New Year’s Eve Restaurant Reservation Etiquette
BY BRYAN LAVERY
Dining out always seems to top the list of New Year’s Eve plans. It is the night top chef’s will be pulling out all the stops. New Year’s Eve has always been an opportunity to do something a just a little more special. Celebratory evenings can often be very exasperating for chefs and restaurateurs. It is not uncommon for a restaurant to be booked days, even weeks in advance and on the last day be flooded with cancellations due to inexplicable illnesses or undependable babysitters.
As it happened, there was a time when it was not uncommon for establishments to purposely retaliate by overbooking tables. This ruse inevitably results in a host of disagreeable experiences and disappointments. But diners be wary. New Year’s Eve is among the busiest nights for dining out. This is the night that restaurateurs may know they have a captive audience. On the other hand, it is also the night patrons assume business is so brisk, no one will notice if they are a no-show or an hour late.
To combat this problem, some smaller, more specialized restaurants have taken to asking for your credit card number on special nights or a non-refundable deposit. This makes perfect sense from a business point of view. However, this is the hospitality industry and it is not something that everyone is comfortable implementing. I have long suspected that this actually deters some diners from making the reservation in the first place."
In any event, you would probably be quite surprised how often patrons double book or cannot honour their reservations. Routinely, patrons do not call on busy nights when they know in advance that members of their party cannot attend or they are bringing an additional guest.
Meanwhile, the person greeting guests at the door is turning away would-be diners and the phone is ringing off the hook for last minute reservations. Besides being ill-mannered, cancelling your reservation at the last minute is inconsiderate of the needs of the restaurant and other potential patrons who would like to book a table.
It is always prudent to advise the host or hostess that you are running behind if you will be more than 10 minutes late. Restaurants need to be able to organize their tables and seating plans throughout the night, so it is only considerate to give fair warning of your delay.
And of course, in smaller restaurants which don’t have the luxury of extra tables, it is tough to improvise at the last minute. On New Year’s Eve, to ensure your dining experience is as flawless as possible, it is always advisable to call and reconfirm your table. It is not always possible for busy restaurants to call to reconfirm your booking.
Incidentally, you should keep in mind that it has also become customary procedure for restaurants to book tables twice and possibly three times on a busy night. The accepted standard is to allow 2 hours between bookings on the early seating. No restaurant can afford guest to commandeer a table for the entire evening.
When making a reservation, it should be the obligation of the restaurant to inform you of their timing policy between bookings but this is not always the case. One last reminder, it is always advisable to dine in the second seating if you are planning a relaxing, leisurely evening.