There's a pretty interesting article in the Times Dining section today about the increasing number of restaurants that don't take reservations, and why they insist on wasting your precious time. Did you know it costs a lot of money to take reservations? Besides having to pay someone to answer the phone and act peppy, most restaurants feel compelled to use OpenTable.com, which lets diners to make reservations 24/7 online. And that service isn't free.
"The average restaurant spends $1,500 to $2,000 a month on OpenTable,” says Ed Brown, of Ed’s Chowder House. They also pay a fee per reservation. Brown says a serious fine-dining experience requires reservationists "12 hours a day, seven days a week," which means "a minimum of three people making $30,000 apiece per year plus benefits. Add to that yearly payments of $20,000 in OpenTable fees. So by having no reservations, that restaurant saves $125,000 a year."
And it's not just about savings, of course. As the manager of no-reservations Fatty Crab points out, "The good news is that if they want to dine at 9, they show up at 8, and we know we’ll have them for an hour of drinking at the bar." And the more frustrated they get about the wait, the more booze they'll buy to take the edge off. Of course, some places are still clinging to tradition, like the River Cafe in DUMBO. Founder Buzzy O’Keeffe explains, "It would be impossible for me to have a no-reservations policy. Richard Holbrooke, Joe Biden and Kofi Annan are not going to come to wait around and stand in line." But if they did, it would be the set-up for a hilarious joke.