Since announcing the application in May, Leventhal and Vaynerchuk have fielded a barrage of complaints that claim Resy is elitist. Responding to the application on Twitter, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells wrote, “I book a lot of reservations. And last minute tables DO exist. They're free, plentiful & often easier to get than if you call a month ahead.” Echoing Wells in more colorful characters, food writer and editor Gabriella Gershenson tweeted, “Resy belongs in American Psycho's New York City.”
Restaurant critic and Eater.com contributor Ryan Sutton is not so much interested in the functionality of the platform as he is invested in the overall shift in hospitality that Resy represents. “This is a trend that we've seen develop for the past several years,” Sutton observes. “Some restaurants charge for bread now. Some—not a whole lot—charge for water. There has been an increase in no-show fees or fees that charge you the full cost of your meal when you cancel. I see [Resy] as part of that larger trend that’s moving power from the consumer to the restaurants.”
And while Sutton concedes that it may sound “nefarious,” Mile End Deli and Black Seed Bagels co-owner Noah Bernamoff argues that Resy simply demonstrates a brand of pure “capitalist-marketing thinking. It's high demand, low supply.” As someone whose eateries have contended with obsessive foodies before, Bernamoff is confident that Resy will find its fan base.
“Some people are like, ‘Well, [Resy] is not democratic.’ But maybe it’s the most democratic,” Bernamoff mused. “I certainly think it’s more democratic than those restaurants that make you call at 9am every morning for four weeks or something just to get a reservation."
That is, Bernamoff would likely deem it more egalitarian than the system that storied restaurateur Ed Schoenfeld uses at his rabidly popular Red Farm restaurants and at Decoy—the hush-hush underground table he operates in the West Village. While Red Farm does not technically accept reservations, it has established an alternative system to handle clamoring crowds. Guests who call the restaurant on the day they’d like to dine are placed on an unofficial wait list. Those who call back in the afternoon can get a sense of when to stop in for dinner.
The system at Decoy is slightly more straightforward. To tuck into one of chef Joe Ng’s fabled Peking ducks, guests must either phone a land line or email a designated address to “start a conversation” with the restaurant. “Certainly, there’s a group who will say that it’s a pain in the ass,” said Schoenfeld. “But the system we use works. It keeps our restaurants much fuller and it gets us talking to our customers.”
Unlike virtual applications or online management systems, Schoenfeld insisted that his “old-fashioned” approach fosters “the beginning of a relationship” between his restaurants and customers. He credits it with his success in a notoriously fickle business. “I always say we try to take good care of everybody and better care of some people,” says Schoenfeld. “You don't have to be Gwyneth Paltrow to get good service. We reward our regular customers. Not that we want to discriminate against anyone, but if you come to our restaurant three days a week, we’re going to take care of you."
The question remains just how much customers want to spend on a special evening and to whom they want their dollars to go once they decide.