No room at the bar

In the last two days I’ve called around 5 or 6 local restaurant/bars and none of them will take a reservation for 10 people on Saturday night. What the happened in the last 5 years that I’ve been off raising kids? When did dining out become a first in best dressed situation?

A little background. A few friends that I haven’t seen in years are all going to be in town for one weekend. All together, including partners there will be around 10 – 12 of us depending on the availability of baby sitters. As parents we’re on a schedule. Whether someone is looking after the kids or not, we’re on the clock. Gone are the days of just heading into town and walking up the street to see what looks nice; now-a-days we want to know before we go.

We were looking for a place that we could grab a few share plates, a couple of pizzas, eat some dessert, drink a few cocktails or craft beers and chat for 3 or 4 hours.

So there’s this place that I’ve been wanting to check out for a while. I had actually dropped in there when it first opened for a sly beer on the way to an event, and was extremely impressed. So you can imagine my disappointment when I rang to book us in for an early dinner at 6:30 Saturday night and was told they didn’t except bookings. What, the actual? I was even happy to pay a deposit, but no, they didn’t want to take my money. The guy who took the call was all ‘smart arse’ about it too, like I had missed some important social norm.

So a partner of one of my mates suggested a place a bit further down from our original choice. I rang and was greeted by a lovely lass who was quite pleasant and welcoming. I explained that I had a group of 10 – 12 wanting somewhere to eat, drink and chat for a few hours on Saturday night from around 6:30pm. I was promptly told that reservations were only made for people wishing to eat main meals, and I would be very lucky to be able to get a table without a reservation because it was very popular. I explained that’s why I was making a reservation, but was again treated to a chorus of, ” you’re old and that’s not how we do things anymore”.

Without boring you, this trend continued with phone call after phone call. It seemed that a few share plates, a couple of pizzas and a bunch of drinks did not constitute a booking and we would “have to take our luck”. Now I’m not talking about trying to book at your run of the mill bar or pub here. It’s not like I’m trying to book ten in the main bar at my local. These places advertise themselves as restaurant/bars. Last time I checked restaurants were places you made reservations at.

So can some one tell me what was in the memo I missed? When did heading out become a contact sport of first in best dressed. Maybe that’s why violence on the streets has increased. Because no one wants to feed you.


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  1. Recently for my partners birthday I made reservations at a well known Wine Bar/Restaurant on Darby street for dinner… I had explained that there would be approx 8 of us for a meal and drinks.
    I was then told that we could only make a reservation if ten were going to be present. So of course I said there would be ten (who knows friends bring friends uninvited all the time).

    We arrived to find that our reserved seating were a bunch of mismatched lounges and a coffee table.And still had to share that space with randoms. Really suitable for dinner…
    Eventually after talking to three waiters we were allowed to take a proper table that was reserved for another party that did not show.

    It seemed like a lot of work. And considering the money spent ($15/20 for a cocktail and I personally drank five) between 8 people you would think that this “service Industry” would be a little more helpful with service.

    In your case in which ten people who wanted cocktails, beer a few pizzas and sharing plates, thats actually quite a lot of money. It seems as though these days places are less interested in making money and more interested in making things difficult for the general public whose interests reside outside of standing around sipping over priced cocktails in very little clothing and making the place look “hip”

  2. At the end of the day you are trying to book a table for 10-12pax on the busiest night of the week for 3-4 hours with the intention of only buying a “few share plates, a couple of pizzas and some dessert”

    I’m not sure what venues you were trying to book at but I’m not terribly surprised you were knocked back. I’m the head chef of a venue in Newcastle and I would be pretty annoyed if a table of 12 ordered what you have listed above in that time frame. Setting up a table that size takes up valuable restaurant space for tables of 2-4 who are likely to order 3 courses per person, rather than a few share plates and 2 pizzas between 12. Not to mention you also planned on staying there for 3-4 hours, where a normal booking would be out in under 2. This means the restaurant would miss out on a second dinner seating in that space losing even more potential revenue.

    Looking at a rough break down in costs for the food alone:

    Your table 6:30 – 9:30/10pm
    A few share plates: $90?
    A couple of pizzas: $40
    Some dessert: $60?

    Total: around $190

    As opposed to:
    -3 tables of 4 at 6pm
    3 courses per person at $65
    -3 tables of 4 at 8pm
    3 courses per person at $65

    Total: $1560

    Restaurants need to make money to survive and the booking you’re planning on making is taking up valuable real estate. We used to get it all the time, a table of 10-15 pax comes in and orders only 1 meal between 2 or 3, or even worse just 3 bowls of chips for the whole table! We need to be able to pay our overheads, chefs, waitstaff and cleaners and a table of 10 looking to have a 4 hour catch up over a couple of pizzas isn’t going to cover that.

    I hope I’m not coming across as rude or a smart arse, I’m just trying to be realistic about it.

    All the best.

  3. I can tell you what was in the memo you missed 🙂
    I can totally understand that you want somewhere to go to eat/drink/chat for a few hours on a Saturday night, but from a restaurant’s perspective, letting people do this would be business suicide.
    Holding a table of 10 on a Saturday night (by far the busiest time of the week) for several hours for people who will spend a limited amount, as opposed to turning those seats over (with new lots of customers) say three times during this same time, means significantly reduced turnover. And trust me when I say that wanting the biggest possible turnover isn’t about greed, it is about the survival of the business. Restaurants are very expensive to run (much, much more so than people realise), and without high turnover, they won’t last long. In fact, most restaurants don’t last, because their turnover isn’t high enough.
    Also, reserving a table means that a restaurant can’t seat anyone on that table in say the hour leading up to your booking either, because then they will still be there when you arrive. This means that 10 seats are sitting there empty, without making any money at all. And there could well be customers at the door wanting a table during this time and there wouldn’t be one for them, despite an empty table of 10 right in front of their eyes. This leads to very cranky people too.
    Anyway, the bottom line is, that yes, us restaurants do want to feed you, and we’d love for you to come, and if it was feasible, we’d love to have you sit there having a great time for 4 hours, but if we let 10 people sit on just a few sharing plates for several hours during the very busiest time of the week, we will go broke. Unfortunately. If you spoke to the owners of either of the businesses you called, I can guarantee that you’d get very, very similar explanations.
    Hopefully this sheds some light on the issue for you and that you will now have a little more understanding of the restaurant’s perspective. Basically, if restaurants allowed this these days, there wouldn’t be any restaurants 🙂
    All the best,

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