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New restaurant - closed for private party?

rockandroller1 Feb 20, 2012 07:45 AM

Hound opinions, please.

New restaurant has opened where I live, after several months of excited/exciting blog and social media posts, many foodies and non-foodies have been very excited about this restaurant opening, as the owners are known a bit in the local food world. The place has only been open about 2 weeks now.

I called them this weekend to make dinner reservations for an evening next weekend. They took the reservation, then called me back a few minutes later to tell me they are closed that whole night for a private party. We are meeting 2 other couples for dinner this night and I had already messaged both couples that our reservation was confirmed, then had to message them back that we were going to our 2nd choice restaurant instead.

It just kind of sat wrong with me. I mean, not open a month and you're already closing on a Friday night, a key night for business, for a private party? This is after I had to call them 5 times because the fax machine kept picking up and disconnecting me when it heard I wasn't a fax, so perhaps I was already more annoyed than I would have been had they answered straight away.

We can only very rarely go out to dinner, so it was a big disappointment because it will be several months now before we can visit this place, and you know how when a place is new, it's exciting to try to go there fairly soon after they open. I would think they would want to allow at least a couple of months to build up business before doing a buyout evening like that, and especially on a Friday.

What say you chowhounders? I'm overreacting because of our inability to go out more often? Or it's too soon for them to be closing on a key night like this.

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  1. sunshine842 Feb 20, 2012 08:06 AM

    If I were a business owner and had the opportunity to fill the house for a known income at a known profit level versus taking my chances on possibly empty tables at variable profit levels...well, I'd book a private party in a New York minute. Doubly so in those scary early days when you don't really *know* what your average nightly take will be.

    i think it's a business decision -- nothing more, nothing less.

    You be disappointed, but impressed, if you'd called and they were booked up with reservations -- this isn't any different.

    1 Reply
    1. re: sunshine842
      rockandroller1 Feb 20, 2012 08:07 AM

      Good perspective, you're right.

    2. j
      julesrules Feb 20, 2012 08:16 AM

      Tangential to your situation but I think chowhounds and the rest of the blogosphere can get a wee bit too excited about restaurants well in advance of opening. On my home board threads will regularly get to 50+ posts before the doors even open, or perhaps after opening but before anyone has actually visited. Recently people were asking why no one on the web had yet reviewed the restaurant in the new Trump tower... the day after it opened.
      Too much hype over nothing IMHO. If the restaurant is good, surely it will still be there in a few months. I also feel bad for the owners who have so much pressure on them to have everything perfect from Day 1... so much for quiet openings and a chance to work out the kinks.

      2 Replies
      1. re: julesrules
        rockandroller1 Feb 20, 2012 08:19 AM

        Agreed, agreed, that's why we usually give them at least a couple of weeks before we visit. I guess it's just surprising to me that they would close like this so soon after opening. Not that I begrudge them the sellout business, I'm happy for them, but this to me is a time when you should be working hard to build your customer base and play on the word of mouth that's spreading around, trying to get as many customers in and out as possible instead of stopping that flow hard on a friday for a private party.

        1. re: rockandroller1
          Midlife Feb 20, 2012 09:45 AM

          How are the guests at a private party not "customer base"? I agree with sunshine842. They actually WERE booked up.

          It seems to me that you have a valid issue with whomever wasn't aware they were booked for the evening when they took your reservation, and for the phone issues......... but that's just unfortunate, and likely start-up learning curve stuff. In a less technical era you would not have had long enough to message your friends either.

          So....................... my take................... you were not handled as well as you could have been, but I would not begrudge them the sold-out night. Life's too short anyway.

      2. m
        MonMauler Feb 20, 2012 09:24 AM

        I've been on both sides of similar situations.

        Recently, a locally renowned chef opened a new restaurant in my area. The chef is a friend-of-a-friend, and I had met him briefly on a few occasions. I dined at his new restaurant a few weeks after it opened and was very impressed. Reviews were similarly stellar, and local buzz was high. So around two months after they opened I found myself in a position where I had to host a number of out-of-town friends and business associates. So a week and half in advance (this was all the warning I had), I called, spoke to the chef, and was able to reserve the entire restaurant for a Saturday evening. Surely, previously made reservations had to be cancelled to accomodate my party. My acquaintance with the owner definitely helped me secure the restaurant for the evening. Anyway, the party was an absolute hit: we were there from about 6:30 - 2, and the always stellar food and service was even better than usual. The chef and some of his employees hung out with us after food service was completed, and we became closer friends. At the end of the evening I'm sure he considered his decision correct.

        On the flip side, a few years back I made a reservation for four two weeks in advance at one of my favorite new-ish restaurants around town (it wasn't brand-spanking new, but fairly new and extremely popular). Anyway, about a week ahead of time the maitre d' called me, apologizing profusely, and explaining that the restaruant was actually closed that night for a private party. He took my email and someone from the restaurant sent me a message, again apologizing, and saying that I should bring in the email and present it to them for a round of drinks and apps, gratis. So, unfortunately, I did not get to enjoy my first choice for dinner that evening, but fortunately there are a number of good restaurants in the area, and I was easily able to secure a reservation elsewhere (and everybody had a great time). No harm, no foul. And, when I did make it back (just for two this time), one of the co-owners came out to again apologize, and after a dinner that included with a comped first round and appetizer, he bought us drinks at the bar.

        So, I understand your disappointment in not being able to take your friends to your preferred restaurant, but I definitely appreciate the owner's decision to close the restaurant for a private party. Things happen.

        1. m
          Maximilien Feb 20, 2012 09:54 AM

          At least you were warned quite quickly (few minutes); not one day before your reservation; or worse they never contacted you and you came to a closed door.

          It can happen for new restaurants to have their "media" opening a few days/weeks after the restaurant is opened to the public.

          Me think you are overreacting a little bit.

          1. l
            LeoLioness Feb 20, 2012 10:04 AM

            I think you are overreacting. It's not like the restaurant will be "closed", just booked. People will still be experiencing the food and the owners will be making money (and hopefully, new customers).The mistake with your reservation is a drag, though.

            1. rockandroller1 Feb 20, 2012 10:08 AM

              Appreciate the perspective everyone, you're all correct and I figured that was the case, but I wanted to check. It's really just my own issue because I'm disappointed since we go out so infrequently, but hopefully they will be there for a long time and eventually we'll get there. Yes, happy for them that they have the business and even happier we weren't called the day before and told we had to reschedule!

              1. j
                Janet from Richmond Feb 20, 2012 10:11 AM

                I agree with everyone else...it's no different than if they had been booked with individual reservations and customers are customers. There is no reason to believe that if they do a good job with a private party, they customers won't come back and become "regulars" just as individual reservations would.

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