Unless you’re a food critic or wary of the paparazzi, you’re likely a fan of feeling special when you dine out, and whether it’s a complimentary appetizer or that cute little table by the window, simple gestures carry tremendous weight in the overall experience. For the average diner, though, finding a place that makes you feel extraordinary can be frustrating when it’s a challenge to even find a table at a popular restaurant during an hour you’d actually want to eat.
As in many aspects of the hospitality industry, technology is playing an increasingly important role in addressing this problem. One such platform: I Know The Chef, a mobile reservation and concierge service that aims to show people you don’t have to slip the maitre’d a $20 bill in order to feel like a star instead of an extra.
At a time when anyone can use social media to trash or praise a restaurant, the app’s founder Josh Stern realized that focusing on top-of-the-line customer service is paramount to a business’s long term growth. So after pondering how to capture the perks of a concierge service and make it accessible to everyone, and he created a central online location people could use to book a VIP dining experience.
That gives I Know The Chef one key difference from a real concierge service: “In two clicks, you’re done,” he says. You don’t have to wait on a concierge to call or respond to an email. But like a concierge, the app helps you gain access to some of the most exclusive reservations in town. One example: Nicoletta doesn’t take reservations via phone or OpenTable, but there’s prime-time availability if you go through I Know The Chef.
Once you’re settled into your reservation, you’ll get other gestures of preferential treatment, like complimentary champagne and dessert. And the app’s members can also book bottle service at clubs like Avenue.
So how does the platform ensure your experience is tailored to you? Diners’ input is an essential aspect of the booking process, as members are asked to fill out a list of preferences and needs prior to making a first reservation. Do you find sharing tiramisu slightly more romantic than panna cotta? Maybe you’re just looking for a place where you can actually hear what your date is saying? Once you’ve created a combination that constitutes your idea of the perfect dining experience, the service provides your dining checklist to each restaurant you book to better help them shape your special night out.
Stern signed on 60 New York City restaurant partners–including top-rated, trendy restaurants like Il Mulino or Pulqueria– and he plans to expand within New York as well as take the service to Miami and Las Vegas before year’s end.
The app is currently available for download via iTunes . Members pay $49.99 for three months and $119.99 for the year and receive a full refund if they aren’t fully satisfied with the service after 30 days.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 5, 2013