You may not realize it, but there are a number of things you should consider while booking a table at a restaurant. Whether you’re a large party of 30 or more people or a table for two, there certain things to keep in mind that will make reserving at a restaurant easier for you…and for the restaurant as well.
When Making a Reservation Do…
Have all your information ready.
You will be asked the date (which is a given since you should know this ahead of time) and time you’d like to reserve. They will ask what name the reservation will be under. Full names are greatly appreciate to avoid any confusion or mix-ups, but Mr. Smith will usually do just fine. Know the exact number of people in your party so that the restaurant will know whether or not they will be able to accommodate you. Please be ready to provide your contact information (home phone number or cell phone number) so that the restaurant will be able to call you back to confirm your reservation. Specify any preferences (i.e. : a table by the window, a booth, near the bar) and mention any specifications (i.e. : serious food allergies, wheelchairs, surprise birthday party) so that the restaurant is aware of your likes and needs.
Call if there are any changes or modifications.
As soon as the restaurant has your reservation, they will keep it exactly as is, never assuming that anything will change. If you’d like to change the date, time, the number of people, or would like to cancel it all together the best thing to do is to call the restaurant to inform them of the changes. The same goes for if you’re going to be late and believe you won’t make it there at the exact time of your reservation. The sooner you call, the easier time the restaurant will have of accommodating you, even if you’re running late.
Keep your reservation time, especially for large parties.
If you’re a large group (let’s say 20 people or more – depending on the size of the restaurant), make sure that you keep your reservation time. Restaurants have a certain number of staff members at certain times and if you make a reservation during a period where there aren’t normally a lot of customers coming in, they may have fewer staff members than on, let’s say, a Saturday night. If you reserve at one of those quiet times, the restaurant will either add on more employees or keep them longer so that you will get the service you deserve. The later you are, or if you don’t show up all together, you’re keeping employees at work longer (whether it be bar staff, waitstaff, or kitchen staff). If you are going to arrive late, then call the restaurant. They will really appreciate the heads-up.
When Making a Reservation Don’t…
Make reservations for more people than you really are.
On busy nights, restaurants try to maximize their seating capacity in order to accommodate anyone and everyone. If you make a reservation for a party of 50 people when you know on some certain level that you’ll only be 30 people, it can create a lot of problems within the restaurant when your group of 30 arrives. Not only are you taking away other guests chances at reserving a table that night, but the restaurant will be losing out on customers therefore having less sales for that day. A restaurant is a business after all and although they are happy to have large parties, it’s a shame to lose out on other potential reservations because they don’t have the exact number of people for your reservation. A difference of 2 or 3 people won’t make a big difference, but when it starts to get to 5 to 10 to 20 people, it makes a huge difference to the restaurant. Also, for your benefit, having the exact number of people will be easier for the restaurant to organize your table/tables. You’ll be more comfortable if you do. If you are unsure of the number of people because you are reserving in advance, call the restaurant to give them daily/weekly updates on the number of people and inform them the day before of your exact head count.
Be wishy-washy about the time.
Be direct when choosing a time for your reservation. Giving a time like “Around 7:00-7:30” or “At 6:05” is too vague for the restaurant. Most places only take reservations on the hour or half hour (i.e. : five o’clock, six-thirty, etc) and some will take on the quarter hour. Be prepared to pick an exact time.
Blame the Hostess for the restaurant’s reservation policies.
Some restaurants have restrictions and limitations for reservations. They may warn you that you only have the table for an hour and a half or two hours because of other reservations or that there is no place at the time or day you are requesting. As a customer, I understand that this isn’t always ideal, but it’s not the Hostess’ fault. Getting angry at them will not help your situation. Politely ask if there are any possible solutions and if there are none, you need to be calm and accept the situation as is. Reserving in advance will certainly give you the upper hand, but reserving an hour before you’d like to dine out on a Saturday night will never guarantee you a table at a busy restaurant. It’s never the Hostess’ fault, but if you feel like they are not treating you fairly, calmly ask to speak with a manager to be 100% sure that what the Hostess is telling you is accurate.
Threaten the restaurant.
I’ve seen it happen many times where a guest will threaten to never return if we can’t accommodate them. Words like “I’m coming to spend $200! What do you mean you don’t have place for me at 6 o’clock on Saturday night?” and “That table is already reserved? If you don’t move that reservation to another table, we’re never coming back!” are not appropriate when trying to make a reservation. This tends to happen when people reserve last minute and are surprised that the restaurant is completely booked for the night. There is no way a restaurant will ever call another reservation to tell them we can no longer keep their reservation so that the restaurant can take your reservation instead. Threatening the restaurant is in bad form and expecting them to bend over backwards for you when it’s impossible to do so is unrealistic. Remember, you’re not the only guests hoping to dine there.
Hang up before giving all your information and expect to have a reservation.
Plenty of times, people are in a rush to make reservations. It may be on their way home from work, or on their short lunch breaks, but it’s important to have enough time to complete the reservation. Sometimes when guests call, they ask if there is place on a certain day at a certain time, they’ll give their name and then hang up. This leaves the restaurant stumped. What do they do? They don’t have the number of people or phone number and can’t possibly make a proper reservation. If you want to be 100% sure that you’ve made a reservation, wait until the Hostess is finished asking all the necessary questions before hanging up. If you call and say “I want to make a reservation for 2 people for tonight at 7 o’clock” and the Hostess says “Yes, we have a table available”, don’t just say “Ok, thanks!” and hang up. They will assume that you are just checking the availabilities and will be calling later to take the actual reservation. If you show up that night at 7 o’clock that night, the Hostess will not have your reservation, so make sure to give all your information.
Making sure that you follow the do’s and don’ts of making reservations at a restaurant will help you to have the experience you deserve and keep you on good terms with the restaurant. Proper etiquette, especially as a regular customer, can only benefit you at the end. As much as you expect the restaurant to keep your reservation and follow your restrictions and preferences, the restaurant expects you to hold up your end of the deal and to respect their policies.
So, reserve responsibly and enjoy the experience!