Is the rise of the no-reservations policy a bad thing for diners?
A restaurant is in the business of providing hospitality, and that is where its focus should remain. Of course, a no-bookings policy is great from the point of view of restaurant operations. Establishments don’t have to worry about annoying no-shows, they can ask guests to wait at the bar and generate more drink sales, they won’t need as many receptionists, and they can definitely take in more diners. It’s great for business. That said, hospitality should come first. A restaurant exists to serve guests what should be a truly great dining experience. And when guests are willing to make the effort to plan and reserve a table at a restaurant days, weeks or even months ahead of time, but are then denied—well, that’s just not very hospitable. If someone wants to take their in-laws or their 90-year-old grandma to dinner, they probably don’t want to perch at a crowded bar ordering drinks while they wait for a table to become available.
Calvin is the proprietor of Lily & Bloom
Restaurants that don’t take reservations have revitalised the dining scene; running a small business has become easier and diners are gaining new experiences. By only accepting walk-ins, restaurants create demand and scarcity of seats at the optimal desired dining time, which forces guests to be more flexible. Most people, myself included, love to dine at 8pm. If everyone ate then, restaurants would only get one seating per evening, causing revenue to be half what it could be if they turned over each seat twice. And as a restaurant owner, it’s frustrating to turn walk-ins away due to tables being reserved, only for the guests not to arrive. When we opened Yardbird in July 2011, people were angry that we didn’t take bookings. I believe that because we stood our ground, the dining landscape has become freer, more fun and more spontaneous. Sometimes it’s nice not to plan and just go with the flow (and have a drink at the bar while waiting for a table).
Lindsay is the co-owner of Yardbird and Ronin