Friday Question of the Day – Should Restaurants Take Reservations?

Photo by flickr user Christina Saull

Along the lines of the famous Yogi Berra quote: “Nobody goes there anymore it’s too crowded” – I was talking to a friend about Estadio (1520 14th Street, NW in Logan) and he said none of his friends go there because it’s too crowded and they don’t take reservations. So I guess first I should ask – are you noticing many new restaurants that also don’t take reservations? What other popular restaurants don’t take reservations? Do you like the idea of no reservations or do you think restaurants should take them?

65 Comment

  • saf

    I often forget to make reservations, or am uncertain how many I will have, so cannot make reservations.

    Still, I find places that won’t take reservations, or will only take them for large groups, crazy-making. It makes a difference in where I choose to go.

  • RAVE: I much prefer places that takes reservations.
    RANT: I hate places that takes reservations for X o’clock, but can’t/won’t seat my party until Y or Z o’clock.

  • figby

    Estadio takes early reservations — like, before 7 p.m. or something. So if I am ever getting out of work early, I take advantage of that.

    Open Table is good, even if restaurants hate it.

    • Estadio takes reservations before 6:00 pm on week days only.

      In my experience, Open Table sometimes indicates no reservations are available, but when I call the restaurant directly tables are available.

      • +1 for that. I’ve got to imagine that a lot of restaurants only post a certain subset of their tables for Opentable availability. I wonder how reliable people are that use opentable?

  • Well said. You are a true gentlemen and, I suspect, a scholar. As Eileen Battersby said of William Gaddis, upon publication of A Frolic of His Own, you are “the all-seeing Swift of our messy times.” Bravo.

    • Oh, PoP, why did you remove the comment to which caballero was responding? His humor is lost now without the context. No one here is so delicate that a few f-words would offend us.

  • …Going with friends to NYC next weekend, had reservations at Millesime for 9 pm 10/29/2011. Got a call this evening canceling our reservations because they will be hosting a private party instead…NICE, and we are screwed.

    • Yeah, because there are so few restaurants in NYC…

      • unless, knazna was making a trip to NYC and had his/her heart set on this restaurant for several weeks/months. I know when I travel, there are restaurants that I definitely want to check out. I would be annoyed that some restaurant cancelled my reservation, particularly if I knew I couldn’t get back to that city for awhile.

  • Should places like The Diner take reservations? No. Should places like Estadio take reservations yes. I think it really depends on the type of restaurant.

    What annoys me is when I have a reservation and yet my whole party isn’t there yet, places that won’t seat me till my party arrives…I’ve got the dang reservation, the people are coming, just seat me already and they will be along!

    • me

      Yes! Agree with everything you said 100%.

    • AND! when you’re at the table waiting, you’re probably going to order a drink or something, so the restaurant will start making money off your table the minute they seat one person in the party. that rule drives me nuts.

    • …or they’ll trickle in (all or some) over the next 45 minutes and your party tie up the table for 3+ hours. I’m just saying, I see the restaurants’ point.

      • +1 to this. As someone who works in a restaurant, having non-full parties seated can be quite annoying. It’s a busy night, your stragglers don’t show up for 30 minutes (happened to me on 3 separate tables one night), you order maybe 1 drink and/or an app, your party arrives you have your dinner for hour 30, and…I miss my next turn during the rush, so I get a deuce instead of the pricey 4 top I should have.

        TL;DR: Make sure your friends are punctual.

        • +1, but restaurants are stupid and it aggravates customers if 3 out of 4 of your diners are present and they don’t seat you. the table is empty anyway and you’ll obviously be eating regardless of whether that extra person shows up.

          • But if a larger party arrives and is seated one or two people at a time it is difficult to assure them good service as it is not realistic to expect their server to simply not be busy to handle drinks as each guest arrives.

          • Staggered service means stuff comes out at the wrong time. Tough for servers to keep everyone happy or on course, or even for the kitchen to coordinate courses. Someone in the party leaves dissatisfied and jumps on Chowhound or Yelp (probably the person who was late to begin with).

            I get annoyed by no exceptions for a lone straggler or two for a bigger party, but I sympathize with restaurants that need this kind of policy.

        • What is a deuce/4 top?

          I think I get the overall idea (fewer customers during x block of time?), but don’t understand the restaurant lingo.

    • I can understand how that would be annoying if you’re at an empty restaurant. The reason why restaurants do it is because they have no assurance that everyone in your group will show up, so empty seats means they’re not generating $$$.

      • Exactly..If there is a reservation for a party of 12 (and the restaurant pushes let’s say.. 3 tables together) and lets people trickle in and sit before the whole party is ready it can be an issue for servers. First, each person wants to order a drink as soon as they sit which means the server is taking each order individually and dropping it off then having to get another one immediately after instead of just taking 12 orders at once and bringing them all back to the table together. Then, if the whole party doesn’t show up, people love to spread out especially if they see they were originally given space.. Women start putting their bags on the seat next to them, children have two chairs each for some reason and then magically a party of 8 is taking up space for 12. If the restaurant waited to seat them all together, then that last table could have been pulled away and used for a different group.

  • A freind of mine owns a very popular restaurant here in dc and said he doubles revenue by not taking revenues (this place has long waits, increasing bar revenue). They did start offering limited reservations on opentable though, and also before 6. I personally dont care about athe policy but will never wait more than 15 minutes.

    • by not taking reservations I mean

    • ah

      I totally understand the business justification from the restaurant side. But I don’t care enough to eat at even the hottest restaurant if I have no guarantee than I’m not going to have to wait an hour or two to eat.

      I’m fine letting people who have nothing better to do with their time than wait eat there. And when the place is no longer so hip the owner can suck it for the lack of loyal customers.

      So in short: It’s your restaurant, do what you want, but don’t expect to see me in line or after the lines die down.

      • That would be stupid for people to stand around for hours for food. Most people will go in, put their name and number on the list, and then head to a nearby bar until they get a call from the restaurant. Lots of restaurants will call you to let you know your table is ready, you can go or tell them no thanks and they’ll just call the next person.

        • ah

          Plenty of people do it.

          But even if you can spend your time doing something else, I’d much rather have the comfort of knowing when I can start eating and, therefore, when I am likely to end eating, whether because of a babysitter or a show or some other event.

      • if it’s really hip, you probably wouldn’t have much shot at making a reservation that you wanted anyway.

    • I suspect he’s not really doubling his revenue, particularly if you’re talking about a very long wait. I’ll wager that whatever drinks or appetizers a party orders at the bar while waiting an hour for a reservation ends up being the drinks or appetizers they would have ordered at their table had they been seated when they arrived. It all equals out. Not many people are going to spend an hour drinking at the bar and then sit down to drink more with dinner.

  • i just always try to go to places that aren’t crowded.

  • I wish Granville’s would take reservations but I am sure they make a lot more money without having to deal with it.

    • Ehh I personally like their system of calling you when the table is ready.

      Put your name down, go grab a drink somewhere else, and come back when your table is ready. I wish more places would call / text you instead of making you wait in the restaurant.

      • I second this. Esp. with bars right down the street. It has always worked out perfectly for me: put your name in, grab a beer somewhere else, come back in an hour or so for deliciousness.

  • I am less inclined to go where I can’t make a reservation. The one exception is Room 11 because it is very close to me, delicious, and I get that they are too small to make reservations practical. And, if the wait is too long, I just go elsewhere in the neighborhood.

  • If I want to take someone from out of time to a nice restaurant, I might balk at taking them to place X if I’m afraid it’ll be too crowded and we’ll have to wake a long time. In that case, I think I’d go to a place that would take my reservation.

    On the other hand, there are places like Lincoln that ONLY takes reservations for lunch of all things. That’s kind of overkill and strange.

    • When I want to take someone from out of time to a nice restaurant, I take them the The Restaurant at the End of The Universe.

  • It is a simple matter of money.

    People with reservations flake 25-30% of the time, leaving the restaurant with an empty table they would have otherwise had filled, and people would become irate if they had to leave a deposit for the reservation that they then lost if they didn’t show.

    For popular places that are filled without reservations, I wouldn’t take them either. Why would I purposely make a decision that would leave me with significantly less business.

    It is a sign of a very healthy business that benefits everyone, the resturant, the neighborhood the District, the DC treasury etc… something we should be happy about.

  • Matchbox doesn’t take them and its a little ridiculous. I can understand not taking reservations during the busy hour, but at other times? How can you plan a business lunch or dinner?

  • Reservations are for the convenience of a restaurant’s patrons. If a restaurant knows they’ll have more patrons than they know what to do with, whether or not they feel convenienced, it doesn’t bother with reservations.

    • figby

      So many restaurants in DC that opened hot and were impossible to get into (Policy, Masa 14) are now Groupon offers.

      DC is not cool enough, and if a girl with a clipboard at the front door says two hours, most people just won’t go back.

  • I 100% agree…you know whats better than Toki, which is essentially waiting 2 hours for some cup o’ noodle…pretty much anything. Also, sticky rice sucks even worse.

    • This was meant for le might fabe at 11:46

      • Prince Of Petworth

        Sorry I had to delete le might fabe’s comment – I hope most people know that language is obviously not acceptable. I’m sorry I didn’t catch it sooner.

        • Really, language…hey its your blog so you have a right to censorship (note le might fabe wasn’t making a personal attack on anyone)…and I have a right never to read your blog again.

          • Prince Of Petworth

            Just so people know what we are talking about – he told a restaurant to “suck his d***”. So I will def. censor language like that. And obviously you can read and visit whatever web sites you’d like. I wish you well on your journey.

          • If there are swear words on this blog, then for some people it might become NSFW.

            If people avoid this blog because of swear words and not wanting to get in trouble at work, then the blog would receive less traffic.

            Seems to me like a perfectly rational decision on PoP’s part.

          • +1. PoP has already been blocked at my office for foul language. Fortunately I get to work at home most of the time.

    • With these types of places, if you wait six months, the fad will have passed and they’ll either be easy to get into, or closed.

  • I think all restaurants should take reservations for 50% of the space. The other 50% is first come, first serve. Best of both worlds. And if you flake on a reservation, you move to the back of the first come, first serve line.

  • In the words of Kilgore Trout, this post is like a “transvestite hermaphrodite”.

  • Instead of going to dinner at, say 700pm on a weekday, try 6:45. Walked right in and seated immediately this week at the aforementioned establishment.

  • Maybe they don’t take reservations because it’s a cheap meal.

  • Honestly I prefer it when places don’t take reservations. It just makes it simpler.

  • i prefer a city which has restaurants with a variety of seating policies.

  • Right, I think this is a good compromise. Doesn’t even have to be 50% of tables for reservations. I just refuse to wait more than 30 minutes to be seated anywhere, and I’ll call ahead a week in advance if I have to in order to secure a reservation.

  • Non-contributing zero idiot.

  • I like the concept of the show “No Reservations.” He goes out and finds out of the way, holes in the wall, places to eat and things to do for visitors who want to “do as the locals.” The bf and I make it a point when we travel to see where Tony has eaten and what he did in the cities we visit. So far, all the suggestions have been spot on! OMG Swan Oyster Depot in SF, how I love thee. You gotta read his blog, too, he usually goes to more places than are shown on TV. That being said- I do understand why reservations are needed, and if we are serious about going someplace, or dining we a large group, we always make a reservation.

    Happy Friday! We’ll probably be at Hanks tonight- no reservations there!

  • As someone with a child who only gets to go out with the use of an expensive baby sitter, I wish all restaurants would at least offer up some number of reservations. My wife and I can’t just suck it up and risk the wait. I love Estadio, but never get to go.

    Someday, that place won’t be as popular and I will get to go again. As the restaurant supply goes up, the number of places not taking reservations will go down.

  • Well there’s restaurants like Rogue 24, Komi, Minibar, and Tabbard Inn (sun brunch) that without at least 10 days or 3 weeks reservation you’d never get in or would wait a long time. But I too am frustrated when spontaneously want to go out to dinner and am frustrated trying somewhere to get in while hungry! But understand it’s all about the profit and maximizing it to the establishment…so be…it.

    • I went to Rogue 24 on a Wed. night and there were a total of 8 diners all night – and I don’t really envision that changing.

  • Estadio isn’t that good. If not for the wait people would not go there, just another random place on 14th

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