Splitting a check is even more complicated since Tock arrived. The reservation software, built by the founder of Alinea in Chicago, famously asks diners to plunk down a nonrefundable prepayment: You commit to a tasting menu as you would Rolling Stones tickets. Roughly a dozen Seattle restaurants use it.
Guaranteed funds, even if diners flake, mean vital stability for newcomers like Alcove and Archipelago, restaurants modest in resources, mighty in ambition. Still, it’s a mental shift for customers, particularly ones not picking up the tab for the entire table. Venmo no doubt owes Tock a thank-you note for all the transactions it generates among cuisine-loving friends.
Then there’s the homework. Before my 12-course dinner at Tarsan i Jane, Tock dispatched an e-questionnaire on dietary restrictions, any celebrations—even the full name of everyone in my party, “as we do like to personalize our guests’ experience.” Archipelago breaks its query about food aversion into categories: meat, seafood, plants. A mini census as a prerequisite to dinner might inspire some hangry eye rolls, but it’s also the sign of a place that cares whether your night is worth the price you (pre) paid for it.