Being turned away, as we hadn’t booked, from the American Smokehouse in Lincoln recently has caused me to reflect upon restaurant bookings generally.

We ended up next door in the Bombay, and when we emerged the anticipated rush at the Smokehouse hasn’t materialised as there were still empty tables. Did people not show? Did they not like the look of us? All a mystery.

At one extreme you have restaurants that don’t take bookings. Jamie’s Italian always used to be in this bracket; which has the side effect of maximising their table turn neatly. Of course, that only works if you’re popular and have a stock of eager customers queuing outside. There’s then a spectrum; some that will take reservations for big parties, but not for two people (such as El Rincon in Manchester) or just regulars on certain nights (Spice Valley in Lambourn on a Sunday springs to mind).

At the other extreme you have reservation only places (either by policy or by virtue of popularity). The conundrum is then, do you keep a couple tables free for walk-ins, or do you keep booking them until full because those people have made a commitment to your business ahead of schedule? At what point do you release the table for walk ins? What’s considered polite grace? 10 mins? 15 mins? I’ve always worked to the rule that a booking is +\- 15 minutes, and that anything else is rude.

To be honest, I don’t know the right answer – but I am sure many of my hostelry owning/running followers will have a view. Personally, I’d lapse back on my automotive background – book up to 80% and keep the rest for those that rock up on the day. Comments, as ever, welcome.

Restaurant Reservations
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