UnderCover Waitress: The Reservation

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Reservation

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When schools have events we get busy. We are a "destination" restaurant. Families who are going to be in town call to make their reservations.

Now, I'm not complaining. Baby, we're in business! But we can only seat so many people at so many tables and in so much time. To attempt otherwise would defy the laws of physics.

Yes, we are creative. The reservation "book" turns into a series of papers with various penciled in names, erased names, penciled in again names as the managers jockey the future guests around the restaurant as more and more people call. We are constantly moving the tables around to accommodate parties, and some of the busiest evenings are choreographed ahead of time. Certain people know that when the clock strikes 7:15 table #2 gets moved next to table #6 and set for a party of six people who are expected at 7:30 p.m. For all of the things that go wrong, we still make it look seamless.

You see, the party of two people on table #2 are having a long, long, looooooong romantic dinner and don't end up leaving until 9:00 p.m. Good service dictates that we not remove the table from underneath them (You can stay, we just need the table.) But table #17 is leaving; lets put that next to table #6, okay? Great. It's only 7:15 now, we have time... who just walked in? The 7:30 reservation? Oh, sh**.

Leading up to these busiest of evenings, the sound of the phone ringing strikes fear in my heart. I look at the sheets of unattached papers that have become the "reservation book" and panic. They really are confusing to look at, even with the notes in the margins about what times we can still accept reservations. The ones that aren't crossed out, that is. I find it much easier to be completely indisposed studying the underside of the bar or examining the contents of the walk-in when the phone rings.

So when the manager had to break it to a grandmother of a proud graduate that we really could not accommodate her family that evening, the manager meant it. There was truly no way, unless they wanted to sit on the laps of another party. The manager is a nice person; she had an extended conversation with the lady about other restaurants in the vicinity and her various options. She made clear she could not, and she did not take a reservation.

On the evening in question, I was in great form. (I may be afraid of the reservation book, but I am an excellent waitress.) At one point in the middle of the dinner shift the manager asked me if I remembered the lady for whom she could not take a reservation. Of course I did; the manager never hangs on the phone like that. She said, "Well, they just came in! They claimed the grandma called and made a reservation."

Me: "That's nuts!"

Manager: "I know! Do you remember how much time I spent on the phone telling her about all of the other restaurants in the area?"

Me: "Of course, I remember that!"

Manager: "Why would I do that if we could accommodate her here?"

Me: "You wouldn't. So, when they came in, what did you do?" I was wide-eyed in my own innocence.

Manager: "Sat them in your section; they are on table #9."

Man, was I busy that night.


  1. Ah man I hate it when people do that. We told you NO! You cannot sit here. Mainly this happens when we hae an unexpectedly busy night when there are only 2 of us on. So to preserve our sanity and ensure some sort of service to our guests, we stop taking walk ins. Typical conversation,

    "Hi, table for 4 please"

    "Sorry, we're unexpectedly busy tonight and just can't seat any more tables at the moment. Perhaps we could reserve a table for you in an hour or so after the rush has died down."

    "But what about THIS table here" (point to table in a section we're trying not to use cos it's far from the main restaurant and anyone sat there will be forgotten about in the melee)

    "Realy sorry sir but though we have the tables we just don't have the staff and if you sat there we're not sure we could serve you properly as we are SO busy in the main restaurant." (meanwhile my colleague is staring imploringly at me for taking so long chatting to this guy while she's running around the rest of the restaurant).

    "Well. ok." looks grumpy.

    "Very sorry sire" practically grovelling on floor.

    And either they sit wherever the hell they want anyway and receive less than ideal service (as we warned them would happen)
    Stalk out the restaurant with the complaint email already forming in his pointy little head.


  2. I'm pretty sure the only reason they got sat was either a cancellation or a party that had less people in it than was reserved. Stuff gets juggled all night when it's crazy.

  3. Don't you just love people who assume that others 'don't really mean it' when they tell them 'no'?

  4. Great story ... returns my memories of dinner rushes!

  5. continuing, a motor coach rolls into the driveway with 40 hungry people on the road, what do you do?


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