The revolutionary nature of Next's business model and ticketing-reservations system (well analyzed here) continues to unfold. Now that it's succeeded in its first objective (the reasonably orderly upfront collection of thousands of dollars in return for hundreds of seats at Next all through 2012), it's moved on to what seemed, initially, a fairly minor side aspect of the latest iteration of the system — raising money for charity. Well, we're pretty sure that raising six figures in about a day never counts as minor in the world of charity.
Next created a special page to run a Dutch auction for an El Bulli menu two-top every night, with all proceeds going to the University of Chicago Cancer Center where Grant Achatz was treated. A Dutch auction, if you've never done one on Ebay or elsewhere, offers something for a set price which goes down the longer you wait — but of course, the chance that it will be bought by someone else goes up as the price goes down. In this case, the closer it gets to the date of the dinner, the lower the price goes by $100.
Not surprisingly, there are a lot of people who couldn't stand to wait for Next El Bulli tickets to come down in price — as of this writing 46 of the 73 tables, many of them for the $5000 maximum price (compared to about $800 for a regular pair of Next El Bulli tickets, though most of that will be tax deductible as a donation) have sold for a total of $215,000. Odds are the entire block will sell out later today, bringing in around $350,000 for the hospital in little over a day. Next's food fascinates, but it's hard not to think that Next's radically innovative business models will prove equally important and influential for the restaurant industry and its extensive charitable involvement over the years to come.