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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

                        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

                          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

                              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.