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Why do they ask if it is a special occasion?

  • b

Every time we make a reservation, we are asked *is this for a special occasion?*. Some times we say *yes, it is our anniversary* or *yes, it is our son's 16th birthday*.

Once we arrive at the restaurant, and these are high end restaurants, no one has ever acknowledgement the special occasion.

I'm wondering if any of you had any acknowledgments? Also, wondering if anyone knows why the person taking the reservation askes when there is no intent to acknowledge it?

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  1. The places I've had ask usually send over a special dessert or something of the like. My husband took me to Chicago for my 40th and we made all of our reservations well ahead of time and most of the places asked and we were treated to desserts, champagne, etc.

    1. I think most of the time itÂ’s done because there is a space on the reservation sheet (or on the computer) to make a note about a special occasion. The managers train the hosts to ask because they have an idea about some customer service gimmick. But the breakdown happens when the host is busy seating people and the server is busy serving people and they never communicate the information.

      Unless there are really good managers employed at a restaurant, the right hand could really care less what the left is doing.


      2 Replies
      1. re: ChefElias

        "The managers train the hosts to ask because they have an idea about some customer service gimmick. But the breakdown happens when the host is busy seating people and the server is busy serving people and they never communicate the information."

        I agree with your comment above. What makes it worse for the customer too is that when asked the question over the phone when the reservation is made, it sets an expectation in the mind of the customer that something will be done to acknowledge the occasion. When nothing then happens, it leaves a "bad taste" due to the lack of follow-through.

        1. re: synergy

          That is exactly what happens.....When they ask, a certain expectation is planted in your brain that *something* might be done. The seed is planted.
          It does leave a bad taste when there is no follow through.

          I think you guys explained it best that there is a communication problem.

          I am going to mention something the next time I make a reservation at the same restaurants that didn't follow thru.

      2. I don't recall ever being asked, but any time I have mentioned it at the time of reservation I usually receive some form of acknowledgement. It also doesn't hurt to mention it to the manager or server sometime after arriving, as well...that is if you want them to acknowledge your celebration.

        1. As a former restaurant manager, when taking reservations I always asked the caller if their party was celebrating a special occasion.
          If they were, we would decorate their table and make sure the guest had an optimum experience. This includes telling the server about the occasion AHEAD OF TIME to avoid ignoring it, as you have experienced. That would include sending them a complimentary appetizer or glass of wine, depending on the guest and their tastes. And in addition, we would also send over a dessert at the end of the meal, personalized with their name written on the plate in chocolate. We never sang Happy Birthday as we thought that was too intrusive.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Hungry Girl

            The Dining Room at the Ritz in San Francisco once surprised me with a chocolate-written "Congratulations!" on a frosted glass plated dessert. My boyfriend had told the reservationist that I was quitting my miserable job! What a treat.

          2. I've had the same experience, where they've asked me if it was a special occasion, I've responded in the affirmative, and it was ignored once we got there. But I've also received acknowledgement from time to time.

            I used opentable.com to make reservations at an upscale restaurant for our upcoming 34th anniversary dinner. There's a box where you can put in comments for the host's attention, and I did mention that it was our anniversary, so I'll be curious to see if anything happens. However, I won't be surprised if our anniversary goes unnoticed, what with all the Mother's Day hooplah on the same day.

            1. We usually get some sort of acknowledgement, usually a dessert or the like. Once they printed up a special copy of the menu with "Welcome Mr. and Mrs. xxx!" with the chef's autograph (it was our honeymoon). That was cute.

              1. We went to Ruth's Chris for our anniversary this year. (Younger daughter, who is finally out of grad school, sent us a gift cert.) When I booked the reservation, I was asked and I said it was our anniversary. When we arrived, the hostess wished us a 'Happy Anniversary' and they comped us a desert. Our server appeared with a camera, and with our bill, we recieved a framed picture marked 'Anniversary 2005'. All very nice, we thought.

                Absolutely perfect service by the way and very good food.

                1. I have gotten acknowledgements most of the time we're asked, both at home in NYC and on vacation in places like NO.

                  The best was at March, in NYC, a few years ago whereby the maitre'd (also an owner, probably has something to do with it) provided my wife with a small bouquet of roses (first anniversary.)

                  1. When my husband made a reservation on OpenTable.com at Rialto in Cambridge, MA last year for my birthday he filled in the comments box telling them it was my birthday.

                    When we got there the table was festively yet tastefully decorated with ribbons and confetti. The hostess wished me a happy birthday when I arrived and the first thing the waiter did when he came to the table was to wish me a happy birthday as well.

                    My dessert had a cute little candle on it and a birthday greeting written in rasberry syrup on the plate.

                    1. We took our son to Taberna del Alabardero here in Washington DC for his birthday. We did not mention to the restaurant that it was his birthday, but the sommelier overheard us talking about it. When it came to time for dessert, the restaurant provided a special dessert for my son, on the house.

                      If it were not for the fact that service at Taberna is excellent in the first place, I would have thought that the fact that they knew it was his birthday had an effect on that too.

                      BTW, the food was supurb, the service exemplary, and the sommelier was very attentive (making sure we had roper glasses, pouring only when appropirate, etc.) even though I brought two bottles of wine from my cellar instead of purchasing from their very extensive list. He even took five minutes to discuss the wine I brought with me (and to taste when I offered.)

                      Many years ago, on our wedding night, my wife and I ate at a restaurant in Lumberville PA (we were staying in a B&B nearyb prior to leaving for Portugal on our honeymoon the next day). When the restaurant found out it was our wedding night, they sent over a 375 of Champagne. The couple at the table next to us apparently also asked that the restaurant send us a drink on them as they were leaving. The next year, we spent our first anniversary at the same B&B and ate dinner at the same restaurant. When I asked for a specific table when we were being seated, the host asked if there was a reason that I wanted that table. I told him that we had sat at that table on our weddiing night and since it was our anniversary, I'd like to sit there again. He smiled, led us to the table, and lo and behold, another half bottle of Champagne showed up, complements of the restaurant.

                      1. So we went for our anniversary dinner last evening. I'd mentioned it when making the reservations, about a month ago. And there was a little sparkling candle stuck in my dessert at the end of the meal. And the busboy wished us a happy anniversary.

                        Excuse me, but BFD.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Deenso
                          Caitlin McGrath

                          I've certainly mentioned special occasions when making reservations before, with various ultimate outcomes, but I have to ask in response to your "Excuse me, but BFD," what exactly do you expect from restaurants in these circumstances. Song and dance, freebies? I guess I feel it's nice when something extra is proferred, and it does help make if feel like a particularly special evening, but it's out of line to expect a restaurant to necessarily go out of its way because we simply tell them it's an occasion.