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Alex Eisler, a sophomore at Brown University, has found a lucrative side hustle in selling dinner reservations at some of New York City’s most popular restaurants. He uses an app called Appointment Trader, where users can pay for coveted seats at restaurants like Don Angie or Carbone. Platforms like Resy, a free site, are typically used by everyday New Yorkers and tourists to secure reservations, but for high-demand restaurants, reservations disappear almost instantly after they are released. As a result, platforms like Appointment Trader allow users to pay for a guaranteed spot, on top of the cost of food and drinks.

The creator of Appointment Trader, Jonas Frey, came up with the idea after a frustrating experience at the DMV. He realized that there was a demand for premium reservations and launched the app in 2021. The platform has seen immense success, with sales of $5.7 million in reservations over the past year. Top sellers on the platform, like Alex Eisler, can make six-figure incomes by securing and selling reservations. The platform takes a 20% to 30% cut of the proceeds, with the rest going to the sellers who scoop up the best reservations to post on Appointment Trader.

Eisler’s strategy involves using multiple Resy accounts, emails, programmed bots, and different voices when calling restaurants to secure reservations. He dedicates specific days, like Tuesdays, to focus on securing reservations and uses alarms on his phone to stay on top of the process. However, he faces challenges such as account termination from restaurants or platforms like Resy if they suspect that reservations are being resold. While some restaurants initially sent cease-and-desist letters to Appointment Trader, some have now partnered with the platform to fill bids while still ensuring a cut for themselves.

Siria Alvarez, manager of chef Kwame Onwuachi’s restaurant Tatiana in New York City, understands why people are willing to pay for reservations at exclusive dining establishments. However, she believes that the buying and selling of reservations makes already exclusive options even more unattainable for guests trying to secure reservations through traditional means. Frey argues that putting a price tag on reservations allows more people to access exclusive dining experiences that would otherwise be limited to the elite. Restaurants like Tatiana do not sell reservations, making them available on platforms like Resy, where they are quickly snapped up within seconds of release. Despite the challenges posed by reservation resale platforms, dedicated customers are willing to wait to experience these exclusive dining locations.

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