Larry Olmsted, Forbes.com Contributor
Passionate foodies have long been using online reservation sites like Open Table to quickly check availability at top restaurants, and in some cases, to score otherwise difficult to obtain reservations.
But there is a new player in this space, and if you are not using it, you are leaving serious money on the table – maybe hundreds of dollars per meal!
The new site is called Savored, and it adds something huge besides reservations: what it calls “insider pricing.”
The “insider pricing” is much simpler than it sounds:
A. You pay $10 for each reservation you make – per group, not per person.
B. You get 30% of your total bill, including booze (except in Massachusetts, where that’s not legal, so in Boston you get 40% off food instead).
C. That’s it. In other words, you get the “insider price” of 70% (or 60%) of face value, like eating in Canada used to be.
But you are probably thinking exactly what I said when I heard about Savored:
“It sounds too good to be true.”
I have a friend who works on Wall Street and entertains a LOT, more than anyone else I know. He loves to eat, and spends huge amounts of money on meals, all over the world, but especially in New York. We’ll call him PG. Yesterday, PG called me to relate his first Savored experience.
“I had a friend come into town last minute yesterday, and I was trying to find a good place to eat downtown, but every place I called and wanted to go to didn’t have anything available. I had been told by a buddy about Savored, so I went on and entered New York, and then they had food categories so I put in Asian. It came up with a table at Bond Street, one of the best sushi places in the city. I hadn’t been there in a while, so I booked a table. We had a blowout sushi dinner with a couple of bottles of good Montrachet (white burgundy). Then they took 30% off the whole bill, which was about $450 – except it was around $315.”
“It was the first time I used the service, and a total home run. I was going to eat anyway, but this time I got paid almost $150 to do it.” That’s a lot of raw fish!
To try the service, today I registered myself, which took about 10 seconds and required refreshingly little personal info (just a name, email, and password of my choosing). There’s very little fine print: you guarantee the booking when you make it, but can cancel or change the party size until 2 hours before. If for some reason, which is hard to imagine, you spend less than the $35 it would take to break even on the $10 reservation fee, they refund the difference! So there’s no way it can cost you money, and it could save you hundreds – or more. They take bookings for parties of 2-8+. PG’s dinner was for two – with eight he would have saved over $900. And there are plenty of restaurants on the service pricier than Bond Street – but also a lot that are cheaper, like Hill Country, one of my favorite barbecue joints!
Also, in case you are easily embarrassed, there are no coupons or anything: the discount is automatically applied to bookings made through the site.
Savored currently has 635 restaurants in 10 major cities: New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, DC, Boston, Chicago, Denver, LA, Miami, and Philadelphia, which covers a whole lot of eaters.
“But will I find someplace good?” you ask? Here are some examples:
New York: Le Cirque; db Bistro Moderne; Capital Grille; Scarpina
Philadelphia: La Bec Fin; The Prime Rib
Finally, the site itself has excellent design. As soon as you pick a city, it lists the most popular restaurants that have open tables tonight, with times, so you can quickly window shop and maybe make an impulse decision, It also lets you sort by neighborhood, cuisine, scene (exotic, date night, cozy & casual) or any combination. Finally they are tied into the Zagat database so you can see ratings and mini-reviews for each restaurant. For example, the Prime Rib in Foggy Bottom was the highest Zagat rated restaurant available tonight in DC (a whopping 27 for food!), and I had a choice of three different reservation times.
As far as I can tell the only thing missing at Savored is Las Vegas…
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.