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Good Restaurant Reservation Etiquette

1. Be an Early Bird, or a Night Owl

Consider dining at less conventional times, like 5:30 p.m. “If a table has four seats, the restaurant needs to make two turns for the math to work,” says John Winterman, co-owner of Francie in Brooklyn. “Dining earlier (or later) allows restaurants to maximize their revenue.”

2. Get Your Party Together Before Checking In

There’s a reason for that policy. “Diners are occupying the table for longer while they’re waiting,” said a host at an Italian restaurant in midtown Manhattan. “If that happens three times in a night and people were hanging out for 20 minutes each waiting for friends, I would have lost 60 minutes of business, which could be enough to flip a table.”

Did You Know?

If you’re seated on time but before your party arrives, the clock starts when your butt hits the seat. One host says, “If half your party is late, it doesn’t mean you all get to sit longer.”

3. Running Late? Communicate

Some hosts give away tables after 10 minutes, while others have longer grace periods. If you’re running late, always call the restaurant so they have time to make other arrangements and not lose business. Remember: Your reservation begins at the time you first reserved—not whenever you show up.

Did You Know?

Some reservation apps penalize no-shows: On OpenTable, for example, if you are a no-show four times in 12 months, your account is suspended.

4. Don’t Be a No-Show

If you can’t make your reservation, it’s important to call the restaurant and let them know with as much notice as possible. Pre-pandemic, guests waiting at the bar might have helped make up for no-shows, says John Winterman. “But in the current climate, a lost reservation is just that: lost, irretrievable, irreplaceable.”