Tom: Why is it so hard to get dinner reservations at a decent time?
Q. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like every time I call a popular restaurant for a reservation, the voice on the restaurant’s line says that she only has tables at 5:15 and 9:45 p.m. Why is is so hard to get a reservation at a decent time, like 7:30 p.m.? It doesn’t even seem to help when I call weeks in advance.
A. The hidden force at work here is what restaurants call “the turn.” A restaurant with twice as many customers as seats will do all it can to force diners into two seatings: one early, one late. A reservation at 7:30 overlaps both seating times, and cuts the number of people the restaurant can serve at that table nearly in half.
If it did that, it would reduce the carrying capacity of the room, and make it harder to get reservations at any time. Since it’s anathema for a restaurant to tell customers that they must be out by a certain time (and well it should be), the only option is to give middle-of-the-evening reservations only to VIPs and serious regulars.
The best way for a customer to get around this is to dine on weekdays (because those are weak days), or during the summer. I’ll bet you can get a reservation at 7:30 tonight (this was published on August 8) in nine out of ten restaurants. You might also try becoming a big-spending regular who comes in twice a week. That will get their attention.
This post originally appeared on Tom's website, NOMenu.com