I recently visited a new restaurant where a group of friends (six of us) were getting together for a birthday. I'm always wary of group gatherings at restaurants because, inevitably, at least one or more in the group will be late. This usually presents a problem for both customers and restaurants.
In this particular case, four of us showed up on time for our 8 p.m. reservation, while the other two (a couple) were late. The restaurant in question is small and does not have a waiting area. It does, however, have a policy of not seating until the entire group is in the restaurant.
The simple solution in cases like this is for those who have arrived on time to order a drink at the bar. But the bar area in question is small and was packed with customers. The hostess stand is directly in front of the door, with tables filling the space to the left and right of the stand. It's a small place, so I understand why the owners would want to fill as much of the space with tables as possible. But there is no place to wait comfortably, and the weather was awful outside, where we waited.
I bring this story up because I just read an American Express Market Brief survey on what matters most to full-service diners. Ninety-three percent said being seated in a timely manner is “very important” to them. In cases like the one I've just described, I don't get angry with the restaurant; I get ticked off with friends who believe a restaurant reservation is like a mother who will always be waiting for you with open arms. But that's me.
The people in my party and most, I'm sure, think a no-seating policy sucks. “Why won't they seat the four of us? I see an empty table right there,” is a typical response. “Oh, I get it, they're going to make us wait and order drinks at the bar to bump up the amount of money we'll spend here tonight,” is another. By the way, I loved the restaurant and I've gone back with a date. But I won't go back with a large group, at least not during cold-weather months.
The restaurant simply did not handle the situation well. I'd explain to you how to handle it better, but you run restaurants. I don't. The only solution I could see (as a customer) was to seat the four of us immediately.
So, I'm asking you: How do you handle group reservations like the one described? And, since your scenario may be different from the one I just experienced, how would you have handled a situation like mine? By the way, the tardy couple in question was 25 minutes late. Email me your thoughts and I'll share them.
In last month's editorial, I applauded Domino's Pizza for having the cojones to ditch a crappy product and create a better version. According to a study by Lieberman Research Worldwide, a clear majority of consumers surveyed prefer the new Domino's Pizza over Pizza Hut and Papa John's. The future, my friends, belongs to the bold.