No reservations: Restaurants deal with no-shows by ticketing

Inside L.A.'s hottest restaurant

Trois Mec is a California restaurant that showcases the handiwork of French chef Ludo Lefebvre. Waylynn Lucas of CNBC's "Restaurant Startup" called it "one of my favorite restaurants in all of Los Angeles," but if you want to eat there, there are a couple of things you should know.

First of all, there's no menu. Instead, Lefebvre decides what five-course meal everyone will eat on a given night. And you can forget about making reservations, since the restaurant doesn't accept them. Instead, patrons purchase tickets weeks in advance, at a nonrefundable cost of $75 each. This price covers the cost of the entire meal, minus drinks.

Waylynn Lucas, from CNBC’s “Restaurant Startup” and Ludo Lefebvre, chef and co-host of “The Taste.”
Liza Hughes | CNBC

"People pay for tickets for entertainment," Trois Mec director of marketing Krissy Lefebvre told the Los Angeles Times. "This just happens to be entertainment in the form of dinner."

For the customer, nonrefundable ticketing may seem like a nuisance. But for the restaurant, it's an insurance policy. After all, if you make a reservation and don't show up, the restaurant doesn't just lose your business, it also loses the potential business of those it turned away because your table was reserved.

Some restaurants have chosen other ways to incentivize showing up. Customers making reservations at Eleven Madison Park in New York City leave their credit card information with the reservation office. According to the restaurant, any cancellation that takes place less than 48 hours prior to the reservation comes with a charge of $125 per person in the dining party. So unless you enjoy paying $500 for you and your friends to eat nothing, show up.

The restaurant business still has plenty of advocates for the tried-and-true methods known as reservations and walk-ins. Howard Cannon, a consultant with Birmingham, Alabama's Restaurant Expert Witness litigation support company, is one of them.

"When you do ticketing, you're causing the customer hassle up front," he said to Restaurant Business newsletter. "So you're irritating 95 percent of people because 5 percent aren't showing up." Nonetheless, Lefebvre stuck to her guns.

"We need to know exactly who is coming in," she said. "It allows us to keep our prices at an acceptable rate. If we had to worry about filling tables at the last minute, we'd probably have to increase our prices by at least 20 percent."

"Restaurant Startup" is on a quest to discover, invest in and launch America's next generation of epicurean superstars. Tuesdays at 10 pm ET/PT.