the city and across the country. Below, a comparative analysis of Today's Epicure and I Know the Chef. You need never accept a 10:30 reservation again.


Photo courtesy of Fatty Cue

Today's Epicure

What They Do: Display reservations in real time for users to "grab."

Who's Behind It: Pascal Riffaud, founder of Personal Concierge International.

Target Audience: Foodies, out-of-towners, social butterflies, celebrity gawkers, and Wall Street professionals.

Price: Depends whether you choose a personal, corporate, local, or global membership. A personal membership costs $1,000 annually, $300 quarterly, $125 monthly, or $150 for a 30-day trial membership. Corporate memberships cost $400 per month for up to six users, $700 per month for up to ten users, or $1,000 per month for an unlimited number of users. With a local membership, reservations outside your city cost $30 per reservation.

Platforms: Also available on iPhone/iPad.

Restaurants In Their Database: Ciano, The Nomad, Waverly Inn

Reach: In addition to the 245 restaurants listed in New York City, Today's Epicure offers reservations in Westchester, Miami (during weekends in high season), and other cities for special occasions (i.e. Academy Awards season in LA and the Super Bowl in New Orleans).

Pros & Cons: Reservations are booked under a pseudonym; after 3pm, same day reservations are not available; large groups are difficult to book; $75 charge for no-shows; special requests for restaurants not listed cost $45 ($75 for parties of five and over).

Ways to Search: Filter by party size, date, and time or by categories like "restaurants for large groups," "gent's night out," "impress a first date," and "hot and trendy now."

What They Don't Want You To Know: Reservations are made in advance at all of the restaurants listed; that's why changing to your own name is tricky.

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Photo courtesy of Fatty Cue

I Know the Chef

What They Do: Offer prime-time reservations, VIP treatment, and bottle service at nightlife hot spots.

Who's Behind It: Joshua Stern, an alumn of Boston University's hospitality school.

Target Audience: Frequent diners, daters, business lunch-goers, and high-end tourists.

Price: $7 per month or $60 per year.

Platforms: Also available on iPhone/iPad.

Restaurants In Their Database: BLT Steak, Fatty Cue (pictured at top), Blaue Gans

Reach: New York City only.

Pros & Cons: Enjoy special treatment from the chef (like a free dessert or side), priority seating, and other forms of VIP treatment at top NYC restaurants (one member asked for an engagement ring to be served in a champagne glass); also offers bottle-service reservations at nightclubs; fill out a custom dining preferences questionnaire in your profile (i.e. your favorite liquor, dessert, seating, and dietary restrictions) and participating restaurants will know how to hook you up.

Ways to Search: Filter by party size, date, time, cuisine, and neighborhood.

What They Don't Want You To Know: Though the site says "by invitation only," anyone requesting membership will get in within 24 hours.

—Louise F.M. Hart is a writer and editor based in Manhattan. Follow her @lookinglab.

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