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Open Table reservations for solo diner!

josephnl Dec 22, 2011 12:37 PM

I have just run into a situation that for me has not happened before. I am planning a short trip by myself to a city that has many wonderful restaurants. In trying to book a table on Open Table for a party of one, I have found several (but not all) restaurants which say that "no tables are available"...but, if I request a table for two, essentially all times are available. Obviously these restaurants are telling OT that they do not want them to book tables for a party of one! I'm rather annoyed by this and cannot decide what to do. I could try booking the table directly with the restaurant (and taking the chance that they will deny the reservation), or I could simply make a reservation on OT for a party of two, then upon arrival tell them that my dining partner was "unable to make it". The later choice bothers me because it is obviously dishonest, but it may be my only choice if I wish to dine at certain restaurants. I have dined solo at some of the best restaurants in the world, and have not run into this before. Has it happened to others? How would you handle it?

  1. jinet12 Sep 3, 2012 08:04 AM

    This happens to me as well at certain restaurants
    listed (not all). I always just call the restaurant
    directly and have never had a problem ( except
    recently with a snooty reservationist at Locande
    Verde in NY) but that still didn't stop me from making

    1. Jasz Aug 23, 2012 09:29 PM

      I know that OT often won't allow online booking for over 4, and once wouldn't allow for 3 but would for 2 or 4, so I'm thinking it's more of a software glitch, as mentioned above. In those situations, I call.

      16 Replies
      1. re: Jasz
        hotoynoodle Sep 3, 2012 07:43 AM

        it's not a glitch, it's how each place chooses to set up on-line availability. not all the slots shown to a potential guest on ot are "all" the slots available for the night, with most places wanting to leave a cushion for walk-ins, large parties and vips.

        as for booking tables for one, places like nobu and babbo are sold out every night. "wasting" even a 2-top on a solo diner isn't maximizing floor-space for them, so they choose not to do it. (i know you can reserve bar seats at babbo.) if you decide you don't like this policy, you can always eat elsewhere. frankly, they don't care.

        1. re: hotoynoodle
          Noitebranca Sep 3, 2012 08:05 AM

          In case of Nobu, I went there for lunch, and there were several free tables at that time. I felt unwanted anyway and it spoiled all my pleasure.

          1. re: hotoynoodle
            Justpaula Sep 3, 2012 02:32 PM

            I am confused. Jasz said reservations for 2 or 4 was doable, but not 3. If it is not a glitch, then is it that they just don't want odd numbered reservations? And if so, will they not accept five, since they don't accept three? Where does that leave diners? If I am dining with another couple plus a singleton, do I make a reservation for six? Will they turn the five of us away when we arrive, assuming a group of six will walk-in and take the table? I am just trying to figure out how I should handle the situation next time it occurs.

            1. re: hotoynoodle
              josephnl Sep 3, 2012 03:28 PM

              I have never run into a restaurant that would not accept a reservation for one. I know that this can happen on OT, but when this happens, I call the restaurant and have always been given a solo reservation. I can think of many memorable solo dinners in great restaurants where I've been treated wonderfully. I always compensate the server extremely well in these circumstances. I've never had to do it, but I suppose if I were turned down by a restaurant for a solo reservation, I'd make a reservation for two online, and then show up at the restaurant by myself and give some excuse (my companion became ill, etc.). I know that this is rude, but not moreso than the successful restaurant that refuses the solo reservation.

              1. re: josephnl
                Justpaula Sep 3, 2012 06:11 PM

                I agree with everything you said. Plus, the business should appreciate the solo diner today, who may bring five people next time and/or recommend the place to ten others as a somewhere with great food and gracious staff. I hear you, lying makes me feel rude too but I guess operating through OT sometimes necessitates it.

                1. re: josephnl
                  hotoynoodle Sep 3, 2012 10:20 PM

                  never feel confined by open table. if you don't see what you want just call. sure, you might not get your ot points, but...

                  1. re: hotoynoodle
                    Justpaula Sep 4, 2012 09:29 AM

                    I don't even know what the points are for, lol! I don't feel confined by OT, usually the reason I will call for a reservation instead of OT is because I have a 2 1/2 year old and while he is pretty good and has eaten at finer dining establishments, if I feel like the place may be more sophisticated vs. "kid-friendly", I call to feel them out and just ask their opinion. I have found most places are accommodating and I think they appreciate the communication. These are the types of things we can't accomplish with a few keyboard taps and a click. :)

                  2. re: josephnl
                    huiray Sep 10, 2012 11:52 AM

                    "I have never run into a restaurant that would not accept a reservation for one"
                    What about places that use the "prepaid ticket" system?

                    Next in Chicago, for one, does NOT allow "reservations" for one. Actually, they do not have tickets for solo diners available for sale in their prepaid ticketing system where you have to buy a ticket for a table in advance (and thus have already spent the money) through their own ticketing system before you even present yourself at the premises. (In case you have not heard of this place, it is that Grant Achatz/Nick Kokonas place with the Irrationally Exuberant Rabid Following) Ditto for odd-numbered dining parties. They sell tickets for ONLY even-numbered tables, i.e. 2 or 4 diners ONLY in the main room (and a "kitchen table" that is for 6, meaning you pay for 6 seats whether you show up with 5 or whatever). Until recently, you also had to have a fast finger at refreshing the page as the released blocks of 1-2 hundred table tickets would be sold typically within two minutes of their being "opened". Search this forum for discussions on this ridiculous phenomenon.

                    Nevertheless, I dined there several times in earlier days by buying a table for two and eating by myself after either turning up and announcing my solo status, or after emailing them and communicating w/ them after the ticket has been bought.** They adapted the menu for me to served me either double portions or, usually, what really amounted to a averaged one-and-a-half portions (or serving me a "bonus" course that might be served only to the "Kitchen Table" otherwise. What it meant was that "dinner for one" at Next (and similar places where similar ticketing systems are being adopted) amounted to somewhere between roughly $250 and $350 after the compulsory service charge (18%) and local taxes (11%) "for two" were added in and prepaid before one arrived.

                    ** (Yes, one could seek out a dining partner and be remunerated by said partner (aka sell the other ticket) - usually through Next's Facebook page - or go with a friend, whatever. But if you wanted to dine solo, and wanted a "table for one", you will have to spend the money for two. I no longer dine there.)

                    1. re: huiray
                      josephnl Sep 10, 2012 01:02 PM

                      I have never even heard of a "prepaid ticket" restaurant, and am not clear about what it is. Does this even exist in southern CA?

                      Although as I said in my op, I have had OT deny a reservation for one, in every instance that I can remember, if I've phoned them they accept the res. I have dined solo (while on business trips) in some of the top restaurants in the US, Europe and Asia, and do not believe I have ever been denied a res for one, indeed I am usually treated extraordinarily well when dining alone.

                      1. re: josephnl
                        huiray Sep 10, 2012 01:31 PM

                        Especially note the third & fourth weblinks regarding CA.

                        etc etc etc.

                        1. re: huiray
                          josephnl Sep 10, 2012 02:02 PM

                          Thank you for educating me. Wow...I think it's the height of arrogance that a chef will be unwilling to make ANY adjustment to what he serves!! Okay, he might not want to take the trouble to create a parallel vegetarian tasting menu (which I think he should)...but what about someone who doesn't want a bacon garnish on something, or who is allergic to the strawberry which may be placed atop a dessert, or someone who likes his fish slightly more done than very rare?

                          I guess I'm "old school". If I'm paying the price, I want some say in what I'm buying.

                          Getting back to the topic of this thread...will these prepaid ticket restaurants not cater to solo diners? Even the French Laundry, Per Se, Le Bernardin, etc., etc., do!

                          1. re: josephnl
                            huiray Sep 10, 2012 02:06 PM

                            Alinea still will, but not as a "ticket". You will have to email them or call them and throw yourself on their mercy. You are unlikely to get any solo reservation with either a time or even date of your choice.

                            Bonsoiree will.

                            1. re: huiray
                              Justpaula Oct 12, 2012 07:36 PM

                              "throw yourself on their mercy"


                              Gosh, what an off-putting thought when considering *any* restaurant - no matter how incredible it is reputed to be!

                              1. re: Justpaula
                                huiray Oct 12, 2012 08:50 PM

                                Indeed. It *is* an off-putting thing.

                            2. re: josephnl
                              josephnl Sep 10, 2012 04:24 PM

                              I should have said that my comment above re "height of arrogance" applies to Saison in SFO which was reported upon in the Huffington Post link above.

                              1. re: josephnl
                                huiray Sep 10, 2012 04:28 PM

                                That's fine, I had guessed that you were referring to Saison. (...and also David Chang in NYC)

                2. n
                  Noitebranca Aug 23, 2012 08:53 AM

                  Well, I am going to have a solo lunch at Nobu and booked a table for 2 on OT (no option to book for a party of one), and they told me by phone what they "would allow me to have lunch but for my future consideration they request a minimum party of 2"

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Noitebranca
                    josephnl Aug 23, 2012 02:21 PM

                    Really!! I find this unbelievably arrogant. I would take my business elsewhere.

                    1. re: josephnl
                      LeoLioness Aug 23, 2012 04:37 PM

                      As someone who often dines alone, both at home and when traveling, I would do the same.

                      I know conventional wisdom says that solo diners should eat at the bar. That's all well and good, except most bars don't allow you to make a reservation. For me, reserving a table is less about the table itself but the *reservation*, which I don't think is much different for two people who make a reservation. Standing around a crowded bar alone, jockeying for a seat isn't my idea of fun, and I hate waiting until 9:30 to eat, or hoping I'm hungry at 5:45 before the big rush starts.

                      1. re: LeoLioness
                        josephnl Aug 23, 2012 08:42 PM

                        As the op, I must say that even on those few occurrences when OT has denied me an online reservation for a party of one, by telephone they have graciously accepted the reservation. I travelled extensively when I was still.working and have dined solo at some of the word's best restaurants and do not believe I have ever been denied a reservation for one. Indeed, I recall many extraordinary meals with wonderful service when dining alone. For great service, i will always compensate the servers appropriately so that they will not be "losing out" by serving a tale for one. A restaurant which would refuse my reservation for a party of one, is a restaurant where I would no want to dine!

                        1. re: josephnl
                          huiray Sep 10, 2012 12:15 PM

                          Perhaps you may recall this earlier thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/763030 where posters (including myself) described less than exemplary experiences as a solo diner.

                          1. re: josephnl
                            huiray Sep 10, 2012 05:21 PM

                            BTW, there is a restaurant in River North in Chicago on Clark in the same block as Maggiano's (but not Maggiano's, of course) [I'm sure folks can figure out which restaurant it is] where I had some very, VERY pleasant solo dinners in the past - but which were dependent on the server who attended to me. There was one meal in particular (during that ill-fated Chicago ban on foie gras) when I had exceptional service and excellent food - at a table, of course, not at the bar - and two of the various things my server did was to procure flat breads of sorts for me after I asked for them (not served for dinner service in the main room), scrounging for them from the lounge service; and to quietly offer me a complimentary honking big piece of, uh, a certain type of duck liver for a particular dish I was having. Oh,he also took it upon himself to bring out a palate-cleansing sorbet (gratis) for me between two courses (out of many) I had ordered. I had a marvelous time, although I paid handsomely for the meal as a whole, of course - and I made sure to tip that server very, very well.

                        2. re: josephnl
                          danna Sep 10, 2012 08:35 AM

                          I agree. that's obnoxious. plus, isn't Nobu past it's prime anyway?

                      2. h
                        hsk Jan 13, 2012 09:02 PM

                        It probably is a software setup issue, and Opentable charges the restaurant per cover so if you book for 2 they have to pay for 2. I wouldn't book on Opentable for 2 and then just show up as 1, I would phone them to book for one. It's not a lot of money but to me it's inconsiderate. If they refused a reservation for one when I phoned I probably would go somewhere else, YMMV.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: hsk
                          josephnl Jan 13, 2012 09:54 PM

                          But i don't really understand why a restaurant which uses OT and is willing to accept a reservation for 1 would not allow OT to book the res for them. Most OT restaurants will accept an OT reservation for 1, but a few will not. What is YMMV?

                          1. re: josephnl
                            JK Grence the Cosmic Jester Jan 13, 2012 10:02 PM

                            Probably someone didn't quite understand what was going on when programming the OT computer, and set all the 2-top slots for ONLY two people. YMMV=Your Mileage May Vary.

                            1. re: josephnl
                              hsk Jan 15, 2012 09:00 AM

                              Sorry, I thought it was a common abbreviation. I meant you may not find it offensive if you phoned for a reservation for 1 and they refused when 2-tops were available on OT, but I would and go somewhere else. I would likely also tell them why.

                              As far as the software setup goes, either the option to enforce exact seating is enabled (i.e. a 4-top can't be booked online for 1, 2 or 3), or the tables are configured for a minimum of 2 guests. Likely whoever set it up thought it was a good idea to maximize revenue. The restaurant can override anything when you phone.

                          2. m
                            Maximilien Dec 23, 2011 06:35 AM

                            Since the system does not allow for solo diner, just make a reservation for 2.

                            no issue, no biggie, ...


                            8 Replies
                            1. re: Maximilien
                              Justpaula Aug 23, 2012 09:40 PM

                              I agree with Maximilien. As others have pointed out it may just be a software issue, but that is their problem. In anycase, a table for 1 would likely get the same physical table as would a reservation for 2 so I wouldn't worry too much about it. And if the host is confused upon your arrival, I would simply tell them that you are dining alone, but "their online reservation system" wouldn't allow you to reserve for just yourself.

                              1. re: Maximilien
                                lifeasbinge Aug 27, 2012 04:25 PM

                                yeah, try that at Babbo and see how far you get

                                1. re: lifeasbinge
                                  josephnl Aug 27, 2012 04:37 PM

                                  Really! What would happen...they wouldn't seat you?

                                  1. re: josephnl
                                    Justpaula Sep 2, 2012 08:48 PM

                                    Yes. I am curious as well. Would they not seat me? Perhaps, one can make a white lie - "My companion just called me and is unable to make it". Would they still turn me away?

                                  2. re: lifeasbinge
                                    lifeasbinge Sep 10, 2012 04:33 PM

                                    I made a reservation at Babbo quite a while ago for one person - not through Open Table, but by phone. Apparently the person who took my reservation was unaware that tables for one are apparently a no-no. I was seated and served, but chided by the maitre-d that "these tables are reserved for two people." In fairness, I've had a couple of great meals at Babbo when seated at the bar - my usual recourse as a single diner.

                                    1. re: lifeasbinge
                                      huiray Sep 10, 2012 05:03 PM

                                      I would have told the maitre-d to stick it up his ass.

                                      1. re: huiray
                                        lifeasbinge Sep 10, 2012 05:06 PM

                                        the temptation was great, but I was hungry

                                        1. re: huiray
                                          josephnl Sep 10, 2012 08:42 PM

                                          Agree. I don't care how good the food may be, based on this, they'll never receive a penny of mine! Arrogance and rudeness are unacceptable to me even if their food is ambrosial!

                                  3. JK Grence the Cosmic Jester Dec 22, 2011 11:42 PM

                                    Call them. OpenTable is a restaurant's entire reservation system. The difference between reserving online and calling the restaurant directly is that the person on the phone has the power to override whatever the computer says is available. While on the phone with them, you may wish to ask for the manager in charge of the OpenTable system and let them know that one-tops are blocked out on the online reservations. This sounds more like someone missing something than intentionally neglecting solo diners.

                                    1. t
                                      timxph Dec 22, 2011 01:06 PM

                                      Having set up open table, many of the default settings for tables is 2-4, in the older systems you had to manually change it to allow a min of 1. So therefore, the system won't think there is a table available for 1, as the software reads it as needing a min. of 2. Some restaurants may not even be aware that they are turning away parties of 1. The setup of open table is often handled by open table not the restaurant, and also many restaurant people are not always the most computer savvy in my experience so little gets changed after initial setup.

                                      I'm sure there may be some restaurants that don't want to take reservations for parties of one, but I would venture to guess the vast majority just don't know that open table is turning down single diners.

                                      I'm not sure but you may be able to book for the party of 2, then after the reservation is made change your reservation to 1. I'm not sure if that will work. The other option is to book for 2, but put in the notes, your system wouldn't allow me to book for 1, but I'll be dining alone. Then if the restaurant has a problem they can call you in advance. The third option is to just call.

                                      1. p
                                        plaidbowtie Dec 22, 2011 12:59 PM

                                        just call the restaurant. If a table of two is available, then a table for one is available. The mechanics of opentable's table availability in it's system can sometime be a little complicated. Im willing to bet there are a lot of those places out there, who unintentionally have their reservation availability set up improperly.
                                        Also- I know of a lot of places, for whatever reason, like to take reservations over the phone, if it's a specific party number. One place I know asks this so that they can get some info on the solo diner before they come in. Who knows, they might be a Michelin inspector ;)

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: plaidbowtie
                                          Harters Dec 22, 2011 01:05 PM

                                          +1. Phone them

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