Well before Jose Garces opened the doors at Volver, the restaurant's experiment with ticketed dining — and the price of those tickets — was the main focus of its buzz. With the concept not yet tested in the city, the most-asked question (both in published opinion pieces and general chatter over drinks) was, "Will tickets work in Philly?"
Just under six months in, the Garces Group announced today that the ticketing system is gone, prices have dropped, dining options have expanded — and you can even book via OpenTable if you want. The restaurant's website has just been updated to reflect the policy changes.
The system earlier showed smaller cracks in its foundation: When Eater critic Ryan Sutton visited Volver back in June, he noted that the restaurant had already added the option to purchase tickets over the phone, suggesting that some guests were put off by the online-only system.
The new reservation process is now like that of any other restaurant: You can call or you can book online at OpenTable. OpenTable reservations will require a credit card to hold the table, and you'll be charged a cancellation fee of $50 per person if you cancel less than 48 hours in advance, or $75 per person if you no-show.
[Photo: Eater Philly]
Now, about those prices:
The new adjustments seem to follow from some of the feedback offered in Craig LaBan's disappointing review — namely, that the restaurant was serving too much food at too high a cost. (He also criticized the "egocentric" concept and cooking, but whether that will be toned down at all remains to be seen. A seasonal menu change should be on its way soon.)
Beginning on Wednesday, September 24, the new setup offers a six-course tasting menu for $75 and a 12-course tasting menu priced at $150. At the upper end, that's about three fewer courses and a $25 price drop. But perhaps more importantly, you can choose either option at any time. Tables are also now available to be booked throughout the night on the half-hour. (Previously, there were only a few set seating times, and you automatically received the abbreviated "pre-theater" option with an early booking, or the full "performance" tasting later on.)
The main motivation for ticketing makes good sense, as it cuts back on no-shows and allows the restaurant to plan more exactly. The ticketing system pioneered by Nick Kokonas and Grant Achatz has been successful outside of their home base of Chicago and in the hands of other restaurateurs. However, their system is also more straightforward and easier to use than the Thunder Tix system adopted by Volver, which always felt clunky and confusing.
As it stands, we're not sure if this actually shows that Philly isn't ready for tickets, or simply that this wasn't the right ticketing system or the right restaurant for it.