Wednesday, June 9, 2010

No Reservations

Taking a day off from more serious legal topics, let's consider the trend reported by the New York Times today that an increasing number of restaurants are refusing to take reservations and are seating people on a first come, first served basis.

The Times and some of the restaurateurs involved suggest that the no-reservation system is more "democratic" than taking reservations. That's obviously rubbish. Last time I checked, anyone who was capable of paying for dinner at a restaurant was also capable of making a reservation -- all it takes is a telephone or an Internet connection. Reservations are hardly the preserve of some inaccessible elite.

The message sent by a restaurant that won't take reservations is "we don't give a damn how long you have to wait for a table -- it's no skin off our nose if you have an unpleasant waiting experience." The only thing worse than a restaurant that won't take reservations is a popular restaurant that won't take reservations. A popular pizza restaurant in DC -- I won't mention the name, but it's near the Cathedral -- doesn't take reservations, and while it does have good pizza, if you want to eat that pizza you have to spend at least an hour, usually more, waiting for a table, and that's if you go during the week. I don't go their often.

As the Times points out, taking reservations entails costs, and not taking them also means that customers are likely to spend longer in the restaurant's bar and order more drinks, which are a high markup item. So restaurants are just making money by not taking reservations, at the expense of their customers, who have a less pleasant experience.

If a restaurant usually doesn't have much of a wait for a table, not taking reservations is acceptable. Restaurants that refuse to take reservations and that expect their customers to wait for more than an hour before even sitting down might as well turn themselves into airlines -- the real experts in customer non-appreciation.

1 comment:

Marc said...

And don't forget Pasta Mia, which also doesn't take reservations. So tasty, though, and they don't have a bar, so they're not fleecing you in that way.