How to Always Make Good Reservations

By Sola Onitiri

 Photograph: Sola Onitiri

Photograph: Sola Onitiri

Anyone can make reservations, but only a select few can make good reservations. Having your old familiar haunts is good, but what if you're in a new place and you have to dine to impress? That's where I come in. I'm going to give you the ultimate formula so that you will always making good reservations, no matter the occasions or who you're dining with. 

Know Your Audience

Back in my server slash bartender days, the first question I would ask my tables was a matter of life or death. That question was all about dietary restrictions and allergies. As the person charged with finding the right place to dine, this is the first question you need to ask before even looking at Opentable. Bringing a vegan to a BBQ joint that's known for their brisket is what we in the industry would call an unmitigated disaster. Inquire if your party has dietary restrictions or allergies, but don't stop there. Get to know their general tastes; Do they like spicy food, are they keen on traditional restaurants. This will help narrow down your search an insure that everyone has something that they can eat and enjoy. 

After you have all that information, head to the restaurant's online menu. If you have a mixed needs party, make sure the menu has at least two options for those who need it. Or at the very least, wiggle room for modifications. 

How to Always Make Good Reservations - No matter who's in your party and what they like

Location (and Space) Is Key  

You are not quite ready to hit the reserve button yet. The next thing you need to straighten out is location, space, and accessibility. Having a slight idea of the layout of a restaurant is important for the comfort of you and your guests. Say the restaurant you picked only has high top tables. The whole family is in town, and by the whole family I mean your great aunt Marie, your second cousin's three-year-old and your uncle who just had hip surgery. They're going to want, in fact need, a low top table. Same goes for two floor restaurants - always check that your party is going to be comfortable and will have access to a good meal.  

How To Always Making Good Reservations

The AMENITIES

Lastly, the trims and finishes that will make your dining experience sparkle. As convenient as OpenTable and Reserve are, I would still recommend calling to make your reservation. This way, you can inquire about a few things: Specials, corkage fees, a table closets to the bay windows, the list could go on. Depending on the size of your party, the host or manager on duty will work with the kitchen to provide a set menu. Calling a head is the metaphoric crossing the ‘T’s and dotting the ‘I’s of any good reservations.

Reservation Dos and Don’ts

Do: Book your reservation 48-24 hours in advance for a party of five or smaller.

Don’t: Book a reservation for 14 while you’re walking to the restaurant. If the restaurant is small, you are putting them in a really sticky situations. If the restaurant is big and busy, you’ll probably mess up the flow of the staff by standing in places that are in the way.

Do: Call if you’re running late. Ideally, call before the time you are supposed to arrive. Also, please arrive with your full party.

Don’t: Show up 45 minutes after your reservation and still expect your table to be ready. Whoever has the misfortune to deal with this issue at the host stand will have no other choices but to maintain a manic smile and “see what they can do.” What they can do is put your party back on the waitlist.

Remember This

Food is meant to bring people together. Reserving a table at the fanciest white linen restaurant you can find isn’t always the best choice. Push the envelope but remember that comfort is key.

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