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No walk-ins accepted?

We enjoy the food at a particular restaurant that, due to location, we are not able to frequent and predicting that we would be in the area is usually last minute. So, we were nearby around 5pm and were at the restaurant by half past. It's a little bit upscale, and their food is in good demand due to the quality and selection, but it's not an exclusive place by any means.

In a nutshell, this place was EMPTY, yet when we explained that we didn't have reservations, they refused to seat us. With 10 year-old in tow, the bar was not an option. The hostess said that they had a booked night of reservations to honor. I understand that, but it was quite early and my thinking was that we'd be long gone before the reservation crowd. I guess I was wrong. And they certainly had the right to refuse, so no hard feelings. I was surprised that A. Many people make reservations so early on a Friday night... we wouldn't usually make reservations before 7:30 unless we had an event before which we were dining... and B. that a restaurant would book 100% for reservations leaving nothing for walk-ins. This is not a place that is booked months in advance. In fact, I called them after we left and they had reservation openings for 7:00 ( which was a little later than we wanted to dine because our kiddo was "starving"). I was just surprised and wondering what other chowhounders thought. Is this common or a quirk of the place?

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  1. Well, if you called later and found they had availability at 7 p.m., then either the hostess lied to you earlier when she said they were booked or they had a last minute cancellation. It does seem odd. If it was upscale, do you think they just didn't want the kid there, but could not say that to you so used the excuse that they were booked instead? I only mention that because it happened to me once. But, it is not like a 10 y.o is a toddler, so I don't know.

    2 Replies
      1. re: wincountrygirl

        I agree that being offered a reservation for 7pm over the phone after being refused at the door is a bit fishy.

    1. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.

      1. It's not so off-the-wall to think the place would be booked up on a Friday, no matter the time, if it's popular. At one of my favorite local restaurants (where you absolutely need a reservation) I find myself having to accept reservations at 9:30 on a Tuesday or Saturday at 5:15. Neither is ideal, but it's a hard table to get. I love the food so I'm willing to do that for this place.

        2 Replies
        1. re: LeoLioness

          Yes,but if they had an open table at seven and they were there at 5:15 and the place was empty they could have stayed until at least 8:30. Just saying! Sounds strange to me as no way would a nice restaurant be filled at 5:30 unless it has the FL early bird specials! LOL

          1. re: Mother of four

            Or, unless it's an incredibly popular restaurant and people are willing to dine at off-hours in order to go there. Not uncommon at all.

        2. I agree with Kat. I think it was due to your youngling.

          1. So if they give you a table that has been reserved for 7 and you aren't out of there by 7 then we will be hearing from the person who had to wait for their table, even though they had made a reservation. (Also, if the kitchen knows they won't be serving until 7 they might not be quite ready for diners yet.)

            14 Replies
            1. re: escondido123

              If they're not ready for diners yet then why are they open??

              1. re: PotatoHouse

                happens all the time for a host of reasons.
                after you start trying to manage a busy restaurant kitchen, you'll see that it makes perfect sense.

                also, a restaurant kitchen will often schedule the specific tasks so that the peak production time will coincide with the peak reservation time--a completely rational thing to do.

                1. re: PotatoHouse

                  Because many restaurants that are reservation driven would not staff a kitchen to accommodate a possible walkin for financial reasons.

                  1. re: holypeaches

                    as i said, completely rational thing to do.
                    shows good business sense.

                    not just would they <<not staff a kitchen to accommodate a possible walkin>>

                    they would also not have the waitstaff, the bar staff, and on and on and on. . . .

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      I just can't wrap my head around this logic. If the front door is unlocked and the sign in the window says "Open" then you need to be at least minimally prepared to serve a customer. What is the logic behind allowing customers into your place of business but refusing to serve them.

                      1. re: kmcarr


                        please refer all my earlier comments, to bulavinaka's much more detailed and beautifully written expansion on what i had covered, cheesemonger's post, and ipsedixit's explanation.

                        we were all trying to convey to you how actual full service, higher-end, restaurants actually operate--not how short order or fast food or chain restaurants or family oriented neighborhood burger / pizza / barbecue / sandwich joints operate.

                        in a high-end restaurant that takes reservations, all the planning is focused on meeting the needs of the people who have reservations. sometimes you may be able to work in a few walk ins. certainly you will try your best to work in any regulars that walk in. but, the walk ins who are not regulars are low on the list of priorities and they absolutely should not be accommodated if such accommodation could, in any way negatively impact the experience of those with reservations.

                        in a busy high-end restaurant, the logistics of meeting the needs of those with reservations, by itself, is a daunting undertaking.

                        if you can't get it, then you can't get it.
                        maybe in another life.

                        1. re: westsidegal


                          Thanks for the massive dose of condescension. I fully understand how full service, high-end restaurants work and I hear the argument you are making. I simply don't agree with it.

                            1. re: kmcarr

                              then stick to the type of restaurants that cater to you.

                              as a number of us have explained, there is a raft of rational reasons why high-end restaurants operate the way they do.

                              so we now know that ignorance is not the foundation of your position.

                              maybe, you will open a high-end restaurant that will do it differently. let us know it's name and be sure to tell us how that works out.
                              i would love it to be in my city so that i could drop in at any and every moment that it is open and get perfect, full, service as a walkin.

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                We should probably just let this one go, westsidegal.

                                Sometimes trite expressions like "agree to disagree" hold more truths than one can imagine.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  i do so respect you ipse, that i will do as you say.

                          1. re: kmcarr

                            exactly. this reminds of the reverse situation: restaurant is open until 10 pm. but i am refused service or seating when i enter at 9:30 pm.

                    2. re: escondido123

                      this ^. It's 5:30, and they are empty- so what? You would require a 4 top. It's not inconceivable that they have 6:00 and 6:30 and 7 pm reservations for all the 4 tops. This means what escondido said- people with reservations, that may not be there at that very moment, will likely be inconvenienced because you dropped in, and the staff has no idea if you are quick eaters or lingerers.

                      I also doubt it has anything to do with the child, and everything to do with pre-existing commitments.

                      1. re: cheesemonger

                        With children you really can't linger too long. An hour is about all they can handle! The child is ten,not exactly the age when they are going to be running around a restaurant or throwing fits. Can't believe it was the child. I'd just chalk it up to experience ,and if I really wanted to eat there I would make a reservation the next time.

                    3. In the past, we've dined with her there, but you all may be quite right that it's related to the kiddo.

                      They are open from 11:00am, so the kitchen better be prepared at all times once their doors are open! It's slightly upscale with entrees $20 or greater but not "fine" dining. If they had a table open that would be occupied at 7, then why not give us the option of having the table for a hour? That's what they do in many places in Europe. A little placard says, "this table free until X hour". Until then they allow walk-ins.

                      It sounds to me that this is a peculiar situation and not a norm. We don't eat out as often as some of you do, so I was curious that there was a trend I was not aware of.

                      47 Replies
                      1. re: gardencook

                        The only "trend" I can think of is the trend for some entitled parents to bring their ill-behaved offspring to places where they ruin everyone's evening, and the hostess just assumed your child would be like this. It's sad, but you were stereotyped.

                        1. re: Isolda

                          You may be right, but I'm leaning toward there being another reason.

                          I wonder if it was because there was a game (the city has professional sports of various types) and they were booked for the pre- game crowd. We're not sports fans, so didn't realize there was a game until a friend told us this afternoon.

                          We've eaten there many times with our (sometimes painfully quiet and shy) kiddo, and it's not child -unfriendly. They are upfront about offering half portions of certain foods to accommodate kids. Still, there may have been a reason related to having the young gardencook in tow.

                          1. re: gardencook

                            This -- they may have had reservations for the whole restaurant for the hour and a half before or after the game (like a lot of restaurants in theater districts that are full at 7:30 but you could shoot a cannon down the middle at 8:00). They may also have had a special group function that was tying up all their resources.

                            1. re: gardencook

                              Maybe they remembered you from (one of those rare occasions) when you ordered takeout.

                          2. re: gardencook

                            <<kitchen better be prepared at all times once their doors are open!>>

                            there are several restaurants in my city that are continuously open between breakfast, lunch and dinner and some that are continuously open between lunch and dinner.

                            very few of them are really 100% prepared to serve their complete menu at non-peak hours.
                            most will have developed an abbreviated "bar menu" from which people can order after 2:30 pm and before 6pm,
                            but many just explain to unexpected walk-ins what their limitations are.

                            if i had made a 6pm reservation, and arrived to see that i couldn't have my table because it had been given to a 5:30pm walk in and the 5:30pm walk in was not done eating yet, that would demonstrate to me that the restaurant didn't have a clue about how to run their system.

                            1. re: gardencook

                              I think there was probably a good reason for it (full house expected at 6 for the game? she knew that the kitchen just would not get your order out in a timely manner, given everyone was on break?), but she didn't do a very good job of explaining it in a way you could relate to. Of course she's not "obligated" to do so, but it would have been friendlier. It's definitely confusing for a place that is open from 11am with no afternoon closure, but maybe they are used to that time being a slow period and they truly aren't prepared to get your meal in a timely manner before "real" dinner guests arrive.
                              Actually, my friend and I went to a restaurant with similar hours recently, around 5:30. They were open and food was available but we got weird hyper-casual service from someone we figured was a manager, later replaced by a server, and we were told quite fliply that there no specials, well there would be LATER, but not yet. Basically we were too early for "dinner" service. But at least we got fed :)

                              1. re: julesrules

                                the service you and your friend received at 5:30 is pretty normal.

                                1. re: westsidegal

                                  wow thanks westsidegirl, that hadn't occured to me!

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    If you're open, you're open. Do you give a discount on the menu to take into account not getting the same food and service you would an hour later?

                                    All these excuses about "oh, you don't understand how restaurants are run" are just that: excuses from people who don't know how to run a restaurant and then blame it on their customers.

                                    If you can't provide food and service to your customers at 5:00, then don't open your doors at 5:00! If you don't take walk-ins at all, then don't open your doors at all -- just give your customers with reservations a secret code to key into the lock. Think how cool and exclusive you'll be then!

                                      1. re: baseballfan

                                        A snarky voice of reason, perhaps. Seriously, I don't understand people who vehemently defend the right of restaurants to treat their paying customers badly. I think part of the problem is that a lot of restaurants don't do any formal training in "customer service" (as opposed to serving customers). Twenty years ago when I was given customer service training for a customer service job they emphasized that when a customer had a bad experience they would tell an average of 20 people. Now, with the internet it's many multiples of that. Restaurants spend a lot of money trying to bring in customers and then nothing on training their staff on how to keep them once they come in the door. It's really stupid from a business perspective.

                                        In the case above, as I posted earlier in the thread, I understand they may have had a good reason for turning away this walk-in -- but would it have killed them to take 15 seconds to explain it with a smile, i.e. "Oh, I'm sorry, but we're fully booked with a party arriving in 15 minutes" (even if it's not strictly true -- you don't have to detail every item in your reservation book!). Is that so hard? If it's too hard to deal with basic customer service situations like turning away a customer, then you shouldn't be in the restaurant business!

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          While I agree that customer service in general has declined, and snark really doesn't help the stuation, I don't see it in what the OP decribed. the hostess could have tried to see things through the OP's eyes and give a better explanation. After all, personal qualities like that are of great benefit to someone in that position. However, it's not a perfect world.

                                        2. re: baseballfan

                                          Everyone has their opinions. I prefer to take the position that the restaurant had their reasons and that these were not issues r.e. the kid. But none of us were there so it's all speculation. The time that the OP showed up at the restaurant points to the possibilities already listed ad nauseum. However, conspiracy theorists tend to get their gears all wound up whenever there's even the smallest window of chance.

                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                            Normal? No. Not in my neck of the woods. I eat out often at 5 or 5:30, and usually receive the same level of service I would at a later hour. Actually, usually better.

                                            If you think this is normal, I might suggest you need to frequent different establishments, and raise the bar as far as what you consider good or even acceptable service.

                                            1. re: MelMM

                                              when my parents lived in a retirement community most folks ate very early, so, in that neck of the woods you would be right. of course, the food served there was very ordinary.

                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                Well, I don't live in a retirement community, or even in an area with an older than average population. I am talking about nice, mid- to high-end restaurants in an urban area. It is not uncommon for me to have an early dinner with friends after work, or an early dinner on a weekend when I've been on the go all day and not had lunch. It's been very rare to have any issue with service at this time, or with menu items not being available. And if it were an issue, I would be unlikely to return. Part of a restaurant being "good" is their ability to give you good service during their advertised hours.

                                                1. re: MelMM

                                                  Agree with westsidegal. The transition from lunch to dinner at many Chow-approved restaurants with a strong focus on sourcing and technique either shut down or offer abbreviated menus during the slack time (between lunch and dinner service). Much of the staff rotates out. Lunch staff in the back house starts rolling in at 0700 (prob 0500 for bake staff).

                                                  Dinner service staff starts rolling in at 1400-1600 to review and prep dinner menu. Lunch staff starts transitioning out after lunch is over. It's common knowledge for those who frequent these types of restaurants, at least around LA. It's typically much easier to get a seat during slack time, but with the understanding that service and menu are often abbreviated.

                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                    I am understanding of such a transition at say 3 pm or 4pm, but 5:30? Not so much. A restaurant that has its act together will have it together by then.

                                                    1. re: MelMM

                                                      Exactly. At 5:30 p.m, that is *not* a shift change. That usually happens between 2:30 and 4:00 p.m. Anyone who is working the evening shift is usually there by 4:00 p.m. (before dinner service begins) to help with any set-up needed. So if they're "open for business" at 5:30 p.m., that should mean they are ready for customers, ready to take orders, and ready to fulfill those orders.

                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                        Thank you. Ever get the feeling you're being gaslighted on these threads?

                                                        1. re: MelMM

                                                          :::furtively looking around for Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman::::

                                                          1. re: MelMM

                                                            It ain't no BS - mostly has to do with the back house preparing for dinner service, which usually involves a broader and more complex menu. Of course not all places do this, but many in LA do. 1500-1800 is deadsville for many of these types of eateries anyway. Why one can't accept this reality is laughable.

                                                            1. re: bulavinaka

                                                              Except as Ruth said - if a restaurant say they open for dinner service at 5:00 or 5:30 (or that the dinner menu starts at that time), why shouldn't one expect that the full menu be available?

                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                >>Except as Ruth said -<<

                                                                >>If you're open, you're open. Do you give a discount on the menu to take into account not getting the same food and service you would an hour later?<<

                                                                In fact some do - it's called happy hour. And that's a resto's prerogative to do so. Some choose to do happy hour to help cover overhead, some choose not to reduce prices probably because their profit margin is already slim, some reduce their front and back house operations to be commensurate with the demand and back house logistics, and some choose to close. They are all legitimate business models.

                                                                >>...why shouldn't one expect that the full menu be available?<<

                                                                Why SHOULD a restaurant be expected to offer its full menu - lunch, dinner or otherwise - during a transition period? One's business model is their business model unto themselves. The market will decide whether or not it works, and obviously many of these more upmarket restos that have this profile are successful and are counter to your buddy MelMM"s thoughts:

                                                                >>That some people can't conceive that a restaurant could make this transition competently is sad, and frankly, insulting to all the restaurateurs out there who are on their game.<<

                                                                Sounds like baseless soapbox rhetoric. This probably comes from someone who's never spent much if any time understanding or dealing with the logistics of these types of restaurants. I don't claim to be an expert but I do know that many factors potentially play into the viability of a restaurant's operations. And let me point out these factors again - ad nauseum. Every restaurant is different. Their layout, work and storage space, type of cuisine, prep lead time, work force, sourcing, etc. So many factors play into whether or not transitioning from one service to another can be smooth.

                                                                Gjelina in Venice does an abbreviated menu during slack hours (approx. happy hours) and is one of the most favored destination restaurants in the L.A. area. They've been extremely successful as the lines during lunch and dinner service prove it.

                                                                Gjelina has a very talented head chef who happens to be very cordial and approachable as well. He and his crews pull off great meals time after time, all in a small kitchen that's shoehorned into the corner of a small 80+ year-old building. Their strong reputation is built upon focusing on sourcing and technique, creativity, being resolute in consistency, and knowing their limits.

                                                                Given their constraints of working and storage space relative to man/woman power, they can only do so much. Their daily shipments of ingredients - mostly locally sourced agricultural items - are necessary not only to insure optimal flavors, but to continually replenish their limited stock on hand due to storage space constraints. Prepping is a constant struggle because of space and perishability issues. So gearing up and running the kitchen for separate menus is a big deal. There's no conspiracy here. The chef is too nice of a guy. There's no inept management making the calls here. The owners are far too business savvy and have opened up other very successful restaurants (Wabi Sabi, Tasting Kitchen), so there's no ineptitude here. And both are unwavering in their commitment to putting out the best dishes possible, no matter what service.

                                                                Do eaters openly protest Gjelina's slack time menu and service? Some might, but the dishes from the abbreviated menu are praiseworthy because Gjelina can swing a partial - not full - menu at this time. They won't sacrifice quality for quantity. I would hope any Hound could respect that.

                                                                Calling out ineptitude, laziness or even some sort of conspiracy is just to easy. To me, it highlights how little one takes into account the real and tangible variables that play into why restaurants do what they do. The realities of operating a higher-end restaurant within its constraints of limited kitchen and storage space, cost of labor, perishability, prep lead time and how all of this plays into swinging from one service to another is lost upon most diners. When these issues are laid out time and again, and one still feels some sort of conspiracy or hidden agenda belies the truth, I can only shrug and come to the conclusion that it's no longer worth the time.

                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                  What I ususally run into is a simple "bar menu" between lunch and dinner. Guess you need a "bar" for that though.

                                                                  1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                    First off, what we are talking about here is not happy hour menus, late-night menus, brunch menus, etc. Seriously, we are all familiar with this, and it is not the issue. We are talking about what is available during advertised dinner hours. And where you are getting a conspiracy theory out of all this is beyond me.

                                                                    So great that you brought up the example of Gjelina! For the record, Gjelina's full dinner menu is available at 5:30 pm. Just the time we are all talking about. How convenient! And since they would take my dinner reservation at that time, yes, I would expect the full menu to be available.

                                                                    That said, does Gjelina have great service? To me - and I will make it clear that this is my (not as uneducated as you assume) opinion - this is not what I would call a service-oriented restaurant. The reasons why are beyond the scope of this thread, but anyone who researches the restaurant will figure it out.

                                                                    To me, great food is a necessary, but not sufficient, qualification for a great restaurant. Service is the rest of the equation. And by "service", I don't just mean the competency of the waiter, but the service culture of the business, which is something that starts top down (in any business, not just restaurants).

                                                                    Some examples:

                                                                    A nice restaurant in Houston, TX, over a decade ago: I have to follow a gluten-free diet due to celiac disease (not a fad diet in my case, but a medical necessity). At this restaurant, long before most restaurants even had a clue what this was, I expressed my needs to a waiter. He brought the owner to my table. She assured me that she understood completely, and even had a son with the same condition. She verbally described a few great sounding things (none of which were on the menu) that she could make for me. I picked one, leaving the details to her discretion. When the entrées were served, she brought me, with perfect timing, a plate of food so fantastic that it made everyone's jaw drop. Not just my jaw, but the rest of my party of six who had no restrictions and ordered off the menu. It was by far the best plate on the table, and had all the components one would hope for, including a flavorful sauce, and a starch (you would be amazed how many restaurants nowadays assume that if you are gluten-free you are OK with a carbless meal - not me). That is GREAT service. Above and beyond. But above and beyond in service is what separates a great business from an ordinary one, even if the product (in this case food) is the same.

                                                                    Another restaurant, Charleston, SC: On my first visit, I expressed my needs to the waiter, was well cared for, had a great meal. So good, that I decided to return the next night. Waiter from night one recognized me, and informed the waitress in whose section I was seated about my needs. She arrived at my table ready to go with suggestions. I had yet another wonderful meal, and have returned to that restaurant time and time again, always with equally great results. That is GREAT service.

                                                                    Those were higher-end places, so as a counterpoint, a diner, in Charlotte, NC: I went to this place again and again for breakfast for a period of year or two when I lived nearby and it was on my way to work. They made a great breakfast, and once I gained confidence in the cook I started ordering poached eggs (which I will only do if I know the cook can do them right) as my "usual". The cook, who could see the parking lot and the street from his station, got so he would start the poaching water for my eggs when I pulled into the parking lot, so my breakfast wouldn't be slower than anyone else's. On the days when I drove by, and didn't stop, he would tell the waitress, who would then inform any friends of mine that were hoping to see me there that I had gone on to work. Another example, in a very different environment, of GREAT service.

                                                                    These examples may be exceptional, but they are real, and are not as uncommon as you might think. I have had many other such experiences, and to me, the definition of a great restaurant is one that goes above and beyond for its customers as a matter of routine. It is, as I noted, a part of the culture of a business, and it starts at the top. There are plenty of places out there that have incredible food, but don't have that culture of service. Some of them, I choose to patronize anyway, because the food is so good, but when I recommend them, it is always with a caveat. I have worked most of my career in consulting, with my clients being mostly very large, Fortune 500 or multinational corporations, but also some smaller business. What we do for clients is not that different that what a restaurant does, if we want to keep our clients. It is a culture of "yes" rather than "no", even if "yes" makes it extremely inconvenient for us. If the client wants us on-call 24-7 during negotiations for a merger, even though those negotiations will continue through a major religious holiday for most of the US, we make it happen. Cancel my New Year's Eve plans to run numbers for a client "emergency" and glance up to watch the fireworks from my office window? Yup. If our "standard" report doesn't give them all the information they need, do we customize the report? Yup. There are many people and businesses out there willing to go above and beyond for a client (or restaurant customer), and if the work product is just as excellent, it ends up being the service that separates the great from the good.

                                                                    1. re: MelMM

                                                                      People with special needs will obviously measure their standards higher on the service issues - accommodating their particular issues is important. However, you'd be SOL at Gjelina - no substitutions, alterations or omissions. Service there can be an issue with some, particularly when a diner is denied e.g., dressing on the side, or omit a certain ingredient - but what some consider to be bad service, it's just the front house communicating what is clearly stated on the menu per the back house's policy. Here's one story that made the news:


                                                                      Otherwise, service is relatively normal there. It's all about the food - it's the product that delivers. And those who frequent this place obviously weigh their expectations heavily on the food part of the equation. It's their business, and they run it as they see fit. The market decides if a place stays or goes based on expectations being fulfilled. What is probably contrary to your views r.e. the various aspects of their business model, they still are one of the most sought-after reservations in town.

                                                                      1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                        Some restaurant owners wanna call it "panache", I prefer "pompous". No matter how good, it deserves a pass

                                                                        1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                          Yes, I know I would SOL at Gjelina, and their policy is unacceptable to me. It was what I was refering to, without being specific, in my earlier post. But my emphasis on service is not just about having special needs accomodated. It has to do with why someone eats out, and this of course, will vary from person to person. I am an experienced and accomplished cook, so I eat great food every day. When I go out, it is usually for reasons other than the food. Because I want a break from cooking, or because I'm traveling (which is a lot), or because I'm attending a business lunch or dinner or meeting friends. In all of these cases, service really matters. Of course, since I love good food, I seek out restaurants that have it, but if the service is poor, it really defeats the purpose from my point of view.

                                                                        2. re: MelMM

                                                                          When I say "bar menu" I don't mean a happy hour menu. I mean an upscale place that still has some upscale menu items available, just more on the simple side. And it is made known that from say, 2PM to 5PM, that is what is available. You don't actually have to sit at the bar to order!

                                                                          1. re: coll

                                                                            Yes, I know what you mean, and I have seen that a lot. Just to be clear, my post was a reply to bulavinaka, who seems to still think it is normal for the full menu not to be available even at a time when the restaurant is supposed to be serving dinner (as per their own advertised hours).

                                                                            1. re: MelMM

                                                                              I have been so relieved to find a bar menu at certain times and places, that I didn't feel deprived at all! You find out the kitchen is techically closed but you get a reprieve.

                                                                              Sorry, I didn't see who you were responding to for some reason.

                                                                              1. re: coll

                                                                                Oh, I know, especially if for some reason you are looking for a place late, after most have closed. Sometimes I eat at very odd hours, due to activities that keep me busy through normal lunch or dinner hours. So it is not that uncommon, when I am traveling, to have a "lunch" at 3pm, and then a "dinner" at 10. At 3, I could get a lunch menu, a bar menu, a happy hour menu, or a dinner menu, depending upon the place. At 10 or later, I'm probably going to get a bar menu, and that's fine. I don't want a heavy meal that late anyway. But whatever menu I'm given, I expect everything on it to be available. Unless I arrive 10 minutes before the final closing time, in which case I'm happy to be let in the door. Also, a big exception for BBQ joints, which in some parts of the country, run out of their "product" around noon. And can't exactly whip up some more. But that's not the kind of place we are talking about here.

                                                                                1. re: MelMM

                                                                                  Thanks for the warning, we are going to be in Georgia in a few weeks visiting friends and family, so I will make sure to go for BBQ early!

                                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                                    It really depends upon the place. In the Southeast, BBQ places are often more restaurant-like, and manage to have the meat throughout regular hours. Running out happens at the smaller places, especially in Texas. It's a whole other thread...

                                                                      2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                        <why shouldn't one expect that the full menu be available?>

                                                                        I've never experienced it any other way.
                                                                        When they're open for dinner they're ready to serve the entire menu.

                                                                        1. re: latindancer


                                                                          If the dinner menu is shown to be available at 5:30, ***even if the restaurant is open from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. for food, with no closing periods in between that time frame*** - then the ENTIRE DINNER MENU should be available.

                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                            I just posted on my local board about a similar situation.

                                                                            There is a local independent Italian restaurant that has solid positive reviews from posters I trust. Their weekday hours are 11:30 am-10 pm. A few months back I had one of those "run around" days, skipped lunch and was starving when I drove past the restaurant. I stopped in. Although I was greeted warmly, the staff was having their meal and I was turned away. No big deal. But I was put off; the other local Italian spot makes it clear they do not serve between 3:00-4:30. By 5:00, I would have expected full menu and full service.

                                                                            Odd thing was, I stopped again today for lunch at 12:30. Not a soul around--diners, servers, kitchen staff. I went to my usual (hours clearly posted) independent Italian place, and it was near capacity at 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon.

                                                                            These two independent Italians are only a mile or two apart. I think I can predict which one survives.

                                                                        2. re: LindaWhit

                                                                          That's what I tried to say earlier in the thread. Especially in my neck of the woods where just about everybody eats supper between 1700-1800.

                                                                        3. re: bulavinaka

                                                                          Oh, I can imagine that a restaurant may have some issues transitioning from the lunch to dinner menu. But that doesn't make it normal or acceptable. That some people can't conceive that a restaurant could make this transition competently is sad, and frankly, insulting to all the restaurateurs out there who are on their game.

                                                                        4. re: MelMM

                                                                          I live in a *very* urban, restaurant heavy area with many people eating all times of day. I've dined with people at that time because their schedule requires it.
                                                                          We go to one particular restaurant, we all love, where the owner is standing there at that time ready to go and happy to seat.
                                                                          It's not unusual.

                                                                          1. re: latindancer

                                                                            please be kind enough to share the name of the restaurant(s).
                                                                            it would be nice to know where to go when i'm picking people up from or dropping them off at the airport and their flight arrives/leaves at a "non-mealtime-time."

                                                          2. re: julesrules

                                                            That afternoon time between lunch and dinner usually will have a limited menu where the pick-up for the kitchen is easy and doesn't take much "space" in the kitchen. Simple dishes that any of the cooks can do like a burger, salad, pizza, etc. You usually will not see the more labor and ingredient intensive items on such a menu. Same for a "late night menu" after most of the kitchen has been broken down for the evening.
                                                            As for specials, they're usually the last items that make it onto the evening's menu; they're limited in quantity and are sometime being prepared at the last minute whenever the chef has his inspiration.

                                                            1. re: bobbert

                                                              Lol. You haven't been to this restaurant. It is not some chef's playground with market fresh ingredients and last-minute inspiration. Oh and fyi, I have been to a restaurant before (and worked in them) and didn't have a problem with any of this. It was what it was. But ya'll are VERY educational.

                                                            2. re: julesrules

                                                              Holy moly Jules. You are a very nice lady.

                                                              In my book (speaking as someone who has owned and operated a successful resto), if you are open, you are serving and if there are specials you better darn well have them up and going when the doors swing open or have the servers know them or be willing to ask the chef.

                                                              If the place is empty, why they can get a family of three in and out in no time without the family feeling rushed or put upon.

                                                              I would be furious as an owner if I found out my staff turned away PAYING customers because it was inconvenient for staff. By gosh I will wait on them! I will cut their food and feed them if need be! LOL

                                                              But then again I was in it for the money and because I like putting smiles on people's faces. Decidedly unhip Sal.

                                                              * I am talking times given by OP.

                                                          3. restaurant reservation policies are all over the lot.
                                                            any and every approach is used by some restaurant or other.

                                                            the restaurant business is not standardized.
                                                            the hostesses that handle the reservations come and go and often are clueless about what to do.
                                                            some restaurants have computerized systems that, themselves, are pretty inconsistent, often not functional.
                                                            i've seen restaurant that is operating two incompatible systems at the same time--one for the online reservations and one for the phone reservations.

                                                            also, if they had someone with a 7pm reservation call to cancel at 6pm (something that i've done on a few occasions), that would be a simple and straightforward explanation which, imho, is the most probable explanation.

                                                            1. I would have ordered takeout.

                                                              1. Different strokes for different folks I guess. We would have no problem taking a well behaved 10 year old into the bar for dinner. If it was offered there that is.

                                                                37 Replies
                                                                1. re: miss_belle

                                                                  in my state, it would have been illegal to let a ten year old into the bar for dinner. the restaurant, if caught, would probably lose their liquor license.

                                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                                    Good grief. What peculiar places some folk live in. Is there a reason why it is illegal for a ten year old to eat dinner in a bar?

                                                                    Presumably it can't have anything to do with the age at which folk can drink alcohol - I doubt whether many places in the world permit it at such a young age (where I am, drinking with a meal would be permissable at 16, so long as someone 18+ was paying for it - of course, children much younger are legally permitted alcohol at home or other private premises).

                                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                                      In my state, the drinking age is 21. Most of the bars and restaurant bars have a clear sign at the entrance stating that you must be 21 to enter. Children are not allowed inside the area period.

                                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                                        I know you are in the UK, Harters. Here in the US, laws regarding alcohol have been confusing since Prohibition ended in the 1930s. (My great-grandmother would joke that it was easier for her to get a drink during Prohibition than after it was repealed! She was Italian and did not understand eating a meal without wine. So she and my great-grandfather made their own, which was legal even during Prohibition as long as they did not sell it.)
                                                                        The laws vary from state to state, and even within states themselves. I think there are 1 or 2 "dry" counties still in existence somewhere in the South.

                                                                        1. re: iluvcookies

                                                                          Thanks for that - and,yes, I appreciate our European culture is different from American culture in many ways, which is why I'm trying to understand the reasoning behind such decisions - they often just don't compute for me.

                                                                          Without wishing to take the thread too far on a tangent, I also understand the thing about "dry" counties. Until about 40 years ago, counties in Wales could decide if they would be wet or dry on Sundays (alll are now "wet" and that decision cannot be reversed). However, there was a legal exception for bars in hotels which could open - which meant they got great business on a Sunday. My father would always recount the story of a Welsh pub he knew where the county line ran straight through the place - meant on a Sunday, one of the two bars could be open but not the other.

                                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                                            Heck, Harters, I'm Canadian and there are noticeable differences between our culture and American culture, even though most Candians live within an easy drive of the US!

                                                                            1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                              Indeed, CG. Whilst I've visited the US on several occasions, I've only visited Canada once. Prior to that I took some advice from Canadian contributors to another (non-food) board I use about what cultural issues I should be aware of. It was all very light-hearted, of course. But certainly I noticed there was a different "feel" to things.

                                                                            2. re: Harters

                                                                              40 years ago, I tended bar while attending university in Philadelphia. The on the edge of the campus bar was in the first two floors of a 4 story rowhouse. The third and fourth floors each had 2 rental bedrooms and a hall bath.
                                                                              The owner explained to me that this qualified as a hotel, and bars in hotels could open all day on Sunday, other bars could not open until 1PM (after church got out).

                                                                            3. re: iluvcookies

                                                                              FYI I'm in New Jersey and there are still a few "dry" towns here. Not actual counties but towns, yes.

                                                                              1. re: iluvcookies

                                                                                I think there are a lot more than one or two dry counties; we took a train trip to New Orleans and every 10 minutes it was "Bar closed, dry county" then "Bar open". We happened to have a bottle of bourbon with us and became popular very quickly with the other passengers!

                                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                                  Not sure about dry counties but here in Georgia there are a whole lot of dry towns. The county I live in just allowed liquor by the drink within the past year. Before that it was beer or wine only in restaurants. You still cannot buy any alcohol here on Sunday.

                                                                                  1. re: kengk

                                                                                    coll and kengk, none of this surprises me. These are great examples of how disparate the liquor laws are in the US.
                                                                                    Here in NY, stores that sell wine/spirits cannot sell beer, but beer is available in supermarkets. Wine shops can sell glasses and corkscrews, but little else in the way of non-alcoholic merchandise. They can't even sell gift bags for your purchase. Restaurants can get a full liquor license, or one for beer/wine only--and I am told neither is very easy to obtain.
                                                                                    When I travel, I am never surprised if liquor laws seem odd to me, especially in states where the state controls the sale (PA, VA come to mind).

                                                                                    1. re: kengk

                                                                                      You know, it probably WAS towns, because it was every five or ten minutes until we started thinking how funny it was.

                                                                                  2. re: iluvcookies

                                                                                    Prohibition was, singularly, the worst attempt to legislate morality that has ever been enacted in the US.

                                                                                    1. re: latindancer

                                                                                      100% in agreement with you. The financial ruin it caused for business did not help the great depression whatsoever.

                                                                                      1. re: latindancer

                                                                                        There's still a prohibition in this country, just not on alcohol.

                                                                                  3. re: westsidegal

                                                                                    There are generally state laws that prohibit children or minors from sitting AT the bar even if just to eat with an adult. I'm not aware of any states that prohibit kids from sitting at a separate table in the area of the bar. If that is illegal in your state do you mind sharing what state you live in?

                                                                                    1. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                      I can't speak for westsidegal, but when I lived in Indiana, I believe the law was 21 to be in any bar, including the bar area of restaurants. I once had family in town for a football game, and we had to wait for our table in the threshold of the bar area because my youngest cousin was only 20, and thus had to wait on the restaurant side of the entryway.

                                                                                      1. re: Wahooty

                                                                                        I live in Indiana presently. Kids are still not allowed in bar sections of restaurants. They are also not allowed to accompany adults (or go themselves) into liquor stores. Coming from CA, where things are much less uptight, I was surprised that my 8-year-old son couldn't come with me into a liquor store (where I actually wanted to buy a cigar, as it happens).

                                                                                        1. re: Bada Bing

                                                                                          So the parents have to shop for alcohol on their own or in a pair so an adult can stay with the kids in the car? Seems extreme that the child cannot accompany the adult in the liquor store.

                                                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                            yeah..or worse.leave the child, alone in the car while you "pop -in"

                                                                                            1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                                              Which is illegal in some states, depending on the age of the child.

                                                                                          2. re: Bada Bing

                                                                                            On the no kids in liquor stores, I don't know if it is State law in Illinois or just the store policy, but we encountered this situation a few years ago, when we were hosting a large family gathering at our home. We discovered that we were out of Jack Daniels, so we asked our 25-year-old niece to accompany our 20-year-old son to the liquor store to pick up a bottle (she's from out of town & did not know where it was). They both entered the store and were told that he needed to leave; so he sat in the car while she made the purchase. My understanding is that the practice is to prevent situations in which someone over the age of 21 abets the purchase of liquor for an underage drinker. Not clear to me that making the underage kid wait in the car is an effective deterrent, however, if that is the issue.

                                                                                        2. re: jrvedivici

                                                                                          kids can sit at side tables, but, as you mentioned, NOT at the bar.

                                                                                          also, to harter:
                                                                                          in my state the age of legal drinking is 21.

                                                                                          if a kid younger than 18 is caught driving with ANY alcohol in their blood (i'm not talking DUI here, i'm not talking about any impaired driving, i'm talking about an alcohol level of .02 not a drunk or impaired level and no actual driving impairment) they will have their license suspended for a year and their driving record will be wrecked for many years after that.

                                                                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                            Thanks. Yes, I'd understood that jurisdictions have legal drinking ages.

                                                                                            What I hadnt understood is why a jurisdiction would ban someone under that age from simply being in a bar - but you've now clarified your earlier post confirming that this actually isnt the case where you are.

                                                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                                                              We ARE very puritanical with our liquor laws here, it's easing up in some ways (Blue laws on Sunday disappearing) but I do remember when I was a child, it was no biggie to be in a neighborhood bar with an older family member. But hey, we had candy cigarettes then too.

                                                                                              1. re: coll

                                                                                                Exactly what I was going to say - the puritanicalism of some laws remain from hundreds of years ago.

                                                                                                In a town I used to live in a few years ago here in MA, if adults were moving from the bar to a table, they were not allowed to carry their own drinks. The hostess had to do it for them. In addition, the bar was NOT allowed to serve anyone alcohol if the patron was standing. So if you *were* waiting for a table? You couldn't drink alcohol if all of the bar seats were taken. That local law was finally repealed several years before I moved out of the town, but it was absolutely ridiculous.

                                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                  Sounds like Woburn! If it was, Woburn had another crazy law. The person who made your drink, was not allowed to serve you your drink. Learned that while sitting at the bar, right in front of the beer taps. Ordered a beer, the bartender poured the beer, and put it to the side of the taps. Another bartender came by and placed it in front of me-and of course I asked why! Crazy.

                                                                                                  1. re: macca

                                                                                                    LOL! Yup, you're right - it is/was Woburn! But what you described? *THAT* one I'd never heard of, macca - nor do I recall seeing it. But utterly nuts.

                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                      It was crazy- it was a long time ago- it was Thackerys' in the strip mall where MB is.

                                                                                              2. re: Harters

                                                                                                But just to be clear, Harters - I live in one of the "blue states" that just decriminalized small amounts of pot - and we can't take a kid into a bar here. Period. Not even an infant. And all our bars are non-smoking.

                                                                                                It is ridiculous.

                                                                                                1. re: Vetter

                                                                                                  Wow..just wow..Vetter..Too much..:-(

                                                                                                    1. re: Vetter

                                                                                                      As an ex-smoker, I'm very glad the Commonwealth of MA went non-smoking back in 2004.

                                                                                                      1. re: Vetter

                                                                                                        Same in BC for certain types of liquor licences -- no child, however small, allowed in these establishments. Smoking is also barred though that is a far more recent development. The universe as we know it would probably implode if a kid came in and lit up ;-).

                                                                                                2. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                  I think there is a clear difference between a night club bar and a bar that serves good food. Additionally restaurants with bars for accommodations. In my state if you allow smoking you must be 18 to enter. Night clubs, those that predominatly gather revenue thru alcohol can either be 18 or 21. In order to be 18 and up requires more stringent policies and funds to government. If the establishment does not take on those responsibilities it is open to the owners discretion what and when they accept patronage.

                                                                                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                    As I understand the law in NYS, as long as a bar/pub serves food, children are allowed in at any time. That would explain why our neighborhood bars and pubs have tables full of families in them when we got out early, from babies in high chairs to teens.

                                                                                                3. Just to see if the hostess was telling the truth, I would have done 2 things. First, used my phone to go on opentable to check their availibility and second I would have called the restaurant directly.

                                                                                                  If you were successful with either of those, it would have been amusing to walk back in and announce "reservation for 3 at 5:00pm" :)

                                                                                                  1. I think most of the reasons that restaurants would turn away walk-ins have been mentioned. The issues behind the reasons can be many - IMHO westsidegal's posts are spot on.

                                                                                                    It would seem silly for a restaurant with any opens eats to not welcome a walk-in. However, if one were to be able to look into the restaurant's reservations lineup for the evening, know what the staffing issue was at the time, what mode the kitchen was in (in this case 5:30 can be rounding third base for the kitchen to get their preps set up/finished for the impending 6PM dinner service), what the capacity of the cold box is, or how many servings of any particular item were on hand for the night (e.g., spare factor on dry-aged NY strips or Pacific lobster might be zero), the reasonings might be far more apparent.

                                                                                                    1. If you've ever been involved in restaurant management, you'll understand why some will not allow "walk-ins".

                                                                                                      1. Incompetent hostess turning away business for imaginary reasons....This is what I see

                                                                                                        1. I see a few possibilities. Maybe they did not want a kid but a 10 y.o. is not a crying baby. Maybe there was some incompetence involved. Maybe the place was actually booked starting in an hour and you would throw off those with reservations - the later available 7 PM opening would have had to be a cancellation.

                                                                                                          What I don't agree with is the notion that even though the restaurant opens at 5 they're not really ready for service until the bulk of their reservations at 7.
                                                                                                          In the BOH, everyone should have their prep done and are ready to go when the doors open at 5. There are no line cooks scheduled to show up just as it starts to get busy at 7. That would be a recipe for disaster. In the FOH, usually about 1/2 hour prior to doors opening, the chef will be briefing staff on any specials. There might have been a staff meal. Once again, everyone scheduled for the shift is there ready to go. Ideally, every seat will eventually be filled with tables at different points in their meals. If the entire restaurant is seated at the same time - crash. That's one reason your table may not yet be ready even though there sure looks like several are empty.

                                                                                                          If the host were to seat 3 tables of 4 in one server's area at the same time, there will be 8 people waiting for the server to finish with table 1 before they got to them and so on. Seat 3 tables of 6 or 8 at the same time in most moderately sized restaurants and watch the kitchen crash as orders for 18 appetizers arrive at one station on the line at the same time, etc, etc.

                                                                                                          Seating a restaurant really is an art form. A good host can make for a smooth operation. One chosen solely based on looks will not help business. What happened in this instance is pure speculation but I highly doubt it had anything to do with the kitchen or the foh not being ready. If they're open, they're ready. I will allow that depending on the number of reservations on the books there might be more/less prep but in the end it would be ideal to be running out of items at the end of the night. Really ideal would be to serve the last of everything to that last table.

                                                                                                          1. I agree with those that have said the story they gave you is the true one. How many posts have you seen on here where people are pissed because they show up for their reservation and then have to wait? It's often because of accommodating walk-ins, in addition to the "campers" who spend way too much time at a table. They have to give priority to those with reservations. The right way to communciate it would be to say I'm so sorry, we can't get you in right now but we had a 7pm cancellation if you have other business in the area, or try Restaurant X or Y just down the street, they may be able to accommodate you. It's the service in the response that's lacking IMO, not the actual information.

                                                                                                            BTW, we go out to eat HELLA early. We have a toddler and eat during the week at 5 or 5:30, 6 at the latest, and my tummy is used to eating at that time when we go out without him. No way do I want to d*ck around until 7:30 or 8 without any food, I'd be starving to death or have to have a snack or something. We'd much rather be in for the night and off the roads by 8:30 and enjoy some TV and relaxing with the kiddo in bed than stay until he's in bed, starve/snack, and then go out later.

                                                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                              the "early dinner" habit is VERY useful for getting into otherwise packed restaurants, as is the "late lunch" habit.

                                                                                                              1. re: westsidegal

                                                                                                                Indeed. We rarely can afford to go to a resto that takes reservations, but for those special occasions when we do, we never have any problems.

                                                                                                              2. re: rockandroller1

                                                                                                                We eat that early, too, without the excuse of a toddler. I'm usually starving by 5:30 and so are the kids (teens). Restaurants are usually much quieter if you eat early, and this makes it possible to have a conversation.

                                                                                                                1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                                  and service is better, the kitchen staff are fresher, etc etc. No downside that I can see.

                                                                                                              3. Sounds like they were not wanting your child.

                                                                                                                But under other circumstances not involving child discrimination - if they are booked out at 7 and you arrive at 5, if you tell them you will wrap it by 7, they will probably sit you. I would say very likely would.

                                                                                                                I wonder what the owner would have to say about the snub.

                                                                                                                1. I don't think the host was lying to you she was doing her job. Have you ever had to wait for a table you even though you had reservations? This is one of the ways a poorly managed restaurant can inconvenience their patrons.The reservation blotter or whatever it is called is just as near and dear to restaurant staff as anyone's tight, budget driven calendar.

                                                                                                                  1. When getting together with friends after work, we make early reservations. Personally I wouldn't think anything of it. I'd make a mental note that reservations are needed. This has happened to me before. But there is always another place to eat.

                                                                                                                    1. Sounds a bit pretentious...........and maybe they worried about your 10 year old..........either way...........pass on them in the future

                                                                                                                      1. This all just gives me horrible flashbacks to that time that I went through the drive thru at McDonald's at 10:35 and couldn't get a sausage mcmuffin......