Tickets for Tables at Alinea

I love it when a business gets in the weeds about their financials (Buffer is my favorite example). I also love seeing old-school monopolies disrupted, like Louis CK did with direct-to-customer video and concert sales. Maybe it’s something about being an economics student– anything that fights deadweight loss and splits rents more evenly between the producer and consumer makes me all fuzzy inside. Not only is it a great story of innovation and pragmatism, it’s also wonderfully transparent and well-written:

Despite bugs, website propagation issues, and everything else that could possibly go wrong on a software launch – on the very day of the Next opening – tickets went on sale. So many people logged on and bought tickets so quickly that I simply couldn’t believe it. The table codes would turn from GREEN (unsold) to RED (sold) on a page refresh literally the instant I ‘unlocked’ a table. I immediately called Grant: “You have to come to my house, now.” Grant responded, “We’re opening a restaurant tonight, I can’t.” “Please come now.” “No.” “You must.” He did.

The results on Alinea’s business are staggering. Bottom line EBITDA profits are up 38% from previous average years. No shows of full tables are almost non-existent and while partial no-shows still occur they are only a handful of people per week at most. That allows us to run at a far greater capacity with less food waste and more revenue.

Read the full story here, and check out the Hacker News discussion while you’re at it. Two of my favorite product-manager takeaways–

tptacek: Look how pretty and refined these ticketing apps aren’t, even though they drive hundreds of thousands of dollars per month of revenue. And after you notice that, read how Kokonas talks about how easy and simple the system is for them to use? There’s a lesson in there somewhere about the kinds of UX that matter to customers versus the kind of UX people believe should matter for customers.

UX is not just UI.

bhntr3: One of the stories that sticks out for me was Grant’s explanation of the trickiness involved in not having tablecloths. At the time, he said, fine dining meant white tablecloths. But he didn’t want there to be tablecloths at Alinea. So he got rid of them. But the problem was water rings. When cold water was placed on the stone tables, rings of condensation formed. He said they solved the problem by finding the precise temperature at which the water was chilled but not cold enough to form condensation rings on the table and they keep it at exactly that temperature in the kitchen.

Very apple-y.