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First come, first served

28 May 2021

With so many incredible eateries springing up around our city, there’s never been a better time to tuck in. Ella James discovers the merits of First Table, a business that makes chowing down with friends and family more affordable than ever.

If you’ve yet to hear of First Table, allow us to rock your culinary world. It’s a simple concept whereby restaurants offer diners 50 per cent off food for their (often barren) first tables of the night, in the hope of attracting diners for the rest of the evening. Talk about the early bird catches the worm. Since being founded by Mat Weir in Queenstown in 2014, First Table has signed up over 1100 restaurants and more than 330,000 ravenous diners worldwide. With all parties involved getting a cut of this undeniably successful pie, it would appear First Table has perfected a recipe for success.


The idea for First Table was conceived in our very own Queenstown. A small, French restaurant used to offer 50 per cent off the bill of the first diners of the evening. Seating said diners at the table in the window, passers-by would then be encouraged to visit the restaurant as a result of seeing those early tables filled up. We’re all guilty of walking past empty eateries in search of ones with more happy customers inside, but, as is the case for even the most sought-after eateries, early dining times can be hard to fill.

Needless to say, the largest win for restaurants is when customers who have experienced a discounted meal come back to pay full price, which I’m told is a most regular occurrence.


With such busy, often financially demanding lives, dining out becomes reserved for those special occasions, and even then, we choose to eat somewhere that we’ve visited before in order to eliminate the risk of spending too much money on a meal we do not enjoy. But First Tables’ business model encourages diners to cease neglecting the possibility of a well-fed social life.

Using the user-friendly website, future diners can browse restaurants in their area and book a table for a date and time that best suits. With a $10 deposit upfront, they can then enjoy all of their food half-price, at a restaurant they might not usually be able to afford.


First Table has distinguished a point of difference. Compared to other competitors, only restaurants of the highest quality are endorsed, and so they’ve positioned themselves as a premium service. Opposed to the word ‘discount’, First Table Communications Manager Laura Nicol insists they instead offer a win-win incentive; they make affiliated restaurants more accessible to the masses.

Hungry for more, First Table shows no signs of slowing down. While challenges such as time differences and language barriers put the small team through their paces, they let nothing get in the way of their global aspirations. Already operating across the world, from Christchurch, Auckland, Sydney and Melbourne to Bali, Jakarta, London and Dublin, we’re sure it’s only a matter of time until First Table is serving up delicious dining incentives the world over. So, bon appétit.

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