Where’s my food?

May 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

Washington’s restaurant scene is being disrupted by outfits that committing the most horrifying sin: not taking reservations.

Restaurateurs say they don’t take reservations because they want to avoid no-shows and latecomers, which eat into their bottom line, but also because they know they can pack in more diners. Indeed, the policy, which clearly favors host over guest, is creating tension and buzz; as different as the aforementioned eateries are, they all play to full houses. It also illustrates an economy that has rebounded. In lean times, a business wouldn’t dare make it difficult for you to use them.

This is clearly quite offensive to the regular patrons, and elitist clientele:

But hospitality takes a holiday at establishments that don’t book. In effect, these restaurants are saying, “It’s more important for us to fill every seat than to treat diners like guests.” Think about it. Who invites people to dinner and then makes them wait until the cook is good and ready to let you in, much less eat? By not guaranteeing tables, restaurants dismiss whole groups of would-be patrons. The masses include senior citizens who might not be able to stand for long or don’t go out after dark, parents who may be reluctant to shell out $20 an hour for child care for a meal that may or may not happen, and suburbanites reluctant to drive in for the chance to be turned away. (“Maybe that’s the point?” an acquaintance snarked.) I smell ageism. Sure enough, a scan of the dining rooms that don’t book tables could be a casting call for a J. Crew catalogue.

When I look at this and some of the other examples of ideas that are disrupting mature markets (e.g. peer-to-peer lending in start-up funding), it seems to be just matter of shocking their habits with practices that are common in an immature market.

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