The New York Times has a fun read today about the rise of OpenTable, an online restaurant reservation service. One of the benefits to restaurateurs is the ability to keep track of the quirks of diners. Among the funnier quirks:
The restaurant staff knows in advance, for instance, that a regular always insists on a table under a particular piece of artwork. They know about another person’s request for kosher food — but only when dining in certain company. And there is the guest so reliably late that staff members know to add 45 minutes to the reservation time.
Doug Washington, a co-owner of Town Hall, said the notes were not just helpful, they are occasionally indispensable. Next to the name of one regular, who has a habit of bringing in women he is not married to, is an instruction to make sure the man’s wife has not booked a separate table for the same day.
Another frequent guest asks the restaurant to send over dessert compliments of the chef but to put the charge on the guest’s bill. Of another, who takes many of his first dates to Town Hall, the instructions read, “Do not treat like a regular!”
OpenTable is a great service. There are enough good restaurants on OpenTable that I’m likely to pick from the selections offered there. The ability to make reservations whenever I have a moment (instead of waiting on hold during the dinner rush) is a godsend.
OpenTable has its own quirks. Left unsaid in the story is that not all of the tables in a restaurant are available through OpenTable. You can sometimes call the restaurant and get reservations when it appears to be booked. Restaurants also set aside a portion of their traffic for walk-in traffic.
Last week’s chat with Post food critic Tom Sietsema has a complaint from a restaurant manager that people were putting in special requests in the “special requests” field on OpenTable and (gasp) expecting them to be honored. “A simple call to the restaurant would have prevented the problem. As it was they decided to eat elsewhere. We are in the hospitality trade, give us a chance to work for you instead of leaving writen requests that you hope we will read.”