Two hotel professionals argue over no-reservation policy


It’s always the way to go, go against the grain and you’re going to get people to complain that things were better as they were, and restaurants that don’t enforce a reservation policy are no different. . Truly popularized only in the past decade or so, some people think this position of trust means more chance for flexibility and table-grabbing on a whim, while others see it as an arrogant way of treating loyal customers. .

Whether you’re on the team or not, it’s not hard to see why some of London’s most popular restaurants have a strict walk-in policy. This way there is no faff without diners without a show, it is possible to cut extra tables when the kitchen is overwhelmed, and the restaurant has essentially all the power to keep its dining room full as long as the punters. will line up outside.

The alternative, of course, is to bill diners before they arrive to make sure there aren’t any empty seats, which isn’t always a popular decision either. We spoke to two hospitality industry experts to get a sense of why they might be for or against the lack of a restaurant reservation policy. To say that the results were polarizing is to say it politely, but we cannot deny that we love the passion and conviction with which each one defends their cause.

Still not sure if you are for or against not being able to book your favorite fanyc restaurant or even your local down the street? Let Polpo restaurateur and owner Russell Norman try to convince you that they are not a bad thing, before reading the Joe Warwick case (author and restaurant critic) where he says policies like these “don’t. not aimed at adults ”. Once you’ve read both sides of the story, it’s time to choose your side – for or against? Let us know in the comments below.

Why only going into restaurants is a good thing: Popular restaurants are hard to find whether they take reservations or not, says Polpo owner Russell Norman

The question I am asked more than anyone else as a restaurateur is: “Why don’t you take reservations?”

My response surprises people: “We take reservations. ”Of the five restaurants we operate, four accept lunch reservations and you can reserve dinner at two of them. What people really want to know is why they can’t book a table for six on Friday night for Alice’s birthday. Well, that’s a good question.

Casual neighborhood restaurants need to do two things: be casual and serve the neighborhood. A party of six is ​​unlikely to head to the West End on a whim for a meal at a location that doesn’t accept reservations. They will choose one where they can book. This allows the helpless place to serve diners who live, work or play in the area and who will enter on a whim.

One complaint is that not taking reservations is a trend and too many places are on the bandwagon. But casual no-reservation diners like Anchor & Hope, Barrafina, Vinoteca, and Wagamama have been doing this for decades.

Long waits are frustrating. So I have lunch in Spuntino because I know I can get a seat right away, I skip 1pm at Koya because it’s their busiest time and head to Barrafina at 6pm to avoid the queues. Popular restaurants are difficult to enter, whether or not they take reservations. Interestingly, people who complain about the wait at Polpo, Pitt Cue Co or Bone Daddies often protest that they can’t get a reservation at Dabbous or Balthazar…

We need more places with a no-reservation policy so that the choice is wider, the queues shorter and the balance of power shifts towards the customer.

Finally, if you can, bend the rules. Some restaurants will make exceptions for regulars. I spoke to Ken Friedman about it. The Spotted Pig NYC (which he co-owns) doesn’t take reservations and Ken was telling me that Bill Clinton is a regular. I asked Ken if Clinton was waiting his turn like everyone else. “Of course not, we seat it directly.” I asked him what he said to customers who complain that someone is skipping the line. “I tell them he’s the fucking president of the United States. “

Russell Norman is restaurateur and author of Polpo – A Venetian Cookbook (of sorts)

Why only going to restaurants is a bad thing: My little free time is far too precious to waste waiting for a table, says food critic Joe Warwick

Like regular hangovers, trendy pants, and learning new dance steps, the older I get, the less appealing to restaurants without reservations.

Having recently become a father, I have started to appreciate the little free time I have and that it is far too precious to waste it waiting for a table when, with a little anticipation, I can arrive at the restaurant, m immediately sit down and order. Show me a long queue for a restaurant and I’ll show you a line of carefree souls who don’t have to rush around looking for babysitters and get up early the next morning. (Maybe what I hate more than restaurants without reservations are the lucky ones who still have time to queue for them.)

If that gives the impression that spontaneity is no longer part of my restaurant life, it’s because it isn’t. Beyond fatherly responsibilities, when I review a restaurant that does not take reservations, reserving a table is like showing up for dinner unpleasantly early, when it is served in a retirement home, instead to be able to eat in a more civilized hour. Beyond that, when I eat out with friends or on business, time is always of the essence – why waste it?

Standing in a bar drinking is one of my favorite things, but only when it’s my choice and when I can choose where. Instead of having to drink in the crowded enclosure that is the typical bar-restaurant, when all I really want is to sit down and continue dinner. But restaurateurs love the idea because, aside from not having to pay someone to answer the phone, or even bother to have a phone in some cases, their revenues are skyrocketing.

In short, restaurants without reservations are not intended for adults. Forget the waffle about such outposts promoting casual and fun dining, refusing to take reservations is like selecting a younger audience, turning the tide and increasing profits. It’s about making the business decision to effectively turn down anyone who doesn’t have the time or inclination to take care of their dinner. These days that includes me.

Joe Warwick is a former restaurant critic for Metro and the author of Where Chefs Eat

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