Why Don't Some Restaurants Take Reservations?

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Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail laura.hahnefeld@newtimes.com. Miss a question? Go here.

When it comes to dining out, some of us need a restaurant that takes reservations (at $15 an hour, that babysitter ain't cheap) while others don't (another drink at the bar -- don't mind if I do.) So why wouldn't all restaurants simply play it safe and afford customers the ability to lock down seats? Here's what Valley chefs and restaurateurs had to say.

See also: What's the Best Way to Send Food Back at a Restaurant? Should Restaurants Host Political Functions?

Lisa Khnanisho,Owner, Tryst Café

It's easier not to. Sometimes you have a reservation who doesn't call to cancel or inform you of a delay. You have a 15- to 20-minute wait, but you're holding a table for a reservation. What's an appropriate waiting time? What happens after 17 minutes when you sat the table previously assigned to a reservation and they walk in?

There's also the scenario of being told the party is for eight. The restaurant plans on using two tables together to accommodate the reservation. In actuality, it turns out to be six. The restaurant could have put two different tables together and in the meantime seated another party. For this reason, many restaurants don't seat incomplete parties. Guest counts change and the host is always mindful of the waiting guests and how to best structure seating and accommodate everyone. Empty seats don't pay the bills.

Romeo Taus, Chef and Owner, Romeo's Euro Cafe

They are too small, too busy, or the menu is simple and they need to have their tables turn all the time. It has worked for Chris Bianco for a long time, but he has not seen my butt in his place for over 15 years.

Michael Rusconi, Chef and Owner, Rusconi's American Kitchen

They like to create a buzz by making guests wait and create an air of exclusivity because it's hard to get in. Online reservation systems are also very expensive -- hundreds of dollars per month.

Christopher Gross, Chef and Owner, Christopher's Restaurant & Crush Lounge

If guests expect they will have a wait, then the restaurant can maximize seating. But in nicer restaurants, you don't want your guests to wait. Sometimes it happens, though. Restaurant seating is not like an airline. If you're five minutes late the hostess can't say, "Sorry, your table took off." And when the next reservation for the table is there, the hostess can't say, "Your table has landed, buh-bye."

Bernie Kantak, Chef and Partner, Citizen Public House

For places that are fortunate enough to have a waiting line, it just comes down to simple economics. Holding a table for a group that isn't arriving for another 45 minutes is silly if there are people at the door who can fill them.

Danielle Leoni, Chef and Co-Owner, The Breadfruit

Perhaps some restaurants like to take it as it comes. They know the people are going to show up to eat, so what does it matter if they call in advance? It sounds kind of fun and a little chaotic, too. Restaurateurs need to do what satisfies them the most. It's only when they're happy that their guests truly enjoy themselves.

Zach Bredemann, Corporate Chef, Kona Grill

You usually see this policy in smaller restaurants with limited seating. Some guests will make a reservation at multiple restaurants and then choose last minute where to dine. When you're a smaller establishment, holding tables for reservations can hurt sales if the reservation doesn't show up or cancel in a timely manner. Sometimes it's better for all guests to have an equal advantage if they want to experience your restaurant.

Mark Dow, General Manager, The Mint

Some restaurants don't take reservations because it keeps their demand high. If a guest knows that a restaurant does not take reservations, it doesn't limit them from just walking in and seeing the availability.

Dana Mule, GM and Partner, Hula's Modern Tiki

I think it's a function of size, and logistics. Even for us, reservations can be tricky. You do your best to accommodate everyone, and even though you do your best to get the timing right, you end up either offending the party coming in, or the party currently occupying the space. The last thing any of us wants is unhappy guests!

Heather Bryan, General Manager, Zuzu

At some smaller restaurants with quick table-turn times, they choose to not take reservations because it takes up more tables that could be seated and then released before the reservation party arrives.

Chris Osborn, Owner, Cadillac Ranch

Some places don't take them at all because they either don't want to deal with the leg work involved in reservation policies and procedures, or some are just too exclusive or too small to take them due to capacity issues.

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