For most diners two hours are enough for a drink, a salad, a main course, a dessert and the check…
The reservation chart helps to organize the seating, however the speed at which tables are turned (seated, served and send on their way) is in the hands of the waiter.
Most restaurants allow for dinner two hours before they take another reservation for the same table. For most diners two hours are enough for a drink, a salad, a main course, a dessert and the check, throw in a cup of coffee or what-have-you. However there are always some guests who are done with dinner in less than an hour and others who make it an all-night affair arriving at seven and leaving at midnight.
The seating chart, as commonly used in restaurants, is a helpful tool to plan, fit, hold and move reservations. It helps the host-person to adapt to any guest’s reservation wish. Despite what the customer thinks, reservations are not carved in stone. Still all restaurants make every attempt to honor a confirmed reservation.
A lot of erasing and rewriting is done on the reservation-book’s seating chart page during any busy evening. The person in charge of reservations and seating has to be flexible and ready for a joggling act. All tables, as they become available, are held for the reservations first. Whatever table is left open on the chart will be offered to other guests on a first come, first served basis. On a busy night these open tables are filled with walk-ins. Some diners arrive early, others are late.
At times, some guests have to wait for their reserved table to be readied. It is up to an experienced host to minimize the wait. The longer a guest has to wait for his reserved table, the more irritated he might get. Frustrated customers are hard to please and need a lot of personal attention once they are seated.
Problems can arise whenever a certain table is guaranteed to a customer. At times the needed table might still be occupied by an earlier seating. A promise is a promise! I usually move guests who are holding on to a reserved table past the allowed time. I tell them my dilemma. And I point out that this, their table was promised to another guest. I offer to seat the leaving guests in the lounge or near the fireplace in the lobby and have seldom been turned down. I reward their cooperation with a complimentary drink or a bribe of desserts.
I myself have not had a table who did not understand and accept the free drinks or desserts offer, leaving the needed table for the waiting next reservation.
There are many types of reservation books and seating charts in use, all serve the same purpose, such is to allow the host or hostess at one glance to see what’s going on. All reservation books log the same information: Date, time, name, expected guest-count and phone number. At some places the seating chart and reservation book are one and the same, at others a seating chart is created prior to dinner time from information provided by the managment and reservation book. The seating chart differs to the resrvation book as to table number and waiter’s station assignment. Certain guest one might want to seat in a certain station, some customers expect a certain waiter, better tables are given to VIPs.
On a seating chart all entries are made in pencil and cancellation, during the night, are simply erased. For hotel guests, we record their hotel’s name instead of a phone number. Bigger parties might be asked to give a credit card number to guarantee the availability of their table and such number is recorded.
The reservation chart helps to organize the seating, however the speed at which tables are turned (seated, served and send on their way) is in the hands of the waiter. He controls this part. He can delay his table or rush it and it’s of great importance that he the waiter works close together with the person at the door. The waiter provides the hostess with tables as needed. He also lets the person-working-the-door know whenever he has some life ones or real diners or a good table. Any of these terms stand for people who take their time.
The hostess, juggling the reservation-chart’s entries, getting the “real diners” message, immediately translates it into: “Forget this table for tonight! It cannot be resold!”