This High End NYC Restaurant Makes You Pay For Your Meal Before You Eat Your Meal.

Atera is an envelope-pushing restaurant. The avant-garde Tribeca spot is wher quail eggs arrive on beds of grass, where lobster rolls come inside macarons, and where “charcoal” is made of chocolate. Atera serves 20-plus course meals that cost $165 before beverage, tax and tip. And now you’re expected to pay for your meal before your meal, not after it. The website of the two-Michelin-starred restaurant explains it all thusly: 

  • "Due to the intimate size of Atera we require prepayment at the time your reservation is confirmed. The price for the tasting menu is $165 per person before tax and an 18% gratuity, making the total prepayment at the time of confirmation $209.35. Wine, drinks, and any add-ons will be billed the evening that you dine. Once purchased, all sales are final, however your reservation is transferable."

Sure, many fine dining venues threaten cancellation fees, but Atera is only the second NYC spot to actually require prepayment (Brooklyn Fare is the other). Chicago eaters of course are familiar with such policies at Next and Alinea, where diners pay for dinner in advance via a much heralded ticketing system. 

Make no mistake about it, pre-payment works in the favor of the restaurateur, and asks the diner to forfeit the price of dinner, plus tax and gratuity. if he or she can’t make it that evening. Chef Lightner was nice enough to chat with us about this development via email, here are highlights from our conversation: 

When did you start the prepayment system and how have your guests responded to it? We started the prepayment about a month ago and guests have not had an issue with it, unless they are trying to cancel last minute. 

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It's a BAD DEAL when a GOOD restaurant makes it tough to find out how much you'll spend, which, in this case, is about $700.4

Please indulge this post from our sister site, The Price Hike, about Atera, an avant-garde Manhattan restaurant that needs to work very hard on the way it communicates its very high prices. 

When you expect to spend $619 on a dinner date and you end up paying just under $700, you realize that price transparency isn’t just about theory, it’s about making sure no one’s burning a hole in your wallet when you’re not looking.