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Reservations: Do or Don't?


Does your restaurant accept reservations? Have you really thought through why or why not? It used to be the norm.

To eat dinner at a certain place required that one had called ahead and reserved a spot. And certainly, because that offered up planning opportunities not just for the guest but also for the restaurant. Owners and managers knew if their tables were going to be full, so it was easier to anticipate food and staffing needs. They knew if they needed to push some tables or offer up a special to lure in more guests. Perhaps, also, it was nice to know that the incoming patrons that evening were likely making an evening of it. They had thought ahead about coming, read about the restaurant, maybe perused the menu, making them more likely to curate a whole dining experience unlike the “drop-ins” who could wind up being smaller spenders. Those who reserved were educated clientele.

But sometimes booking out your restaurant can be hard. It’s the constant turning away of people who happen upon your restaurant or decide spur of the moment to see what you have to offer. There’s something to be said for the excitement of that type of diner. And with reservation slots set, it can be hard to handle the logistics of transitioning one table to the next.

It’s a bit dated, but we found this New York Post article interesting while we were researching this topic. In New York, the trend established was that, when a restaurant was new, they didn’t accept reservations; but at the newness buzz wore off, they would change their policy. It was a way of tapping into the pros of both accepting reservations and not accepting reservations. Allowing the hype to draw in more drop-ins than reservations could account for; but as the hype dwindled, turning to the reliability of booking customers.

What’s your policy? What would work best for your restaurant. (Keep in mind, if you don’t know, this is something we can help you assess with our Operations Analysis.)