The Fat Duck plucked, table scalpers seek further high-profile targets

Shane Delia of Maha restaurant.
Shane Delia of Maha restaurant. 

Table scalpers who scammed The Fat Duck's online booking system to secure coveted reservations for more than 40 tables now plan to target other high-profile restaurants in Melbourne.

A group of Collins Street finance professionals says it will target three-hat restaurants with long waiting lists, such as Attica, Flower Drum and Vue de Monde, on popular weekend dates. The group will secure bookings under false names and then sell them to friends and clients.

They plan to target more restaurants only on key dates, such as Mothers Day and Valentines Day, when demand for tables greatly exceeds supply.

"The Fat Duck is pretty special because it's a 100 per cent profit with no actual money down," said one of the table scalpers. "But there will be more opportunities when people will be willing to pay a premium, such as Valentines Day and Mothers Day."  

Asked how he would distribute and sell the tables, the table scalper said he had a "good network of hotel concierge staff and high net worth individuals" willing to pay.

The table scalper is from one of several groups that scammed The Fat Duck's online booking system over the past month and secured at least 100 reservations under false names.

Dinner at The Fat Duck at Crown will cost $525 when it relocates in February. Desperate dinner-goers have advertised for tables at online sites such as Gumtree and are willing to pay $1000 a head to dine at the restaurant when it relocates to Melbourne in February.

One of the successful groups was inspired by a table scalping operations in the US, which secures tables at exclusive restaurants to sell at a profit.

The most famous is called Today's Epicure in New York, which is so successful it has its own website and phone app.


Run by Pascal Riffaud, a former concierge at New York's St Regis Hotel, it books tables months in advance under pseudonyms and resells them on the day of the booking. Similar table scalping operations operate in Los Angeles and San Franscisco.

With table scalping now arriving in Melbourne, it will force some restaurateurs to change their booking systems.

Flower Drum takes bookings up to six weeks in advance, and no credit card is required for groups of six or fewer.

Shane Delia, who runs Maha in the Melbourne's CBD – one of the restaurants the table scalpers have identified as a possible target – said he is normally fully booked two to three weeks in advance.

"We ask for a credit card to hold a booking as security, and charge a small no-show fee if they don't turn up," Delia said.

"Maybe we will have to look into increasing that fee, but otherwise I don't have an issue with it [table scalping]. If demand is so great that people want to buy and sell tables at your place, that can only be a good thing."

Crown may try to cancel some bookings but it appears the table scalpers have not broken any specific laws.

Victoria's Major Sporting Event Act only covers ticket scalping for specific events such as the AFL grand final, and does not cover restaurant bookings.