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Feb 10, 2008 02:40 PM

Is this an acceptable reservation policy??!! [Moved from Texas board]

I figure that I would relay a recent experience that I had at Dolce Vita Pizzeria & Enoteca (in Houston for those not familiar). Before my recent dinner there, I was a huge fan and I still think that their pizza's are some of the best in Texas. It is a shame that my recent dealings with the hostess and manager were so atrocious that I will probably never return.

On my last visit, I thought I was fortunate to snag a reservation for our group of 6 (their policy is that they take reservations for parties of 6 or more). We get there 2, maybe 3 minutes, at the most, late (and I promise I am not exaggerating for effect here). I was told by the hostess that since we were late that they had given our table away. When I stared at my watch and then back at her, she shrugged her shoulders and explained that if the party isn't available when the table is ready the table is given away. This policy, mind you, was not conveyed to us when we made the reservation. Instead of thinking on our feet and asking to be shown where and to whom this make believe table was given was away in the past 90 seconds, we all threw a collective fit and asked to speak to the manager. The manager, who was more suited by his age/dress/demeanor to be a busboy, again conveyed to us the restaurant's ridiculous reservation policy. We were eventually sat within 20 minutes (probably because of the stink that we all raised) and ended up having a decent meal in the end.

I want to hear from others to see if they have had similar experiences at this restaurant or others. I understand that reservations don't mean that the customer has ownership over a table for the night, but my feeling is that restaurants should honor a reservation as long as a customer shows up within 15 minutes of the reservation time. Even if that is too long, certainly showing up within 5 minutes (or 2 as we did) should be sufficient. I also understand that my table may not be "ready" at the time of my reservation and that I may need to wait for a period of time (say 15-20 minutes) before being seated. If that was the explanation given by the hostess (that our table wasn't ready quite yet), then I think we would have all been accepting of the wait. However, she took it upon herself to assign blame on us for being late and that is where she, IMO, crossed the line.

Sorry for the wordiness of this post, but after that experience, I had to share my frustration.

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  1. It's not a gracious policy, but it is acceptable. They didn't know that you were just a couple minutes down the road, and as soon as you are late they start losing money. For all they knew you were 15 minutes away, or a no show. If you don't feel compassion for the restaurant losing money, then consider that the waiter is losing money too. Also, it's not fair for anyone else in the restaurant to have to wait longer because you were late.

    12 Replies
    1. re: kindofabigdeal

      I have to disagree with you, bid deal. My feeling is that there was never a table waiting in the first place and they used the fact that we were a tad bit on the late side to push some blame on us. If you can't afford to wait fifteen minutes for a reservation, then don't accept reservations. Everyone that deals with reservations/appointments deals with late arrivals/no shows. There has to be an acceptable grace period (which no doubt is longer than 3 minutes). A restaurant is no different in this case than any other business that takes appointments. Can you imagine being 3 minutes late to your doctor's appointment and the doctor refusing to see you?

      1. re: Bhutani

        I think that's a rather severe policy but I'm sure they've had their share of no-shows so they feel justified doing that.

        I think you're right though, there never was a table.

        I've had my share of reservation snafus and I've learned to either get there 15 minutes early or call ahead and tell them I'm on the way.

        1. re: Scagnetti

          I'm a big believer calling the restaurant and letting them know our status if we're not going to be in there by the reservation time. One of our favorite places has horrible parking issues and I've been known to call with "we're here just looking for a place to park" and it's always appreciated.

          1. re: Scagnetti

            A couple of years ago my friends and family and I were in the car on our way to a birthday dinner, 15 minutes before the reservation time. The restaurant called and asked my friend where she was, since it was now 15 minutes before the reservation time. She replied we were close by and looking for parking. When we arrived, they had given our table away, and 45 minutes later we were seated. Mind you, had it been up to me and not someone else's birthday/ restaurant of choice, I would have left immediately. Needless to say I will not go back.

          2. re: Bhutani

            >> If you can't afford to wait fifteen minutes for a reservation, then don't accept reservations.

            I agree, Bhutani. You are 100% correct. I've experienced my share of restaurants like this, and sadly, the only recourse is never to return.

            1. re: Bhutani

              I'm not saying I would run my business like that, but, there's a reason its called a "grace" period. A lack of grace may make poor business sense, but it doesn't mean they've wronged you, only that they didn't show grace for your error.

              1. re: Bhutani

                "Can you imagine being 3 minutes late to your doctor's appointment and the doctor refusing to see you?"

                it happens. i'm chronically early, and i've been seen by doctors in someone else's earlier time slot when i'm already in the waiting room and the other person is a minute or two late...and i was once the late one, and had a doctor take someone else, leaving me, all of 3 minutes late.

                regarding your issue with the restaurant, it is their prerogative to give the table away. whether or not there really was a table waiting you'll never know, but there's a simple way to ensure you don't encounter this problem again. if you're running even a minute late, call the restaurant to let them know, assure them you'll be there momentarily, and ask them to please hold the table for you. i always take the phone number with me, and if there's even a slight chance i'll be late, i call. they're always thankful for the effort, and 99% of the time i'm not late anyway, but for that remaining 1%, my table is still available when i arrive.

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Question: In your experience how much time before your reservation can you reasonably discern that you will be literally one minute late?


                  1. re: Chinon00

                    you can't. that's why i err on the side of caution. if i can determine based on the way traffic is moving [i live in LA] that there's no way i'm going to be early, i assume there's a chance i'll be i call to warn the restaurant. in most cases i make it on time, they're grateful that i even bothered to call and still managed to show up on time, my table is ready, and everybody's happy.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      I hear you (and as a friend of mine used to put it, "there is always something to do in LA, and it's always 45 minutes away) but we will have to agree to disagree I guess. Personally, I can easily discern if I'm going to be 10 minutes late and I will call the restaurant in those instances. But I'm not going to bother to track my commute down to the "minute", updating the restaurant along the way. I'm sorry but I simply don't need to eat there THAT badly. I COMPLETELY understand "erring on the side of caution" but if “a minute” results in me being significantly inconvenienced (or losing my reservation) then I can't imagine it's a place that I'd want to visit again (just me).

                      "Um, excuse me, I - I think you forgot my bread."
                      "Bread, two dollars extra."
                      "Two dollars? But everyone in front of me got free bread."
                      "You want bread?"
                      "Yes, please."
                      "Three dollars!"
                      "No soup for you!"
                      - George and the Soup Nazi, in "The Soup Nazi"

                      1. re: Chinon00

                        Nope, not just 'you', Chinon00. I expect a restaurant to hold my reservation for 15 minutes, just as I wouldn't be upset at being kept waiting 15 minutes for a table if I were on time.

                        It worked for professors in college, it works for me in restaurants.

                        Beyond that, I would understand if they gave my table away if I hadn't called, and beyond that I would be out of there if I had a reservation and were not seated or at least bought a drink on the house.

              2. re: kindofabigdeal

                Then I think it would be fair that if the table was not ready when you arrived for your reservation that they would have to give you your meal free don't you think?... if you get punished for being late then they should too if they are late....

              3. I don't think it is acceptable either; I think the table should be held at least five or ten minutes. (and agree, it is doubtful there was a table). That said, like Scagnetti, I have had my share of snafus, and am paranoid that the place will do exactly this and give away the table after a minute or two, so I also always try to either arrive five to ten minutes early, sometimes more if I way overestimate time to get to the restaurant, or call at least five minutes BEFORE the reservation time to let them know if I am stuck and running late. Don't give them an excuse, that's my motto (and hubby thinks I am being obsessive, but so what, saves me worrying...).

                Part of my obsessiveness stems from hating to be told to wait in the bar when I arrive on time (though I don't mind it if I am more than just a few minutes early). It just feels like a way to get me to order a drink. Happened yesterday as a matter of fact: friend and I arrived a few minutes early for a brunch reservation. We were told 'we are just waiting for someone to pay' and 'if we wanted we could wait in the bar'. Well, there were no seats in the bar, so we just said we'd wait near the hostess stand (where there is a huge amount of space since it is in a hall, not in the main dining area). Sure enough, one minute later we were shown to a lovely table that was completely cleared and ready (so clearly no one was 'waiting to pay'.). They didn't want us standing near the entry but didn't mind if we had to stand in the bar.....where we might order a drink...

                5 Replies
                1. re: susancinsf

                  Susan, I agree with you. If you're going to be late, all you have to do is call. The restaurant's clocks may be a few minutes ahead of yours, and all of a sudden, you're pushing 10 minutes late without calling.

                  Not trying to be brusque, but in reality, you WERE late. A simple phone call would've avoided this whole situation.

                  Also, a restaurant ISN'T like other businesses. With very few exceptions, a restaurant has no way to recuperate losses from no-show tables. They can't bill your insurance company or you personally (again, a few exceptions exist, but it's definitely not the norm), so it's in their best interst to give the table away (to begin making money) if you're not there on time and haven't let them know you're going to be late.

                  Three minutes is a little harsh, but they have a right to their policy.

                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                    I do agree with others' argument that maybe I should have called. I thought we were on time when we arrived at the valet so I didn't see the need to call ahead. But lets be honest, my "table" wasn't given away in the last 120 seconds before I entered the door. So, how early do I need to be for my reservation to be seated at my "table"?

                    I disagree with your examaple, invino, that restaurants aren't like other businesses though. I know that on a number of occasions that I have been instructed that my credit card will be charged a fee (whether it is $25 or $50) if I don't honor my restaurant reservation or call ahead to cancel. I am a physician and I know that it is very rare that doctors get away with trying to recuperate anything from no-show patients or their insurance companies.

                    The restaurant does have a right to their policy, I agree. Being in the service industry though, they should also aim to please their customers. If I had been made aware of this "policy" on making my reservation, I would have kept my mouth shut when I was late. It amazes me how these "policies" seem to be invoked without the customer having any forewarning that they even exist.

                    1. re: Bhutani

                      It's a completely absurd "policy" (if it actually exists). Watches can easily be a couple of minutes off. If a restaurant had that policy out here in LA they would essentially be out of the reservation taking business. Vote with your feet / wallet and take your business elsewhere.

                      1. re: Servorg

                        Exactly the point that I was going to make. Your 7 PM might be 6:58:55 on my watch... so what time is it, really? If a restaurant's policy is that parties must be physically present at the hostess station at the moment of the reservation according to the restaurant's computer's clock, then that policy had better be emphasized to anyone making the reservation. And stamped on the manager's forehead.

                      2. re: Bhutani

                        Does the restaurant really need to tell a grownup (and a doctor at that, who definitely knows how valuable time is) to be on time for their reservation? As some of us have mentioned, clocks read different times everywhere, and your "three minutes" late could've been closer to ten, according to the restaurant.

                        My PCP and dentist both charge me directly for missed appointments without a call.

                        The restaurant did aim to please their customers; the ones who were on time for their reservation.

                        I agree you should've been warned about the stringency of this policy.

                  2. sounds acceptable to me, especially in todays "me first" society we live in where alot of society does not care about others, or being on time. The restaurant needs to cover themselves for no shows.

                    We always arrive early for reservations(and thats with hauling a 1-1/2 year old child around with us).

                    1. To me the problem is simply the way the rest. dealt with the issue. That fact that you were late (albeit not by much) and had a table within 20 minutes, sounds like they did well by you. Except instead of saying they gave your table away, they should have simply said they were running a bit behind and that your table would be available shortly. You probably would have been happy to get your table when you did and all would be well. They should have thought on their feet a little better. If I liked the place for the food, I would pretend that's what happened and forget about it...

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: bnemes3343

                        I would expect this kind of nonsense in New York City, but this is Houston -- geez! I think you were treated badly, but I also agree with others who say that a call ahead might have helped. They obviously weren't ready for you. I am surprised that they were willing to blow you off like that. Guess business is pretty good on Lower Westheimer. After taking a look at their website and menu I might be inclined to try them next weekend, I know that this post will always be in the back of my mind. I don't forsee ever being a party of 6, so I will have to take my chances as a walk-in some evening.

                        1. re: Cheflambo

                          Whyever would you expect this kind of nonsense in NYC? It is common practice here for a restaurant to wait 10-15 minutes before they give your table away. Any restaurant here that even tried to pull this kind of a stunt would probably have much more of a problem on their hands than the OP gave the restaurant at issue. Please explain.

                      2. The restaurant was dead wrong. The standard is a fifteen minute window, call or no call. And I find it ridiculous to lose a reservation after two minutes. Do they rush you out too by starting to repeatedly ask "anything else" immediately after your last sip of coffee?
                        Making money is important to everyone but it can't always be the bottom line. This is the "service" industry isn't it?

                        10 Replies
                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                            For me and my family and my dollar it is "standard" (and typical of most restaurants that I frequent). What are they Philistines?

                            1. re: Chinon00

                              And not every customer-business are meant to be together. The company has their own reasons for the policy. And of course you (general) can take your business elsewhere but it doesn't mean that the business is "wrong".

                              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                No, they are not "wrong" in some absolute sense because it is their policy. But I think that we can agree that it is a bit severe for the manager of a restaurant to look at his watch, or at the clock hung on the restaurant wall, or at the clock on the computer, or at any time keeping device other than the person with the reservation, and at 8:59:59 to then look up for his 9PM reservation and when he/she doesn't see them to immediately give up the table?

                                1. re: Chinon00

                                  My guess is that it happened more like comes in wanting a table. Hostess sees that it's 9:03 and the 9:00 group has not arrived (nor have they called), so they seat the party that is there instead of making them wait for someone who may or may not show up. And in Chowhound tradition, there will probably be a thread complaining about a restaurant holding a table for a tardy group sometime down the road.

                              2. re: Chinon00

                                Bring your dollar wherever you like, but I hope a 'Hound would never be 15 minutes late without calling.

                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                  This one would. I call if I'm going to be clearly violating the 15 minute rule. Otherwise I'd expect to have my 9:00PM reservation to be recognized up to and including 9:14:59. Now if I show up after that (call or no call) I'm obviously at the mercy of whatever is available (and that may include not getting seated that evening).

                                  1. re: Chinon00

                                    Chinon, I've read many of your posts and appreciate your extreme knowledge and love of good beer, etc. I don't mean to argue with you. I'm just saying that in my 15+ years in the industry, a busy restaurant most likely won't hold your reservation that long. No place I've ever worked has held them for more than 5 or 10 minutes, unless it's slow. If there are butts to put in seats, to the seats they go.

                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                      I didn't mean to imply that a table will be held for us for 15 minutes. Clearly there might be complications if the party shows up 10-15 minutes late. But I'd still expect to be seated (at some point) that evening. After 15 minutes though (and particularly without having called) the evening may be lost. That just has been my experience and is my expectation.

                                      1. re: Chinon00

                                        Agreed, you'll still be sat, just most likely not at your desired time.