I am on a personal mission to do away with the phrase, “Do you have reservations?” from the lexicon of restaurants. Here’s why:
If you’re a customer without a reservation and you walk into a restaurant that’s busy and you ask for a table, inevitably, the question you are countered with is, “do you have a reservation?” Seemingly innocent, yes? But in that most insidious of questions, you (the customer) are suddenly put on the defensive. You are now beholden to the restaurant and they now have control of the exchange. Which is a good place to be if you’re the restaurateur, bad if you’re the customer. It tempers the rest of the experience. As a customer, if there are no tables available why not be told, “I’m sorry, we don’t have anything available at the moment, but if you’d like, I can put your name on a waiting list, etc”. It’s bad news, but it’s the reality. If there are tables available, then why ask the question at all?
Ah, but you may ask, what if you (the customer) have reservations, how would the restaurant know this without asking? Simple, you (the customer) tell them. And frankly, with all the years I’ve gone to and worked in restaurants, people with reservations always open the exchange at the host desk with, “I have a reservation.” The matter is settled.
As a business, restaurant owners have very little power in the exchange with customers. They are the reason why you are in business and therefore yes, the customer is almost always, right. Putting your customer on the defensive at the outset of their meal sets the tone for the rest of the meal. The customer feels as if, now you’re doing them a favor by seating them without a reservation. Most people don’t even notice this, but there is always a slight and subtle begrudging.
So, let’s do away with, “Do you have a reservation?’ It’s off-putting and honestly, unnecessary.