I Have Reservations!

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

"What do you mean you don't have a table?!"

"Ma'am, it's 9:00 Friday night, we simply don't have a table. I'm sorry."

The the lady yells, makes a scene, demands that she is a personal friend of the owner (he's never heard of her), ruins the dining experience of everyone else there, and is generally, an ass.

We've all seen it, and some of us have been it or with it, but let's think about the "it" for a minute. Reservations are there to guarantee you a seat, and early enough, the best seat in the house. It promises a table on the busiest of nights. Thus, how is it not fair that the restaurant not have a table when everyone else was sure to call ahead? Answer: it's perfectly fair that you not get a table.

This is preaching to the choir, I'm sure each of you know good restaurant decorum, but remember a few things.
  • Some restaurants, especially the newest, trendiest ones, will probably have a wait regardless of your reservation. You're promised a table, no worries, it just may not be at the exact time you wanted.
  • Get there early, you might be able to get seated early.
  • If you are early or your table isn't ready, take some time at the bar and check out the menu.
  • Don't make scene, it bothers other patrons, annoys the wait staff, upsets the host/hostess, and may embarass your dining companions.
  • You may want a specific table, make sure you note that in the reservation.
  • Check out the website first if they have one, some places require reservations months in advance. However, on average, call at least 5-7 days ahead.
  • Do not slip the host or hostess a $20. This is just tacky. Sure it may score you a table, but ten to one, the hostess may just give you a quizzical look of, "Is this guy serious?"


  1. Great advice!

    I will say one thing on the other side of this though. I think I am very understanding about waiting in a restaurant. If I don't have a reservation, I am prepared to camp out for a while. If I do, I understand that things happen and the restuarant can't kick people out of their table if they're not leaving. I wouldn't want them to do that to me, either.

    That said, I do prefer that if I have a reservation and I end up waiting for more than 20-30 minutes for a table after my reservation time that (1) the hostess at least acknowledge with an apology and a brief explanation (i.e., the party at your table is still finishing up) and (2) a comped glass of wine or drink.

    I'm not going to whine and complain if I don't get these things. I will still sit and wait like a good girl. But I will have much good will towards a restaurant that cares for little waiting me like that, because making a reservation and then still waiting 45 minutes or more for a table is kind of unfortunate.

    Of course, if they have a bar then I usually am so happy to hang at the bar I don't even notice a wait.

  2. Ha! Great post, Garrett.

    Not to mention, ten to one you'll be "discussed" in the kitchen [and then, who knows what'll end up in your gazpacho?].

  3. Do people really do the slip-of-a-$20-bill??? Seriously? I always thought that was a farce or something only certain people did!

    Great tips!

  4. KT- Great advice, I totally agree. After waiting for more thatn 30 minutes, you should get comped your drinks at the bar.

    Karina - I never worry about funkiness to my food. If they got caught, the amount of fines would be enormous, plus a few people would get fired.

    Jen- Yeah, it happens. Luckilly the hostess rejected it and spurned him, telling him he would just have to make reservations next time. Good girl!


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