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Sep 12, 2007 11:52 AM

Do restaurants refuse reservations for solo diners? [moved from Chicago board]

> to see if they accept a solo

I've never heard of a restaurant refusing to accept a reservation for a solo diner. Have you?

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  1. I know some restaurants won't accept reservations for 2 people so I would assume that solos would be in the boat at those places.

    4 Replies
    1. re: lbs

      I've never heard of restaurants not accepting reservations for two, either. I'm not doubting you (or jfood); I've just never heard of it. What restaurants wouldn't accept a reservation for one or for two? Any idea why not?

      1. re: nsxtasy

        I read about actually on Chowhound. I think in the "not about food section" (work was slow LOL). It stuck with me b/c I thought it was absurd and couldn't imagine why not either. Some of the reasons were that the restaurants didn't want waste a reservation on a 2 top, easier to sit 2 tops when they come in vs 4 tops/6 tops, etc.

        I haven't heard of a specific restaurant in Chicago doing it and I have never been denied a reservation for 2.

        1. re: lbs

          I was the one that posted about a restaurant not taking a rez for two. It was a neighborhood Italian place in the Phoenix suburbs. I'd never heard of such a thing either. I've heard of reservations only for larger tables but this was the first time I'd come across not taking a rez for two.

        2. re: nsxtasy

          many smaller places simply want to maximize their real estate. they know they will fill up, so rather than *waste* a 4-top on a deuce or a single, they'll hold out for a party of 4. if you're willing to eat early or late, they might be more flexible.

          it's all about the benjamins.

          many places in boston won't take reservations for parties smaller than 6 -- they prefer to work off a wait-list, which completely eliminates the hassle of no-shows and empty tables being held for rezzies running late.

      2. over the years jfood has been "rejected" for a solo reso in numerous restos. some because they won;t do a single, others because they have a higher minimum, i.e. 6.

        sometimes jfood will go and sit at the bar other times jfood will say the heck with it. sorta depends on the day and the resto and the alternatives.

        3 Replies
        1. re: jfood

          "higher minimum, i.e. 6."

          That is a high minimum seating - what's that, Benihana? Family-style PA-Dutch?

          As for me, if a restaurant refused to seat me in the dining room, I would not be giving them my business by eating in the bar.

          1. re: FrankJBN

            Actually, around here it is quite common at many very decent restaurants to accept reservations only for parties of 6 or more. As someone mentioned, I think it is because smaller parties are easier to seat.

            1. re: SweetPea914

              We have the 6 or more here as well. I think a lot of restaurants have to put tables together once the party gets to 6+ so they need time to plan ahead.

              Frank- I agree with you about sitting at the bar. I can't drink alcohol for health reasons so I don't really feel comfortable sitting up at a bar by myself.

        2. I don't know about singles, but there are places that won't accept reservations for 2, Le Pigeon in Portland, OR, for example.

          1 Reply
          1. re: leek

            I have eaten at Le Pigeon by myself...a few years back. I don't recall any problem in making that reservation. I just checked on OT and found several dates where a reservation for one could be made, but only at 5:00 o'clock.

          2. when I was planning my NY trip a few months ago, I found that there were a few places (blue Hill and aquavit, IIRC) where I was not able to make a solo res via opentable, so I reserved for two and later confirmed as one without problems. Don't know if it was restaurant policy or just the way they have their OT account set up.

            13 Replies
            1. re: babette feasts

              I seem to recall a time when 2 people was the minimum party size option on Opentable.

              1. re: vvvindaloo

                There were some places that took a res for 1 on OT, so I guess things have changed, but not everywhere.

                BUT, I made my solo reservation at WD-50 on OT, then when I got there, was told 'we seat all of our single diners in the bar' - I was very peeved. If I'd wanted to sit in the bar, I would not have made a reservation two months in advance! I'm happy to sit in the bar if I'm walking in or if that's what I'm in the mood for, but I expect a reservation to be for a TABLE! Grrrrr. I really felt I got the crappiest seat in the house, between the door and the coatroom/host stand, anyone savvy to the industry should know that an out of town solo reservation is most likely some kind of serious food geek on a pilgrimage there to do some serious dining.

                1. re: babette feasts

                  nice change for us solo-travellers.

                  Hugo's Frog in Chi was the firsttime jfood has ever seen "1" offered.

                  1. re: babette feasts

                    To be fair, WD-50 is a relatively small place that is very very full on many nights, thus needing their tables for larger parties. I can't say I blame them, though they should put this on their website.

                    1. re: jpschust

                      Sorry to disagree JP, but a reso is for a table. If they do not want to seat singles at tables through OT then do not accept singles through OT.

                      Jfood would have been livid if a reso was taken and then they tried to stuff him at a bar seat.

                      Jfood does blame them and they should be ashamed of this treatment.

                      1. re: jfood

                        In the bar is not the same as at the bar- in the bar implies in the bar area, where I believe there are a few high tops, just not lower down tables.

                        That said, WD-50 is a fairly small place.

                        1. re: jpschust


                          let's take it to the inane. Resto has four tables in a dining room (so very small), high top tables in the bar and a bar. You make a reso for a table for one and is accepted. You arrive and then they tell you to sit at the high table or the bar.

                          Can't get smaller than that and this scenario is wrong.

                          Bottom line, you accepted a single reso, you seat them at a table and fix the issue with OT. Do not take your or OT's issue or confusion out on the custo.

                          1. re: jfood

                            I guess I say in an uncrowded bar with actual tables and wait service without smoking, all characteristics of WD-50, who cares? A table is a table?

                            1. re: jpschust

                              sorta like poe-tay-toe vs poe-tah-toe. oh well we agree to disagree. no biggie

                              maybe WD-50 will have plastic Little Tikes yellow and blue tables in the corner and call it the WD-10 section. :-)))

                              1. re: jpschust

                                A table isn't a table when other people in larger parties are sitting with you having their pre-dinner drinks and interrupting your tasting menu. A table isn't some lame ass bench seat in the entryway.

                                You are clearly a fan of the place, do you think that narrow table in the front window next to the door is equal to the tables in the dining room? Next time you have a party of 2 or 4, would you be happy to sit there? If I was walking in, that might have been fine, but I have a different expectation when I make a reservation.

                                A single diner ordering the tasting menu (as I did) and a few glasses of wine can easily spend as much as a two-top eating a la carte. If they think I'm not worth the table real estate, they are wrong.

                                1. re: babette feasts

                                  So that everybody still loves each other in the morning, a reservation can be different things in different places. In Montreal, a reservation can be made at the bar while in many cities that's anathema (as it ought to be, IMHO).

                                  I know I've sat at the bar and spent more than many a four top, let alone one with kids. I think any restaurant that denies a reservation for a solo is doing so at their peril. There was a good thread on solo dining a while back (too lazy to look for it now) where a lot of industry people said it's good business indeed to take care of solo diners as they're often the best customers.

                                  1. re: sailormouth

                                    'I think any restaurant that denies a reservation for a solo is doing so at their peril.'

                                    Wow, I'll say. I never knew there was such a practice until I saw this thread.

                  2. re: babette feasts

                    Sometimes, restaurants set up their account with OT to not allow reservations for one. This has happened to me a few times, and I have just gone ahead and made a reservation for two and then immediately called the restaurant to explain. Never, have I been told that dining alone would present a problem.

                  3. I have run into places not taking reservations for parties smaller than 4 people.

                    I personally would never make a reservation for just one person. I wouldnt want to take up an entire table by myself. I would prefer go to the bar area and happily eat and drink.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: swsidejim

                      When traveling, I have frequently made a reservation for one person...and at some of the highest rated and popular restaurants in the world (multiple Michelin stars). I have always called well in advance, and with one exception, have never been denied a reservation. Indeed, on many occasions, I have thought that I have received even better service than had I been accompanied. In my experience, fine restaurants are generally happy to accommodate the single diner. I always tip extremely well on these occasions, so that the servers are well compensated.

                      In more casual restaurants, when bar seating is available, I frequently choose to dine there. Nevertheless, I would never think twice about asking for a table if I wanted one.