If you live in a major city, (or even smaller town with a really hot restaurant) the process of making a reservation can be onerous, to say the least. As many of you know, in the top rooms, the experience can include having to call exactly 30 days in advance to secure a desired reservation date and time, (of course even doing this sometimes results in getting a 5:45 or 9:30 option for dining!) and then if you are lucky enough to reach a ‘reservationist’ (who comes up with these terms??) leave your credit card number to ‘secure’ the hallowed reservation.
But wait, there’s more. The day before or the day of someone from the restaurant (ok the reservationist – could you imagine telling your parents that’s your job?) calls you at the number you left and asks you to ‘please’ confirm. In fact if they leave you a voice mail you are then asked to call them back to confirm.
Understanding that there are people out there who are no-shows and that can really screw-up a restaurant, I get the idea that restaurants have a need to know who’s showing up and who’s not. But the system still used by most restaurants today is archaic and just bad. It does not serve the customer it serves the restaurant. Making the customer jump through hoops to obtain a reservation does not serve the customer at all and that’s ironic since restaurants are in the business of service right?
In recent years online reservation systems like OpenTable, Tablefinder, Blueskies, Rodeco ICT and Magellan (to name a few) have grown with OpenTable being the most well-known. It’s a good idea. You sign up for an ‘account’ that costs nothing. You log-in with your email and get points for making reservations at participating restaurants (yes multiple platforms means different restaurants are part of different systems).
You pick the day and time, number of people in your party and the restaurant let’s you know what’s ‘available’. Sometimes what’s available is 5:45PM and 9:30PM. I wish I were hungry at these times since obviously I would always get what I wanted but alas my stomach, family and friends are not aligned with this concept. But many times you can get your exact time or something within 15 minutes of your time and that’s fine. Then you hit send and you are all set. A confirming email is sent to you and you are good to go. You are not automatically opted in to receive the restaurant’s emails (another good thing) but you may get a follow up email from the platform asking you about your dining experience which you can ignore which is what I do. The best thing is YOU DON’T HAVE TO MAKE A PHONE CALL TO REACH THE ‘RESERVATIONIST’ or anyone for that matter.
I have a good friend in the restaurant business who understands the need to have the platform but notes that it can backfire for the restaurant since if the user does not see the time they want they often will just move on to another restaurant without calling at all. If you called the restaurant it would go out of its way to try to accommodate you. Online reservations offer no chance of that.
The other day I made a reservation on OpenTable – got the time I wanted, the confirming email. And I could even invite my guests by sending them an email giving them the details – location, time etc. Cool!
But then something happened I did not like. The restaurant called the number I left to reconfirm and left me a voice mail. Considering I made the reservation 3 days prior WITHOUT CALLING, I now had to call them back to ‘confirm’. I was out of the office and did not have time to call so I tried to text them. That did not work as it was a land line. This is ridiculous! Why don’t the restaurants confirm (if they have to) either by email or leave a number that you could SMS text to? Hasn’t anyone thought of this?
Who wants to call a restaurant to reconfirm a reservation anyway? Anyone?