utside food is allowed at this new restaurant in Shanghai, which is letting you dine at their establishment on dishes ordered from other eateries.
Called Seat Now, it’s the first “shared restaurant” in town that’s trying to tackle the problems of long lines and lost revenue by providing extra seating for people who would otherwise be queuing outside popular dining spots.
“About 20 percent of diners leave on average when they have to wait at a restaurant, and the idea of the shared restaurant originated to prevent that situation and provide better dining experiences to diners,” said Li Xuan of Shanghai-based dining application Seat Now, which operates the shared restaurant.
Opened in SML Center, Seat Now is actually a collaboration between seven restaurants in the mall. It looks like a normal restaurant inside: there are table and chairs for 121 people, cutlery and plates, and waiters serving food and water. You scan a QR code on the table to order through the Seat Now app, and 86 dishes are currently available.
But Seat Now doesn’t do any cooking. Instead, the order goes out to the restaurant that offers the dish, who prepares the food, puts it in a box, and sends it over to Seat Now. The food is then unwrapped and served as normal.
The business has no precedent so city officials had to come up with a new category and laws for it. It’s now deemed a “shared restaurant” and defines a place that only provides dining spaces without selling food. The shared restaurant has to be within 800 meters and in the same building as participating restaurants, and needs to have a food preparation area and cleaning facilities. Because Seat Now also sells drinks, a beverage license is also needed. Seat Now opened last Friday and is currently under a trial period.
“We wanted to apply for our license as a shared restaurant, but there’s no such category for now, so we settled for drink shop,” Li said. “This category doesn’t quite fit our concept, but we are satisfied that we got a license.”
Seat Now plans to expand their collaboration to 10 restaurants in SML Center, and a second location is in the works.
Seat Now Restaurant
4/F, SML Center, 618 Xujiahui Road