Covid-19: Non-refundable policies of New York restaurants leave bitter taste in mouths of reservation holders

Eleven Madison Park, named the best restaurant in the world in 2017, has become a hot topic on Reddit. — AFP pic
Eleven Madison Park, named the best restaurant in the world in 2017, has become a hot topic on Reddit. — AFP pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 — The non-refundable cancellation policy of Michelin-starred Manhattan restaurants has left a bitter taste in the mouths of pre-paid reservation holders who were forced to cancel their plans due to Covid-19 concerns.

Eleven Madison Park, named the best restaurant in the world in 2017, has become a hot topic on Reddit, where would-be diners are increasingly looking to sell their pricey seats — which so far run up to US$1,524.25 (RM6,376) for a four-person New Year’s Eve tasting menu — as reservation holders either tested positive or choose to wait out this new Covid-19 wave.

“It’s frustrating, because [Eleven Madison Park has] a waitlist, they have very few reservations available, so I know that there are people interested in what I’m trying to sell,” 28-year-old Erin, who declined to give her last name for professional reasons, told New York Post.

In December, when January seats opened, the graduate student spent US$729.46 (RM3,049) on the reservation platform Tock to book a two-person 5.45pm tasting menu dinner for January 5, which she later rescheduled for January 28 and now aims to sell on Reddit for that sum.

While six users have voiced their interest — four of whom have tried negotiating down the price. Only one priced offer has come through: US$200 (RM836).

“US$200 is pretty low for something that cost me US$729,” she said.

Erin isn’t alone. Another Reddit user, who aimed to get around US$900 (RM3,765) face value for a two-person December 30 reservation — and ultimately chose not to go over Covid concerns — told the portal that Eleven Madison Park said it would refund them after finding a waitlist replacement, but claim they still haven’t received it a month later. 

The portal noted that no-refund pre-paid reservations are now relatively common, due in part to the high price for ingredients and staffing. 

Other restaurants with such policies include Saga, which offers a non-refundable US$245 (RM1,024)-per-person tasting menu, as well as Masa, which requires diners pay a US$650 (RM2,719)-per-person deposit when a reservation is made.

Without any immediate recourse, Erin hopes to follow up on her sale with hungry Reddit buyers.

“If I was going to lose it, I would just give it to a friend,” she said, adding ideally, she would sell it to somebody who’s going to go and is willing to pay the full price.

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