More than a dozen Lowcountry restaurants are listed on Appointment Trader. | Image courtesy of

Charleston’s growing food scene has garnered national attention, but that isn’t always a good thing. 

In big-city food meccas like New York City, Las Vegas, Paris and Tokyo, reservations at high-end restaurants are sold on third-party sites or social media networks for hundreds of dollars by individuals who book tables months in advance. Now, the trend has found its way here. 


“I thought maybe it was just more tourists or more people coming to town, but we have more restaurants popping up all the time too, so I knew it had to be something else,” said West Ashley resident Wayne Loveless. “It’s gotten worse over the last couple years. … It’s just frustrating.” 

Loveless works overseas, often traveling back and forth between his home in Charleston and the Middle East, where the majority of his clients reside. 

“I come back into town every now and then … and I tend to eat out a lot when I’m in town because I want to spend some nice time with my wife,” he said. “Used to be a couple weeks out you could find a table, and now the moment reservations become available, they’re booked.”

Dozens of tables listed

As of May 23, downtown Italian restaurant Sorelle had 20 tables available on for June 2. Bidding hovered around $115 on the popular site for purchasing reservations at high-end restaurants. Appointment Trader did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

“It reminds me a bit of Ticketmaster,” Loveless said. “The seats are sold out to these scalping companies. … Looking at how many tables are in that restaurant, about half the tables show up on these sites.

“And that’s just one platform,” he added. “And it’s true of Husk, FIG and many others. We have gatekeepers and scalpers holding reservations and just ruining a night out here. I’ve had better luck going in just to get a seat at the bar and seeing if something becomes available.” 

At the time of writing, a table for six at High Cotton was being sold for $195; a table for four at FIG was being sold for $95; and a table for six at Halls Chophouse had just sold for $140. 

“It’s obviously frustrating for those who are trying to come in and join us for dinner and having trouble,” said Halls Chophouse front-of-house manager Miranda Kirkland. 

She said it’s not something the restaurants have control over, but they do what they can, like call-in confirmations, to ensure the person who books the reservation ends up sitting at the table. She added that reservation scalping hasn’t been a hit to the restaurant’s business.

“I can’t say it’s hurting us necessarily,” Kirkland said. “We have a great number of walk-ins, so when we do have cancellations or no-shows, those tables fill up quickly.” 

An unwelcome national trend

Loveless said he’s experienced similar struggles in his travels around the world, but never thought he would see it so close to home.

“It’s just a shame to see it, you know?” he said. “One of the best things about Charleston is you get some of the elements of the big city, but with that small-town feeling, but when this stuff starts happening, it sort of erodes away at that.”

In New York City, some sell reservations on social media sites like Reddit for more than $1,000. The practice had become so prevalent on one Reddit page, a pinned post explained the site’s rules for buying and selling reservations on the platform, according to a report by national food magazine Food & Wine

Similar Reddit pages are found for Chicago and Los Angeles, and the more general page r/FineDining has a weekly reservation exchange thread.

And while many social media reservation exchanges are from folks who booked with the intent to dine but had to cancel, scalpers can take advantage and make a profit, at the expense of locals just trying to get a plate from their favorite restaurant.

“It just makes you wonder,” Loveless said, “are these individuals or an organized group of people doing this? It’s downright shady and dirty, and it makes me wonder what can be done about it.”

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