YOU ASK! WE ANSWER! YOU DECIDE!
By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace
QUESTION: Is there a protocol for making reservations at a restaurant? Should you make reservations for lunch, too? I have a friend who makes dinner reservations at several places and then picks the one that sounds better at the last minute. I don’t think that is right, but how far ahead should we book a table?
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: Different restaurants have different policies about whether they take reservations for lunch or dinner and fill up in advance at different times. Some restaurants are more popular than others; some may fall victim to reservation hoarders like your friend and have open seats at the last minute.
It sounds as if you are questioning your friend’s indecisiveness. Although a restaurant is an institution and not a person, your friend’s choices to make a series of reservations and then cancel all but one of them have effects on real people, often small-business owners who are trying to make a living. Empty tables aren’t good for business, especially when the restaurant planned its menu that day with a certain number of diners in mind.
One suggestion is to have the group decide way ahead of time so the venue is settled before the day. Your friend’s actions seem inconsiderate to me.
HELEN’S ANSWER: If the restaurant you are going to requires lunch or dinner reservations, then make them, so you are assured of having a seat at the table. Some great restaurants want a credit card number with your reservation, so if you don’t show up, you are charged.
Restaurant owners need to know how much food to order so that they can serve you when you arrive. If you are playing games and booking everywhere, it doesn’t seem right to take up space that you don’t intend to honor.
Ask the restaurant how far ahead you need to book. You can always look online at menus and make your decision. That does not count last-minute decisions. You can always call and see if there is space available.
Oklahoma City Devon Energy Tower’s new Vast Restaurant has had a surge of reservations, so if you want to go there, you might want to plan ahead and call your reservation in ahead of time.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Hilarie Blaney, etiquette and international protocol consultant: Most upscale restaurants hope for, or require, reservations, even at lunch. If you know a restaurant is busy for lunch, I would call for a reservation the moment you make your decision. If they only take reservations, you will quickly know the protocol. As for your friend, she has to be the nightmare of every restaurant and a frustrating practice for all restaurants that accept reservations.
But, for those last-minute people or visitors to our city, they could have just hit the lottery with an unexpected and open table at a great restaurant! For booking tables, it depends upon the city, but in Oklahoma City, I would try a week ahead for expensive restaurants and even more for the holiday season.
Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email firstname.lastname@example.org.