(Bloomberg) -- If there’s one kind of restaurant proliferating in New York right now, it’s the kind where you have to be a member to walk in. Witness the cars lining up outside Major Food Group’s new $30,000 ZZ’s Club, which offers the world’s first private Carbone dining room. Then take in the crowds at Casa Cipriani downtown and Core midtown and note the popularity of the AmEx Black Card clubhouse  Centurion New York.

Now, another of the city’s hottest new restaurants is embracing aspects of a members club. Gjelina, the Los Angeles transplant that launched to great fanfare in NYC in January 2023—only to close 30 days later due to a fire—will feature house accounts when it reopens this spring.

A throwback to a Mad Men world of dining, house accounts confer a personal credit line upon the holder along with VIP status. In addition to being able to flex with a smooth, bold “Just put it on my tab” nod, such diners will be granted insider perks. These often include private phone numbers that can deliver same-day reservations and passes to events that outsiders generally have to pay for—if they can get in. That’s an especially valuable service at a restaurant as hot as Gjelina, whose dining room (open from 8 a.m. to midnight) is particularly revered for daytime service. (This might be one of history’s few restaurants with house accounts that stir intense action at breakfast time.)

“Offering a limited number of Gjelina NY house accounts allows me the opportunity to get to know a core group of locals who love what we do before we even open,” says Shelley Armistead, chief executive officer of the Gjelina Group. In its brief pre-fire moment, the NoHo kitchen gained fervent followings with dishes like buckwheat lemon ricotta pancakes, plates of mortadella with fennel jam, and potato-confit garlic pizza.

Armistead hammered out the idea with Ben Leventhal, a co-founder of Resy and Eater. Blackbird, Leventhal’s new dining loyalty platform, will provide the tech support that goes into launching and maintaining the accounts. 

Gjelina’s $5,000 Friend Tier will give diners a house account that carries a tab of that size, plus a phone number to make priority reservations.Participation in the $10,000 Family Tier includes double the tab, as well as invitations to pre-opening events and tastings, and a special rate at the group’s hotel Vitorrja in Venice Beach, California. Each tier can be replenished. Armistead is capping initial membership at 150 accounts. 

Besides getting to know her regulars better, Armistead had a more elemental reason for starting these accounts: They’ll give her access to capital she needs to reopen. The cost of the fire was “seven digits,” she says. “To cover the insurance shortfall, we [looked] for a way to finish the construction without diluting existing investors.” 

“I think restaurants must think about new ways of raising money and generating sustainable, predictable and robust revenue streams,” adds Leventhal. “This program with Gjelina speaks to that opportunity.”

The concept of raising money from member-like guests was embraced by some restaurant operators during the pandemic. Lindsay and Michael Tusk, whose Bay Area spots include the three-Michelin-starred Quince in San Francisco, started membership club Quince & Co. that, for $5,000, included a dining credit. Among those who signed up was YouTube.com co-founder Steve Chen.

Leventhal applauds the intimacy that comes with a house account and has his eyes on expanding Blackbird’s program to other restaurants. “It’s a way to break down some of the barriers and systems that have eroded the direct relationship restaurants used to have with their guests—and make hospitality feel old-school again,” he says. 

A house account can also streamline the dining experience by making it easier to depart as soon as you’ve finished.

The Uber-style dine-and-dash concept has been adopted by small restaurants through such point-of-sale systems as Toast through which diners can pay via their phones; Toast offers a house account option. Danny Meyer, founder of Union Square Hospitality Group and Shake Shack Inc., has said that the restaurant group’s chief technology officer, Kelly MacPherson, is working on a check-free system; a USHG spokesperson says it’s not yet ready to be implemented.

Armistead says she’s would love to get such a valuable, time-saving perk offered to Gjelina patrons as well.

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