Dinner Reservations: Out

Ooh-hoo-hoo, Tom Sietsema, food critic for the Washington Post, heartily bemoans the waning number of restaurants that accept reservations:

Restaurateurs say they don’t take reservations because they want to avoid no-shows and latecomers, which eat into their bottom line, but also because they know they can pack in more diners. Indeed, the policy, which clearly favors host over guest, is creating tension and buzz; as different as the aforementioned eateries are, they all play to full houses. It also illustrates an economy that has rebounded. In lean times, a business wouldn’t dare make it difficult for you to use them.

As someone who is chronically unable to plan ahead, with friends and family who function similarly, I support the no reservations thing. Let us moody procrastinators who never know what we’ll want to do until the hour before we do it get the same chance as the rest of you!

I don’t know the last time I ate at a restaurant where I made a reservation. Have I ever made a dinner reservation in my life? You know what, I did it for a date once when I was 23 years old and then the guy stopped by my apartment beforehand to tell me he didn’t think it was working out (second date, cool). NEVER AGAIN. You just never know (who will break up with you before dinner).

Sietsema, for his part, feels otherwise:

But hospitality takes a holiday at establishments that don’t book. In effect, these restaurants are saying, “It’s more important for us to fill every seat than to treat diners like guests.” Think about it. Who invites people to dinner and then makes them wait until the cook is good and ready to let you in, much less eat? By not guaranteeing tables, restaurants dismiss whole groups of would-be patrons. The masses include senior citizens who might not be able to stand for long or don’t go out after dark, parents who may be reluctant to shell out $20 an hour for child care for a meal that may or may not happen, and suburbanites reluctant to drive in for the chance to be turned away.

But old people and parents just go to dinner early! That’s what they do. There is baby hour at restaurants in New York and that hour is 6:30–7:30pm. It’s a magical thing.

Actually on the weekends I have been going to restaurants at odd hours lately and I feel like it’s really working out for me! Breakfast at home around 11am or noon, then lunch at 4pm! Just glide right in, no wait anywhere. Then some random desperate thing for dinner around 9, where it’s like, “Am I even hungry? I don’t know. I should eat something, right?” Popcorn? Ice cream? Possibilities are endless. The key to this lifestyle, though, is to sleep 12 hours a night. Again: truly recommend.

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