Friday, July 18, 2014

Is the rise of the no reservation policy good or bad for diners?

Posted By on Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 9:00 AM

The line at Franklin Barbecue.
  • @ATL_Legend
  • The line at Franklin Barbecue.

In my latest Review of Kimball House, I briefly touched on the Decatur restaurant’s no reservation policy and how, as a result, the waits can stretch into one or more hours on the weekends.

When I asked Bryan Rackley of Kimball House why they chose to go the no reservation route, he said it was because the owners wanted the decision to dine at there to be more “whimsical” and “less planned.” That’s certainly the restaurant's right, but is such a policy necessary and is it good or bad for diners?

Such policies at popular restaurants are nothing new to Atlanta. Holeman & Finch Public House and Leon's Full Service have never taken reservations. And more restaurants are adopting similar policies. The newly opened Polaris, the restaurant at the top of the Hyatt Regency, only takes reservations for parties of eight or more. The new health-conscious Buckhead restaurant True Food Kitchen also doesn't take reservations unless you have a larger party.

I actually don’t mind waiting when good cocktails are available. But if the bar game is weak, like it is at True Food Kitchen, such a policy detracts from the entire experience. Sure, having a bunch of people crowded around the door and bar certainly gives the impression that a restaurant is busy and popular, but it also leads to an inevitable strain on the servers and staff. Such a strain leads to a less than positive dining experience even if the food is good.

If I were a restaurateur, I’d rather have a steady stream of business throughout the evening and better quality food and service than appear popular and busy. That's how you get repeat customers and stay afloat. And isn't that the point of a business after all?

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