People struggling to get rid of their reservations at award-winning Toronto restaurant
Alo is a restaurant notorious for being one of the hardest places in the city to snag a reservation. However, what people may not realize is that it's just as hard to get rid of your table.
Even before their Michelin star win, it was always highly regarded with accolades such as placing 90th on The World's 50 Best Restaurants list in 2019 and being #2 on Canada's 100 Best last year.
Alo's reservation system runs on a third-party app called Tock known for hosting pricier spots, often setting steeper deposits for securing reservations than your average restaurant.
The app officially refers to their service as being able to "Discover and book unique culinary experiences".
On the app, you can also transfer a reservation, a handy service for gifting an experience to someone or for selling a reservation you no longer need- very much like Ticketmaster.
Thus, the tricky part about getting rid of a reservation is not the process of transfer, but finding someone who is willing to buy it off you.
Currently, reservations at Alo are released two months ahead on the first Tuesday every other month at 10 a.m.
People often set their calendars for the release dates, for the most popular Friday and weekend slots - which are known to book out quickly.
Every reservation at Alo requires a non-refundable deposit of $50-$150 depending on if you're opting for a 6-course tasting menu in the Bar Room or the full multi-course menu in the Dining Room.
On Tock, if you follow through the booking process, you are told the official cancellation policy is strict and all deposits are final.
This policy often finds diners unable to retrieve their hefty deposits in the case of unexpected personal circumstances.
Several patrons I spoke with expressed their reasons for needing to change their reservations were sudden illnesses or emergency trips out of the country.
Desperate to recoup the deposit, people tell me they first try asking their immediate circle of friends on social media, Kijiji, and when growing desperate they've used third-party websites like Appointment Trader which have high fees.
Some people in the city have resorted to asking strangers on Reddit if anyone would be willing to take their spot.
Ryan, who used Reddit to successfully sell their reservation, explained he was hesitant to sell on Kijiji because of potential scams and ended up finding someone on Reddit who saw their post.
Despite the transfer process being seamless on the Tock app, Ryan commented, "All in all, it's extreme, but I get it. They have a Michelin star and a reputation for a must-eat place in the city so these things are justified, but now I'm just happy it's all over."
Another seller Leila, explained she used Kijiji after asking her friends. It took about two days to get an interested buyer.
"I understand why they have a strict policy since they're always fully booked, but I wish they'd make it easier to sell by maybe implementing a waitlist on their end that people could sell to," suggested Leila.
When blogTO reached out to Alo for comment, General Manager Shyanne Vautour admitted to being aware of the struggles.
"Our official policy regarding reservations is that we require 48 hours notice of cancellation or the need to reschedule. With 48 hour notice, we will offer our assistance to reschedule the reservation or provide a full refund of the deposit."
Vautour also explained over the phone that the restaurant has an active waiting list for people interested in dining there.
"In the event of a last minute cancellation, we will do our best to rebook the table through our waiting list or the DINR app. If we are unable to fill that table, we unfortunately are unable to refund the deposit," explained Vautour.
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