When it comes to dinning out on weekends (particularly in Orange County) I’ve become a stickler on having reservations. Who has time for waiting around? In this day and age it’s all about efficiency. Whether it is for brunch or dinner, reservations are a must. I will almost always volunteer to be the one to phone restaurants or use Yelp or Open Table to secure a reservation. There are times when I do appreciate a bit of spontaneity but only in instances when plans are made on the fly. If a discussion has been initiated and the meal in question is to take place even 2 hours later an attempt at making reservations is necessary.
All this being said, I highly appreciate any restaurants that seat you immediately upon your arrival. Nothing turns me off more than when a host or hostess informs someone with a reservation that they can’t seat the party until everyone has arrived. People don’t travel together on school buses and arrive simultaneously! This policy is absurd. If you think about this it’s tantamount to throwing a party and asking arriving guests to wait at the door until all the guests have arrived before inviting them all into your home together at once. I’ve heard award winning restaurateurs being quoted saying that owning and running a restaurant is like throwing a party every night and hoping people show up. When people do actually show up to a party and are not immediately invited in, my personal belief is that those people should find another party to attend.
I am not being irrational here. I am fully aware that meals are not paced like clockwork. I am 100% understanding when upon arriving a host or hostess explains that our table “isn’t ready yet” and invites us to wait in the bar. Totally acceptable. Some people order multiple courses or linger over the bill and it would be impolite to rush them. In these cases I have even had managers come and apologize for the wait and offer to buy our round of drinks or treat us to appetizers or dessert. Not necessary, but a wonderful gesture by a party host who wants to ensure their guests feel welcomed and looked after.
Sometimes, when I am early, (which is almost always) I like being shown to a table where I can order a drink and enjoy a few quiet moments to myself reading over the menu because I like reading the whole menu before making my choice of what I’ll be ordering. A couple weeks ago, I had reservations for 3 people at a French Bistro and true to form, I arrived 15 minutes prior to my reservation time. The staff didn’t even bat an eyelash. They showed me right to a table, handed me a cocktail menu and brought me a glass of water. I ordered a bottle of champagne and began examining their menu. I was such a happy camper and so impressed that I’ve already recommended that Bistro to 3 people.
Earlier this year, I was meeting a friend at Badmaash in downtown LA for 6:00 p.m. reservations. I arrived about 15 minutes early per usual and although only 2 tables were occupied at the time, the hostess informed me she could not seat me until my entire party had arrived. I looked around at the empty restaurant and said “Really?”. Yes, I was bratty, which probably didn’t help me win her over, but with no waiting area or bar, I was relegated to waiting out on the sidewalk which I consider quite unhospitable. What if it had been raining? As I stood outside, I thought about the lost opportunity of selling me a cocktail while I waited for my friend to arrive. It was too late to tell my friend that I would rather take our business elsewhere. Although their food and service were good, they couldn’t change the bad taste that had been left in my mouth from their hostess who was enforcing a ridiculous policy. My husband loves Indian food and would have loved this place, but I’m uninterested in returning and I’d never recommend that restaurant to anyone for fear of them being asked to wait outside until the rest of the party guests have arrived.
Happy Thursday…now stop reading this and go make some plans for your weekend! AND DON’T FORGET TO MAKE RESERVATIONS!