Restaurant Reservations; Why Timing is Everything 1
Guests

Restaurant Reservations; Why Timing is Everything

Have you ever been to the doctor or the dentist?

You arrive a couple of minutes before your appointment only to be greeted with a smile and told that there has been a bit of a delay and you’ll need to wait for your appointment. Or you could come back another day.

And you’re only the second booking.

Well, the same is true in most restaurants. There is only a finite number of employees both on the floor attending to guests needs and in the kitchen to prepare the dishes.

So, when a couple of tables turn up late or early, or a couple of guests monopolise the time of the waiting team, things can easily start to get delayed. But, for some reason in a restaurant, guests don’t have the same patience as they do when they are a patient. The guests seem to think that, somehow, a restaurant can magically summon infinite resources (and patience) in order to cope with the changes in demand.

(I have often wondered if surge pricing is an answer!)

If you went to your dentist, you would expect your dentist to see you, even if it meant you had to wait. You would (rarely) expect an unknown, relief dentist to step in and fulfil your appointment. And while dentists may be interchangeable, the team in a restaurant is not. Dishes are not teeth and a relief (or new) member of the team needs time to get up to speed on the operation, the food and the details. Even if you could get additional team members at the drop of a hat, they would not be able to perform at anything like the required level.

So, why is it when it comes to mealtimes that guests in a restaurant seem to think that the world is ending when they can’t be seen the moment they arrive – even if they are early or late, or other factors have delayed proceedings? Or that new members of the team should somehow have all the training they need to perform perfectly from day one? Why do guests become irate, rude, entitled just because there will be a few minutes delay? Why does the waiting team have to suffer their indignation?

Like all good comedies, timing is everything in a restaurant. This is why the majority of them use reservation systems which help automate the scheduling of tables based on “yield management” so that they can try to ensure a smooth operation.

You may have encountered these systems online – click to book here – and have been presented with a series of available times. Your preferred time may not be available, and there’s a reason for that. It is because the restaurant is at full occupancy at that time, so calling after you book a different time to ask if they can move it to when you’d like to visit will probably be met with a “no.” Please don’t be offended.

And turning up when you want to and not when you booked – even after you have had a conversation with the restaurant and been told that, no, an 8 pm booking is not possible because they are too busy, so 8.30 pm is the best that can be offered – can send the whole operation off the rails spoiling both your enjoyment and the enjoyment of other diners.

But who gets the blame? The restaurant. Who gets the bad reviews? The restaurant.

So, dear guest, please take a little step back and remember that the team are people and have only finite resources and abilities, and, like your dentist, may take a little longer to see you on some occasions, especially when you (or other guests) have not honoured their part of the contract (or some of the team have simply ghosted). And if you give them the space to perform, instead of trying to micromanage them, you’ll probably get a better experience.

Thanks for reading this article about the restaurant business. I hope you liked it! If there is anything you'd like me to discuss or write about just let me know in the comments or via the contact form.

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