Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at www.thevertexfighter.blogspot.com.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

"Finding a table with no reservations" (restaurant article)

Oct. 25, 2015 "Finding a table with no reservations": I cut out this article by Liane Faulder in the Edmonton Journal on Sept. 2, 2015.  I don't like to wait in line at a restaurant.  If I see a long line, I don't go there.  Also, if my family go out for dinner, we go in the middle of the week so it won't be as busy:  

In the restaurant industry, it’s called “managing disappointment” — the dance performed by front-of-house staff when hungry customers arrive to discover there is a two-hour lineup for dinner.

The unhappy news may come after a lengthy drive from the suburbs, and a frustrating search for parking. Sometimes the word “disappointment” doesn’t cover it. Sometimes, people are flat-out “livid,” according to Nick Martin, the general manager at downtown’s Rostizado — one of the hottest eateries in Edmonton, which features a waiting list that can take three hours to clear on a Friday or Saturday night.

Rostizado doesn’t take reservations except for parties of eight or more, and even then, 48 hours notice is required. But the restaurant is having some success managing the chaos with an app called NoWait, designed to take the sting out of learning that the restaurant is booked solid and then some.

“This alleviates a lot of that stress and disappointment, provided people use the app in the way it’s meant to be used,” says Martin of the NoWait app.

Launched in 2010 in the United States, NoWait switches out the traditional pen-and-paper waiting list for an iPad-based system. Users download the app on their cellphones, and can then put their name on a waiting list without having to visit the restaurant. They can monitor the lineup from home, or a nearby bar. NoWait will alert customers 10 minutes before their table is ready.

The app, available for free from iTunes, is also used by Original Joes and State and Main restaurants here in Edmonton, neither of which take reservations.

“We’ve looked at a lot of different technologies and NoWait is seamless, quiet and easy,” says Richard Homer-Dixon, director of operations for Western Canada for Franworks, which owns both chains, noting NoWait replaces the buzzing, blinking coasters that customers used to cling to as they waited for a table. “And everyone has a cellphone.”

Homer-Dixon says his restaurants don’t traditionally have waits of more than 20 minutes at “high-revenue times,” such as 6:30 p.m. on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday, when all of Edmonton is dying to dine. He says Franworks’ no-reservation policy is in place because owners want their restaurants perceived as places where you can decide, last minute, to go out to eat.

Restaurant owners who prefer to make people wait in line rather than reserve a spot defend their position by saying diners often don’t show up for reservations (estimates say that happens with up to 20 per cent of reservations in a big-city restaurant). This throws the restaurant for a loop, making it hard to staff the floor, and to make money in an industry with tiny profit margins. It also hurts servers, who rely on booked tables for valuable tips to top up wages. NoWait, and other table management systems such as OpenTable’s Rezbook, offer something in-between a reservation and a discouraging waiting list.

The trend toward refusing reservations, particularly in restaurants catering to the young and the casual diner, has grown in the last decade. While a lineup can be irksome for some customers, it can signal a hot spot, contributing to a buzz around the restaurant. Industry experts also say that, so long as your customer base is clamouring for a seat, refusing reservations moves customers in and out more quickly, thereby increasing revenue. At The Keg, for instance, which doesn’t accept reservations on Friday and Saturdays nights in three of its four Edmonton locations, turn-around time for dinner during those busy times is roughly 70 minutes. A comparable restaurant that takes reservations generally sets aside two hours for a table to come and go.

At Rostizado, there have been bumps as customers and staff get used to working with the system. Martin says some people think using NoWait means they have a reservation, which isn’t true. The wait list is merely an estimate, and it changes depending how quickly or slowly people move through the restaurant, and on impossible-to-predict factors, such as the weather.

On a recent Friday night, I used NoWait to dine at Rostizado, which has 70 seats. I put my name on the wait list at 6:30 p.m. only to learn it was a wait of between 105 and 120 minutes. There were 21 parties ahead of me. The restaurant and I exchanged texts once or twice (note: this back-and-forth is key to the best execution of the app).

I knew they would let me know 10 minutes out that my table was ready. But I live about 15 minutes from the restaurant, so after 90 minutes, when the app told me there were only two parties ahead of us, we drove downtown.

On the way to the restaurant, however, it began to rain. People sitting on the patio at Rostizado moved into the restaurant, sucking up available tables, which meant our wait was longer than anticipated — about another half-hour. To be fair to the app, it had said from the beginning that the wait could be up to 120 minutes. Luckily, there were a couple of seats at one of the communal tables when we arrived, so we opted to grab those, rather than wait longer for a private table.

“It’s not a perfect app,” acknowledges Rostizado co-owner Dani Braun, noting the last thing that restaurateurs want is for customers to be “hangry” — that deadly combination of hungry and angry.

But Braun says the app gives people the opportunity to know what’s up, and to decide whether or not they want to wait in line at all.


1 Comments:

At December 28, 2016 at 11:13 AM , Blogger Blogger said...

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