How to Get a Reservation at NEXT

Shortly after Schwa opened, a little joke about the BYOB gastronomic restaurant starting floating around. Getting a reservation there was compared to trying to win back an ex-girlfriend.

You’d need to call several times, leave multiple messages, hope to get a call back, and be ready to make a date at a time of her choosing, no matter how inconvenient it was for you. And if you didn’t happen to answer your phone when she called back, you’d need to start all over. Getting a table there was precluded by lots of anxiety, stress, hope and disappointment.

As elusive as a reservation at Schwa was, and still is, the process seems downright easy compared to the hoops you’ll need to jump through in order to get a table at NEXT. NEXT is the new concept from Alinea’s Grant Achatz. and Nick Kokonas. Aside from the dynamic duo in charge, what makes NEXT unique is that diners will need to buy tickets and pay for their meal ahead of time. Just as prices for a concert vary depending on where you sit, prices for NEXT will vary depending on the date and time, so 6pm on a Tuesday or 10pm on a Sunday will be cheaper than 8:30pm on a Saturday.Additionally, the menu will change every three months, hopping across continents and through time. First up is Paris in 1906, “Escoffier at the Ritz.”

On the the day the ticket reservation system opened, tables were sold out in minutes and the NEXT Facebook page was flooded with frenzied comments from diners shut out and gloats from those who scored. On day two, the scene was the same. Black Friday at Walmart seems tame comparatively.

Want a coveted table at the city’s hottest new restaurant?  Well, you probably can’t get one. But if you’re set on trying, here’s what you need to do.

1) Pray to whatever deity you believe in. A lot.

2) Sign up on the restaurant’s website.

When it’s your turn to buy tickets, you’ll get an email with the password. Only about 1000-2000 people, of the over 19,000 on the list, will get their password each day, starting from April 6. Which means if you hadn’t already signed up, you won’t have a chance to buy tickets until around April 12. The good news is that each person can only buy two seatings per round and they only release a few tables at a time, so even if you are last to get your chance to buy, you might still be able to get a table.

3) When you get your password, log in and set up your account.

Add a credit card ahead of time; you could lose your table if you don’t.

4) Be ready at 10am (CST) sharp.

That’s when tickets first go on sale, and they go fast. Know which date you want, click and buy. If you spend too much time checking dates, you’ll watch your options disappear one by one in front of your eyes. Fortune favors the fast in this case. But if you do miss out, keep checking as they will release a second round soon after the first. By the afternoon, all tickets will be sold out for the day, but you can try again tomorrow.

5) Choose your beverage option.

You’ll have a choice of non-alcoholic drinks, wine or premium wine pairings. You have to choose when you buy and the cost will be added to your total.

6) Don’t give up.

If you can’t snag tickets in advance, check the restaurant’s Facebook page as people do post tickets for sale. Just be aware that transferred tickets will not be honored unless the restaurant is aware of the transfer and gives you a new confirmation code. Beware of Craigslist scammers selling the tickets at 2-3 times the value.

7) Prepare for a dining experience unlike any other – with no bill at the end!

I haven’t been yet, but I did score tickets. And early reports have been very positive. See photos and read reviews here.

Photo by jspatchwork