Restaurant reservations — kindly keep ’em!


Ahem, excuse me while I pull my soapbox over to the computer. Today, I am going to point out what, I hope for many of you, is the obvious: restaurant reservations are a commitment. When you make one, you’ve promised a business to bring a certain number of patrons to their door at a specific time. They, in turn, have promised to hold that table for your party no matter how many other people call asking for it.

It’s like buying a concert ticket – unless you sell your ticket to a scalper, the seat will be yours. The only difference at a restaurant is no one expects you to pay in advance. (I know that some restaurants expect a credit card number and charge for no-shows, but they are not the majority. If you are interested, you can read more about that here at Serious Eats).

So why, then, do so many people think it’s okay to call three or four restaurants and make reservations for the same time on the same night so that they can have their choice of places to go when the last minute arrives? Although I’ve heard maitre d’s say that the worst culprits are single men who make reservations at a range of popular restaurants so that they can impress their dates by offering to take them wherever they like, in my experience it’s women who make multiple reservations the most often.

Case in point: I have an acquaintance who likes to organize big nights out for a social circle. I’ve told her repeatedly why making multiple reservations for 6 or 8 people and then not showing up is disrespectful and financially harmful to restaurateurs but she just doesn’t seem to get it. In fact, she doesn’t even call the restaurants to cancel the booking once she and her friends have made their mind up about where to go. Blerg!

I know my readers are too sophisticated and considerate to do this kind of stuff so I ask you to pass this post around to anyone you hear of who doesn’t get that leaving a table empty for 30 minutes on a Friday or Saturday night while the maitre d’ waits for you is just as egregious as skipping a dentist’s appointment. If you can’t get there, then I think you should call within a reasonable cut off time (say three hours in advance).

What do you think?


23 Responses to Restaurant reservations — kindly keep ’em!

  1. Terry says:

    Wow — I absolutely could not imagine blowing off a reservation intentionally. Why wouldn’t that seem like any other appointment? My family is full of servers (past and present), so you’re apt to get a black eye (well at least a black reputation) for doing so.

  2. People make multiple reservations?! I’m stunned. It would never occur to me to do this. But to be honest, I’m more a bumpkin than sophisticated and considerate. If I’m going to a restaurant that’s fancy enough to require reservations, I’m so gall-darned excited it would take an accident, the swine flu or death to keep me for arriving at the destination on time.

    I can imagine the financial damage no-shows inflict, especially in these tough times. It’s jaw dropping how inconsiderate and self-focused some people can be.

  3. Morgan says:

    I think that it is extremely rude and disrespectful as well. It’s as if someone has RSVP’d to a dinner party and you’re waiting for them to show up and they never come. Later you call them and all they say is “Oh, I couldn’t make it.” How is it really any different just because it is a restaurant?

  4. Amy Snider says:

    How Rude!
    I call even if I am going to be a few minutes late. I guess that is why a lot of restaurants don’t take reservations any more….

  5. Jamie says:

    Dana, I agree with you totally. It’s an appointment so you better be there. HOWEVER, I have made reservations at certain restaurants for special occasions and I show up at the appropriate time and somehow, I have to wait 30 minutes to be seated. What good is a reservation then? Who knows, maybe I had to wait for my table because someone else was late for their reservation and it threw the whole schedule off!

    • Grady says:

      Jamie- How would you feel if the restaurant manager came to your table as you were enjoying coffee & dessert and asked you to hurry up because you had been there for 2 1/2 hours and were holding up someone elses reservation?

  6. Rebecca says:

    Completely rude. It’s surprising how many people feel entitled towards restaurants, like they don’t have to show any common courtesy. Being a no-show for a reservation is a lot like shoplifting from a store. You’ve stolen the potential for profit.

    One solution I’ve seen is that some restaurants here take your credit card number to hold the reservation and charge a fee if you’re a no-show. You have 24 hours to cancel without the fee.

  7. Dara Bunjon says:

    May I address Jamie’s comment about waiting 30 minutes for a table even though she had a reservation. There are many mitigating factors let me count a couple.

    1. The first table arrived 15 minutes for their reservation hence they are tying up your table.

    2. The table before you believes that since they bought dinner they have bought the table for the entire evening and linger. Most restaurants use a formula for reservations i.e. at 2 top would be 1 1/2 hours, a 4 top would be 2 hours, and large parties 6-8 around 3 hours.

  8. Jamie says:

    Dara, that is good insight. I know that there must be a reason I am waiting for a table. Sometimes I get frustrated thinking I made a reservation and I still have to wait. Although I am sure I am not going to be waiting as long as those without reservations.

  9. Sarah says:

    Thank God I’ve never been a restauranteur – that is downright disrespectful to the staff and owners of all the establishments you book at! I totally agree with charging a fee for no-shows, especially when there are large groups involved! I completely agree with Morgan: “It’s as if someone has RSVP’d to a dinner party and you’re waiting for them to show up and they never come”.

  10. I think people who make multiple reservations or who don’t cancel reservations as soon as they know they don’t need it—at least 24 hours in advance—should be drawn and quartered, or at least treated to three applications of squassation and strappado.

  11. danamccauley says:

    Well, I seem to have struck a nerve today – love it! Especially since you seem to be unanimously in agreement with me.

    I can tell you as a kitchen widow (translation: the wife of a chef/restaurateur) that there are many, many people who take offence to being asked for their credit card to hold a reservation. It seems to be changing a bit as people get used to the request but it’s still a concern that restaurateurs have.

    Recently I made reservations at a small restaurant and they asked me, very sauvely and respectfully, if I expected to need the table for more than 2 hours. I thought it was very clever of them to try and avoid finding themselves in the situation Jamie described.

    What I do find offensive – and Susur in Toronto did this to me on several occasions – is when I make a reservation and I’m told to call back the day before to confirm. I take my commitments seriously so I told them each time that I considered my booking firm when I called the first time and that if they would like to call me to confirm (as many restaurants do) that they were welcome to follow up but that they’d see me on the appointed time on the appointed day.

  12. Terry says:

    My dentist does that to me, Dana. I’m never home when they leave the reminder call that my appointment is the next day, so they leave a message asking me to call back to confirm. Like you mentioned about your reservation, we have an appointment, I will be there!!

  13. Cheryl A says:

    Funny, I just made a reservation for dinner tonight and they informed me that I would only get the table for 2 hours. While I can understand where they are coming from, I thought it was a bit rude to point it out. I also thought it strange because we won’t even be sitting down until 8:15. It’s not a late night dinner place.

  14. danamccauley says:

    Yeah, there are nice ways to tell someone they need the table back and then there are rude ways.

    In Italy one time at Cibo, the famous Florentine restaurant, we were asked to leave our table and go across the courtyard to the bar for our dessert since they needed our table. We were a group of four who had ordered lavishly but were obviously tourists and not locals. The people who sat down at our table once we’d been turfed seemed very well known by the staff. To say that we felt miffed would be an understatement.

  15. Hélène says:

    I never heard people doing that. I would never do that. This is terrible. I even call if I’m one minute late.

  16. Maris says:

    I think it’s A-OK to make multiple reservations if you’re bringing a group or other guests and want to give them a choice in advance; but I think in this case you still need to call the restaurant and cancel within 24-48 hours. I mean, you wouldn’t make plans with two friends and ditch one of them at the last minute because something better came along!

  17. Maris says:

    I also don’t see the harm in NOT making a reservation and having a drink at the bar for an hour while you wait.

  18. whatsonmyplate says:

    It never occurred to me that people don’t bother cancelling. It just makes sense to make the call!

  19. deeba says:

    Bad manners & bad upbringing. I would never do something like that. Tch tch…yes, you certainly touched a raw nerve!

  20. I completely agree – it’s rude and disrespectful. One phonecall will not hurt!

    (Dana, RE: Grilled fava at 101 Cookbooks:
    I’ve tried grilled edamame and they were delicious!)

  21. danamccauley says:

    Happy Vegan Lady – thanks for popping by and sharing your edamame tip!

  22. Thanks a lotI really liked reading this. It makes me want to start my own weblog! Just what subject though? I am a dentist by trade but cannot imagine most people wishing to read about dentistry? Maybe I am wrong! Restaurant in Ilfracombe

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