Friday, January 18, 2008

Spent last night eating our way through a few downtown restaurants on a preview for Devour Downtown. This guy on the left? That's how I feel and I'm on deck for large wine and dinner night number three with a large group at Peterson's tonight. Look for some Devour Downtown recommended dishes shortly (and a couple to skip). In the meantime, here are a few items of interest from better bloggers than me. I've been meaning to work my way through the backlog for a while.

The Reservations Dance: Perhaps because I'm a geek, I'm fascinated with reservations and how they work. I'm also fascinated with no-shows (and why people think it's OK to make reservations then blow them off), percentages, and how restaurants accommodate overages and shortages. One GM I spoke to recently in another city says they stopped taking reservations to boost their neighborhood traffic of locals. Does opentable help? Apparently. Michael Bauer has another in a series of posts on reservations -- the pros, cons, and the problem with no-shows.

A Cook's Tour--Revisited: Old news, but needless-to-say Bourdain wasn't happy when the Food Channel announced they would be re-airing his old series A Cook's Tour this month. Sure, it's their show to air, but Bourdain doesn't pretend like he doesn't notice how they're capitalizing on the success of his successful Travel Channel program, No Reservations, or latest book. Of course, the Cook's Tour book was pretty good, too. Worth checking out if you're re-watching the program. (My favorites are the Russia episode where they get hammered and the lamb-in-the-sand-dune Moroccan incident.)

Raw Milk Outlawed in California: If you're a fan of raw milk, you already know how tricky it is to find in Indiana. But a few producers have always made it reliable to find in California, but not as of January 1. In October, some say a "sneaky" requirement quietly passed the statehouse with no input or notification to the two raw milk dairies in the state. (Some numbers say as many as 40,000 people a year consume raw milk in California.) Local food advocates are working this month to reverse the requirement for minuscule amounts of bacterias, impossible to remove from raw milk. As of right now, the law puts two dairies out of business -- but they're still fighting. From the Chron. Via Ruhlman.


Anonymous said...

then can we get an update on karl's departure. i am sure you will let him know we are all very interested.

Anonymous said...

WHAT?!?! Karl is leaving?? Where is he going?

SCUBAchef said...

braingirl said:
"I'm also fascinated with no-shows (and why people think it's OK to make reservations then blow them off)"

I very often make reservations for different places, at different times, on the same night. (I've learned to do this over time since the vast majority of women I've known take too f'n long to get ready.) At the worst, I'll make an early one (too optimistic) at a place with the most limited menu (before they can run out of good-sounding specials); then I'll have one about an hour later at a place that's farther away; then sometimes a later one as a last-resort backup. Granted, sometimes I'll call to let them know, or see if a later time is available, but I'm sure there have been many times I was simply a no-show. I figure it all works out, since I'm also sure I've benefited from such no-shows when I've shown up without a reservation.

Anonymous said...

Scuba Chef,
After considering your input or knowledge of the restaurant industry in the past on this blog I would say to you, F-OFF.
I am sure that you would be pissed if anyone dicked you out of some $$$$$$. We as the restaurant owner in this city don't have any recourse to punish the bastard who skips out on us. If we were to take a credit card and charge you for a no-show, I am sure you would lambaste me for doing it. You are the lowest of low, scum of the earth in a restauranteur's mind and you should be embarrased for even mentioning it. It is insulting that you think that you own the earth and we should bow down to your every wimb and let you walk over us like this. I hope you get royally screwed out of something that you work 16 hours a day for 8 days a week. Then you might even begin to understand what a NO-SHOW feels like on a very busy Friday night after 6 people have left because the 3 top of assholes did not show up even if the special was so delicious that we ran out at 8pm. You are an inconsiderate asshole.
Love, Chef .......

SCUBAchef said...

Oh, give me a f'n break "anonymous" chef! Learn how to manage a room. If someone is a no-show after 15-20 minutes (or 5 if you want), they lose any claim to the table; give it to the next in line. If there is no one willing to wait for an available table, that probably says a lot about how you suck. And it's "whim", chode. Work smart, not hard.

braingirl said...

I think the real issue here is whether or not there is a real financial impact on the restaurant when a customer makes a reservation and doesn't show. (I know making multiple reservations and only honoring one is a huge problem in larger markets like NYC where many fine dining establishments *do* require a credit card.)

Chefs, while I often see people lined up and waiting at places like Weber Grill or Magiano's where you can make reservations, what about smaller estalishments?

I know I've been turned away smaller places like R Bistro before when we didn't have a reservation. I can see a no-show having a significant problem with a small number of tables.

Chefs, does this make a difference? (Or does it have more to do with size.)

And to further the discussion, what about large groups?

Neal said...

I find that I take no shows pretty personaly. To think that someone else will just take that spot is a less than reliable system.
Restuarants operate on the tiniest of margins, so when you have less reservations than you prepared for, it can certainly cut into your night.
we encourage people to make reservations as far in advance as possible ( which rarely works well) but at least we then have something to gauge prep and staffing on. To be perfectly honest, the only time I get upset about this is when we confirm the reservation the same day ( as we do all of our reservations) and the guest confirms and then proceeds to no show.
We use opentable which enables us to make detailed notes about individual guest's that usually include which wines you prefer, your favorite dish,etc. Opentable has a built in "history" tool that allows us to track your reservation history.
While its very frustrating, I'm not sure I feel as strongly about it as anonymous chef. Just ask my hair stylist, dentist and friends that I tend to "stand up" all too often. Besides, its part of the game.

braingirl said...

If you book with, they will close your account after a certain number of no-shows. I think it's three.