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Ko Envy: He Scores!


This is my final post about the reservations adventure at Momofuku Ko, because I finally have one. It’s next Friday at exactly 6:05 p.m.

Frank Bruni had several funny posts this week explaining how it works. The puns and sexual imagery were out in full force:

Assuming the Ko computer system is working properly — and you really have to take it on faith, and your faith wobbles as you try and try without success to reserve — you are in competition for a reservation if, at 10 a.m. precisely, or better yet at 9:58 a.m., you begin submitting a reservation request and then submitting it again, essentially refreshing and re-refreshing your browser as you try to thread the electronic needle and have the Ko system register your electronic request at the precise moment it’s freeing up a new night’s worth of reservations, before all the other electronic requests, like sperms swimming furiously to be first to the egg, beat yours to the punch.

ko_reservation2.jpgThe screenshot above is what you see when you finally get through. You’ve got exactly one minute to click “Accept.” Then, there’s another screen where you enter any dietary restrictions. Finally, you get the screen on the right, and a confirming e-mail arrives moments later.

Poor Frank Bruni still hasn’t gotten through, even though he has a friend “B.” and “a small posse of other gourmands who’d love to have me buy them a meal at Ko” working on his behalf. I had to do it all by myself.

Just yesterday I learned one of the secrets: there are fewer people trying on weekends. Sure enough, that worked. (Today is Saturday.)

Another trick is to synchronize your watch to the Ko computer. Sometimes, you get a message that there are no reservations available, and you see the exact time (to the second) on your screen. If you try that at 9:59:26, then you should wait exactly 34 seconds before trying again, so that your next attempt will be at exactly 10:00:00.

When you get the screen with a green check mark (signifying an available reservation slot), you can’t linger over it. There are a thousand other sets of eyes looking at that check mark. You’d better know what times are acceptable to you, so that you can click instantly. He who hesitates is lost.

Is it worth all this trouble? Obviously I can’t answer that definitively until Friday.

But it’s not really much trouble at all. For a reservation at Per Se, I had to call at 10:00 a. m. exactly two months ahead. I had to hit re-dial about a dozen times, then wait on hold for about twenty minutes before getting through to a human being. The ritual at Babbo is even worse, and that restaurant is at least a decade old.

At Momofuku Ko, the process takes only two minutes. By 10:01, either you have a reservation or you don’t. It’s certainly not the restaurant’s fault that so many people want to eat there.

I realize that some people are frustrated by a new technology. But some people were probably frustrated when the telephone was invented, too. 

Reader Comments (2)

I wish every restaurant had a system like this. More user-friendly than OpenTable, and like you said - no time wasted on hold. I wish they took reservations further into the future, and I think (hope?) they might once the hype dies down.

April 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterjon

How about an lottery system (or a waiting list). In other words, I enter my info and dates/times I am willing to go and they tell me (a week, month, year) in advance when my party can eat.

February 28, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjeff

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