Restaurant Reservations

In the case of almost every business, customers waiting in lines equates to lost efficiency and revenue. Interestingly, more and more restaurants in the food business are stopping the use of reservations. This can increase wait time and frustrate customers looking to eat at a restaurant. This frustration can be reasonably avoided if restaurants allow its customers to call ahead of time to see what the wait time is, or making a reservation. Why would any business, or restaurant, encourage an increase in waiting time and, consequently, dissatisfied customers?

 

A restaurants reservation policy is often based on the atmosphere they are looking for. Small, organic restaurants have become much more popular and are spreading across the country. Many of these restaurants don’t believe in reservations because they want to maintain a feeling of equality, and encourage people to wait and enjoy the atmosphere. Other reasons revolve around simple efficiency. If someone has a reservation at 7:00pm and shows up 30 minutes late, the 9:00pm party will have to wait. The amount of time spent with no one at the table leads to lost money.

 

What other reasons can you think of in favor, or against a restaurant using reservations? Are there any tests or criteria from our class that can be used to help make this decision?

Attached below is the link to an article about a hotel restaurants and their varying policy on reservations? How do these hotel policies align with your opinion?

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-6-buzziest-hotel-restaurants-in-l-a-new-york-and-san-francisco-1518717178?mod=searchresults&page=1&pos=7

9 thoughts on “Restaurant Reservations

  • February 22, 2018 at 12:40 am
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    Luke,

    This is a great topic that I think most people can relate to! Nothing is more annoying than walking into a restaurant with open tables that are reserved for a reservation, but it is also annoying when you want to make a reservation but they aren’t offered. There are definitely pros to each side of the argument here to support each case, and I’m not sure exactly which one would be best. It will almost always depend on the type of restaurant, but reservations could be helpful to make sure tables will be full at some point in the night. The problem with this is that when a table is empty because you are waiting on the next party, money is being lost, especially if there are walk-in’s waiting for a table. I have no personally experiences this, but some of my friends that work in restaurants say that reservations help the chef a lot. They say this because it lets the chef know exactly how much food needs to be ready to be cook for the day/night. Without this knowledge, some options might not be able to be offered, or food could go to waste, which leads to money just being wasted.

  • February 21, 2018 at 10:35 pm
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    Luke,

    I appreciate you bringing up this topic as I am a hostess during the summer, so this issue definitely hits home with me. The restaurant I work at is considered ‘up-scale’ and we highly recommend that our customers make reservations. That being said, nearly every night we have people walk-in as well. The issue with being in-limbo so-to-say with our reservation policy is that it is difficult to remember that reservations always hold priority. When there are open tables, it is hard to tell a customer that there are no tables available, but in fact that is true because you have to reserve it for the party coming in shortly.

    When I come in before opening hours, I spend about 30 minutes planning out the entire night and deciding exactly where all the customers will sit. The issue, as you can guess, is that people can overstay the average turn time for a table, which completely throws off the planning. The upside is that when people under stay the average turn time for a table, we have more availability in the restaurant that we can offer to walk-ins.

    In a small restaurant with a nice menu, reservations are imperative for the chef to know how much to prep each day. It is not uncommon that we run out of popular dishes because the kitchen only preps so much food each night. Without this benchmark number, prepping would be a very difficult task and we would either be short on food or be wasting food most of the time. Reservations also allow us to accommodate for large parties, that, if they were to just walk-in, it would be much harder to find a table for them on the spot. That being said, I think the reservation policy really does depend on the size and structure of the restaurant – large, highly staffed, and ‘quicker-turning’ restaurants probably do better without reservations.

    During Ring Dance weekend, I went to the Daily in Carytown. They told us they were no longer taking reservations, but that we could download an app called No Wait. Apparently, if we declared our party size on our way to the restaurant, this would decrease our wait time. Ironically, we still waited for an hour. We decided to stay and wait, but other customers would have left with that wait time. It made me wonder if this App was really anything other than a psychological aid to waiting customers. Feel free to look into the App more, at this link: http://nowait.com/

    Thanks for sharing!

  • February 21, 2018 at 10:30 pm
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    Luke,

    I can respect your point of view on reservations. However, I believe reservations are meant to help with efficiency. Often if you are even 5 minutes late for your reservation at most restaurants, they will cancel your reservation or give it away. As we have discussed in class, while customer arrival can be estimated, it is random. Reservations can help a restaurant gauge how many customers to expect that night. If there are little reservations, they might only schedule 4 servers instead of 6. Large parties also make reservations. If a large party makes a reservation on a Friday night at a popular restaurant, the restaurant can prepare and be sure there are enough staff and resources on hand to maintain quality and timely service. It also relates to preemptive discipline. The customer who made a reservation is of higher priority than a potential walk-in customer, because the customers who made a reservation are guaranteed.

  • February 21, 2018 at 5:36 pm
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    Luke,

    I think your discussion of restaurant reservations is very interesting. I have noticed the growing popularity of the small, organic restaurants that do not take reservations and who pride themselves on their laid-back, relaxing atmospheres. Although I believe this process to be frustrating, in fact it is more efficient in the long-run because restaurants are able to squeeze the maximum number of customers into peak hour times to eat. For example, a restaurant may allot ninety minutes per table for dinner reservations in order to leave buffer room between reservations. Dinners often take less than ninety minutes; thus, the table remains unused for an extra amount of time. Without reservations, the restaurant could immediately sit another party and can earn more revenue at the end of the day. Additionally, restaurants are avoiding no-shows and latecomers.

    Another interesting aspect to this topic that you mentioned is the idea of equality among restaurant goers. Everyone has an equal shot at getting into the restaurant, regardless of connections, contact, or strategic planning. While this process encourages equality, it also takes away from the hospitality aspect of the restaurant business. Instead of treating diners like guests, restaurants are trying to fill every seat of the establishment at an efficient pace in order to earn the most revenue. This ultimately ruins relationships between restaurants and their patrons. This trending process of no reservations is changing the restaurant industry in a way that is making dining out seem like more of an achievement than a privilege.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/no-reservations-this-restaurant-trend-has-become-harder-to-swallow/2014/05/15/3d4d7308-cfb3-11e3-937f-d3026234b51c_story.html?utm_term=.a472bcc577ba

  • February 21, 2018 at 4:26 pm
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    Restaurant reservations have been a thing since the creation of restaurants. Instead of waiting in line by the hostess stand, one can simply skip the line if he or she made a reservation. An example of a preemptive discipline. There’s nothing inherently wrong with making a reservation. But it does give power to the consumer. A customer is able to phone in and request a table at a certain time and now the restaurant has to set aside a table. If this customer cancels and doesn’t bother to call, the restaurant loses a potential customer. This leads to restaurant overbooking their dining rooms which causes diners to wait on line, at the bar, or even worse leave to write a bad review. This is the major drawback to reservations. Is there anything a restaurant can do? Increase capacity? Probably not since the restaurant will not build an extra section for a night. There seems to be no legitimate way to provide a solution since reservations will always be a service a restaurant provides. The article “Restaurant reservations are broken, and here’s a simple way to fix them” provides solutions to the reservation problem. It seems as though the advancement of technology always provides a solution which is the case here. According to the article, diners are able to book a table via smartphone through an app and be able to “pay a premium for prime tables at high-demand restaurants”. Another example of a preemptive discipline. Some restaurants are requesting diners who reserve a table to pay for an entire meal when they book. One restaurant owner says that this requirement of fronting money has reduced his no-show rate from 15% down to 1%. But the greatest solution the article offers to the reservation problem is to create a rating system. Similar to the way Uber rates its riders. More power will be given to the restaurant if the restaurant has the ability to rate customers for flakiness and thus forewarn other restaurants.

    https://qz.com/383261/an-elegant-solution-to-our-terrible-online-restaurant-reservation-landscape/

    • February 21, 2018 at 5:14 pm
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      Mark,

      This is a really interesting article. I recently was in New York and made a reservation where I had to put down a credit card when I made the reservation. This way if we canceled after 24 hours we would pay a fine; however, asking to pay for a whole meal, like Alinea asks for, seems a little extreme to me. It is impressive that they have reduced their no-show rate from 15%-1%, but it makes me wonder if it has deterred a large percentage of potential customers from coming, and it is has if there are any future implications. What I do like is the rating system. Like Uber, it forces people to be on their best behavior (which includes showing up) and gives the added incentive of better tables. It makes me wonder if sometime in the future Open Table with start to include ratings as well?

  • February 21, 2018 at 4:09 pm
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    Luke,

    This is a really cool topic to write about. I’ve always wondered myself how much restaurants stand to lose in revenue on a daily basis due to the holding of tables. No matter how you look at the situation, restaurants will always determine who gets to eat and when on a first-come, first-serve basis (FCFS). Whether it’s waiting in-house for a table or calling beforehand for a reservation, the person who puts their name and group in first will get the spot. Utilizing other priority rules like preemptive discipline or shortest expected eating time could prove to be detrimental for restaurants as customers expect the full and continuous attention of the wait staff. As a result, restaurants will continue to operate on a FCFS basis.

    Because restaurants use this FCFS priority rule, they can certainly miss out on revenue generation, especially when it comes to reservations. Choosing whether or not to implement a reservation system presents a major trade off for businesses. If they choose to use it, they will provide customers with more certainty and flexibility, but they could lose money if customers with reserved seats don’t show up or arrive late. On the other hand, not implementing a reservation system could ensure continuous seating if the restaurant is busy and popular. As a risk, however, the elongated wait time could irk the customer, resulting in bad reviews or the choosing of a different restaurant.

    I personally think restaurants should continue to offer a reservation option. The losses generated from late or no-show customers will be far less than the losses from customer dissatisfaction. As I’ve learned in marketing class, it is much more expensive to acquire new customers than to retain old ones. To manage both reservations and walk-ins, restaurant managers would be wise to utilize the probability of arrival rates equation that we learned in class. There are other methods to managing customer flow like monitoring for local events or holidays as detailed in the appended link, but on any given day, this equation should be any restaurant’s best bet to predict how many customers will walk in or make a reservation as it produces a concrete and specific number. If restaurants can properly utilize this equation, they will have a better chance at staffing the perfect amount of workers to maximize both revenue and customer satisfaction.

    https://www.planday.com/blog/how-to-better-predict-customer-flow/

  • February 21, 2018 at 3:12 pm
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    Luke,

    I definitely have experienced restaurants like these. In my home city of Providence, Rhode Island I once went to a brunch restaurant that only had 5 tables and did not take reservations. Waiting lines at this restaurant sometimes exceed over 1 hour. This restaurant is such a small operation and only ever has 1 or 2 workers. While it is frustrating to wait in line the idea of exclusivity and the novelty of the restaurant has been a big draw to consumers, making it a popular destination.

    It is interesting to look at the WSJ article on hotel restaurants. Hotel restaurants initially emerged as an additional revenue stream for hotels where their guests could dine conveniently. Now, these upscale restaurants are incredibly popular in an entire area and not just for hotel guests. As a hotel guest waiting lines could be frustrating. When restaurants do not use the preemptive discipline priority rule and instead use first come first serve in terms of either reservations or door traffic they could risk frustrating hotel guests. While hotel restaurants can easily still maintain revenue through external patrons, they could face negative reviews online from hotel guests.

  • February 21, 2018 at 12:29 pm
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    Luke,
    This is an interesting take on the waiting line concepts. It is true that often times restaurants having long waits dissuades many people from staying and becoming a paying customer. On the other hand, having a long wait ensures a constant flow of paying customers and no dead time waiting for reservations to arrive. I am interested in how the use of waiting line apps have impacted the use of reservations. Apps like NoWait allows you to put your name on the waiting list within a certain radius of the restaurant. So, for example, you can check the wait before you arrive and reserve your spot in line before you leave the house. Many popular restaurants use this system to reduce the time that customers have to wait at the restaurant. How does this differ from reservations? Why would restaurants favor this app system over reservations?

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