The rarefied world of tiny tasting menu restaurants and their sought-after seats has entered the next stratosphere in Melbourne with news that ticket scalpers are now targeting one of the city’s hardest venues to book: Chae.
The six-seat Korean restaurant recently reopened in the Dandenong Ranges township of Cockatoo, where Jung-Eun Chae and her partner Yoora Yoon invite guests to tour the kitchen garden, see their many ferments, and then dine at their kitchen counter for $95 a head.
The unique nature of Chae’s menu has made it something of a bucket-list booking for ardent food fans. And with scarcity comes scalpers.
Chae and Yoon received an email from a previous customer on November 2 that alerted them to a ticket scalper offering two tickets for a December booking on a social media platform for non-English speakers. The customer translated the conversation, which said that “IT [information technology]” was used to make a booking.
The amount the scalper was asking for the two tickets was not specified. Yoon says the name of the scalper identified in the email matched a booking at Chae in December.
“I can’t believe it,” says Yoon. “We didn’t know what to make of it. We weren’t sure whether we should be appreciative that some people are willing to go the extra distance to secure our seats. Or should we be upset because they are taking advantage of our work?”
Open for just four services a week, Chae releases bookings one month at a time. These are snapped up in just 10 minutes, according to Yoon.
The couple decided to cancel the two scalped seats and ban the individuals involved from booking at Chae in future.
“We’re only aware of two tickets sold this way,” says Yoora. “I don’t know how to go about finding out whether there are more tickets [being scalped].
“It’s clear that we have to make sure this doesn’t happen again, because there are so many people making the time and effort to make a booking with us and it’s definitely not fair for them if someone is willing to pay a bit extra.”
He says the restaurant will seek expert advice on how to better secure its reservation platforms to prevent robots from making automated bookings and to avoid the transfer of bookings between individuals.
The opportunistic act will no doubt disturb restaurateurs who have built up a reputation that others are attempting to profit from. It also raises questions around how widespread the practice is at other establishments where the demand for tables far exceeds supply.
Exclusive tasting menu-only restaurants Brae and Vue de Monde confirmed to Good Food that they have not experienced issues with scalpers on-selling reservations to their restaurants, which cost $340 and $350, respectively.