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"Inside The House"


DonRocks
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Pumpkins, you are too good to me. Stay tuned as the real wit and porniness begins to emerge once the unsuspecting readership has been hooked. Perhaps I will run "The Best Snippets From The Trenches" once RW rolls along :)

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great article, nadya. probably the most helpful one yet. i especially liked

that it creates a record of your history with the restaurant to let the waiters and reservationists know what to expect from you...You might want to keep this in mind before you offload the stress of your day on your waiter.

the only thing that i would have also noted is that the same rules of courtesy apply to what one writes in the reservation notes that apply to speaking on the phone or in person. don't know about you but i am much more inclined to accommodate a request that reads "a quiet table would be greatly appreciated, thank you for whatever you can do in this regard" than one that just says "quiet table" without the simple courtesy of a thank you. :unsure:

great job.

edited to fix atrocious spelling/typing, and to add that i hope that second paragraph is taken in the spirit it is intended. it is a great article!

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don't know about you but i am much more inclined to accommodate a request that reads "a quiet table would be greatly appreciated, thank you for whatever you can do in this regard" than one that just says "quiet table" without the simple courtesy of a thank you. :unsure:

Back in the dark ages, before OpenTable, we used a reservation book. One night when I was working as the Maitre 'd at Jean-Louis at the Watergate, I was scanning the reservation list and saw the request "Quiet table". The name of the guest: Mr. Loud ! (I'm not making this up!) ;)

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I really love using open table, and I make most of my reservations that way. However, I get the feeling that most Restaurants don't like this system. Is this really the case? Also, I eat out quite a bit and understand that you should be polite to the staff, and it's sort of a partnership. I have loved reading your insights, however they seem to focus so much on what the customer is not doing correctly to please the restaurant. I understand that the public can be a pain in the ass as I have waited tables before, however we are customers it's not our job to make your life less complicated. Danny, I don't know about you, buy I am not told "Thank You" everyday for showing up and doing my job :unsure: I just think the restaurants are now expecting too much from the customer. Discuss

Here is another interesting blog post from Frank at the New York times. "The Chef Will Serve You Now"

http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/?p=53#more-53

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I really love using open table, and I make most of my reservations that way. However, I get the feeling that most Restaurants don't like this system. Is this really the case? Also, I eat out quite a bit and understand that you should be polite to the staff, and it's sort of a partnership. I have loved reading your insights, however they seem to focus so much on what the customer is not doing correctly to please the restaurant. I understand that the public can be a pain in the ass as I have waited tables before, however we are customers it's not our job to make your life less complicated. Danny, I don't know about you, buy I am not told "Thank You" everyday for showing up and doing my job :unsure: I just think the restaurants are now expecting too much from the customer. Discuss

Here is another interesting blog post from Frank at the New York times. "The Chef Will Serve You Now"

http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/?p=53#more-53

I think you missed his point. I think everyone deserves a little courtesy when asked to provide some service. Is saying "Thank you" when making a request so hard and asking too much of a customer, or rather fellow human being?

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I don't know about you, buy I am not told "Thank You" everyday for showing up and doing my job

May just be different workplaces, but although my boss certainly doesn't greet me at the door with a "Thanks for showing!" and a ticker-tape parade, I do find that most people in my office request things politely and thank each other when those things are provided.

Which is why I think Please and Thank you are not unreasonable expectations for dealing with restaurant folk, either in person, over the phone, or via OpenTable. Common courtesy, really.

[ETA: I sort of repeated what mdt said, but I'm still getting a kick out of picturing my boss throwing a ticker-tape parade, so I'll leave this here.]

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I think you missed his point. I think everyone deserves a little courtesy when asked to provide some service. Is saying "Thank you" when making a request so hard and asking too much of a customer, or rather fellow human being?

I have no issue with saying Thank You, I always go out of my way to say Thank You when I am being offered good service. I am really just asking if restaurants are asking too much of their customers. The thank you comment was just really a joke.

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First, I'd like to thank Nadya for confirming my deep-seated mistrust of Open Table in favor of talking to a real person. She even neglected to mention another advantage. Last week, I called a local mid-to-fine dining place in DC in desparate hopes of a too-soon reservation for a too-large party. When the maitre d' broke the bad news, though, he also added, at my request, a rather candid review of his competitors in hopes of helping me find another spot. For me it was pretty helpful as a mental checklist "did-I-forget- somebody-who-wasn't-pedestrian-spectacularly-expensive-or-both?" discussion (answer: yes, but the light bulb didn't go off until after I'd rung off). And if I'd been less familiar with the city -- or, God forbid, a tourist -- it would have been even more helpful than it was. Open Table won't tell you things like: "the truth is, they're pretty mediocre."

Second, I'm not sure from the article and the ensuing discussion what is being asked from the customers besides clarity, realistic expectations, and common curtesy. I pretty much expect that from everybody, and try -- not always successfully :unsure: -- to deliver it myself.

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I don't think people who work at restaurant expect an inordinate amount of bottom-kissing, in fact, I don't. I also don't think the focus of the column is "let me tell you in graphic, excruciating detail just what a bunch of ignorant pencildicks you lot are."

What I'm trying to write about, and I appreciate the chance DCist gave me very much, is to give people who are not as familiar with fine dining scene as we are a bit of an edge. We can all agree that eating out can be an average, a sucky, or a delightful experience. And it's really easy to have a delightful experience if you know a few little tricks. Like, you know, don't call at 7 pm and expect no time on hold. Ask for a nice table in advance. Talk to a live person, not a computer, if you have a special request. I want people to think of it as tips from a retired casino dealer on cleaning at blackjack. I don't think people who read this board need any of these tips, incidentally.

No, the customers are not there to make our life easier. And I don't expect that. You know everyone will get seated. You know everyone will get their food. But some of them will be seated better than others. Some of them will even have better food. And everyone wants to feel like a special customer, not an arse in a chair.

I'm not trying to tell customers what to do - just what to do to have a really good time. They don't have to do what I say. But then they don't have to have a really good time, either, now do they?

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And if I'd been less familiar with the city -- or, God forbid, a tourist -- it would have been even more helpful than it was. Open Table won't tell you things like: "the truth is, they're pretty mediocre."

You are very right. If the place you wanted was unavailable and you didn't know where to go, you might think this exciting and a trendy wine bar featuring up to 30 plus wines by the glass might be just the place to go! :unsure:

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How true is this? I love this blog. I think Tom should do this, and get rid of the chat.

http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/?p=74#more-74

How true? I don't know of any instances of canceling anyone's reservation. That's just, I don't know...what's the word...unprofessional or something?

But have to differ with regard to splitting the difference between 7:15 and 7:30. Because of this:

"Hi, can you accommodate four at 7.30?"

"Let me take a look at what we have, please."

Brief look at the spread uncovers the following. 7:15 - six covers. 7.30 - twenty-two covers. 7.45 - nine covers. Add any more to 7.30, and the kitchen will start a mutiny. No, they won't all come in, sit down and order at the same time. But why make the house go through that pacing exercise when the guests arrive, hungry and eager, vs. when they call up first??

"I'm afraid we're fully booked at 7.30, but I can do 7.15 or 7.45. Yes, you're welcome to come early, and we'll seat you early if we can, but as of right now, 7.30 is not available."

Do you think it makes us difficult?

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How true? I don't know of any instances of canceling anyone's reservation. That's just, I don't know...what's the word...unprofessional or something?

But have to differ with regard to splitting the difference between 7:15 and 7:30. Because of this:

"Hi, can you accommodate four at 7.30?"

"Let me take a look at what we have, please."

Brief look at the spread uncovers the following. 7:15 - six covers. 7.30 - twenty-two covers. 7.45 - nine covers. Add any more to 7.30, and the kitchen will start a mutiny. No, they won't all come in, sit down and order at the same time. But why make the house go through that pacing exercise when the guests arrive, hungry and eager, vs. when they call up first??

"I'm afraid we're fully booked at 7.30, but I can do 7.15 or 7.45. Yes, you're welcome to come early, and we'll seat you early if we can, but as of right now, 7.30 is not available."

Do you think it makes us difficult?

o, I think that would be fine

You know what I don't understand? I just made a reservation at restaurant in DC for July 15. WHen I called they told me they only have a 6:30pm and 9pm available...I find this hard to believe. So I had to settle for the early bird special, instead of eating at 9pm. I have only encountered this at fine dining places...what's going on here? I actually checked open table before calling, and they gave me the same times. Who are they saving the prime dinner spots for?

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No, I think that would be fine

You know what I don't understand? I just made a reservation at restaurant in DC for July 15. WHen I called they told me they only have a 6:30pm and 9pm available...I find this hard to believe. So I had to settle for the early bird special, instead of eating at 9pm. I have only encountered this at fine dining places...what's going on here? I actually checked open table before calling, and they gave me the same times. Who are they saving the prime dinner spots for?

It depends what night of the week it is. In our restaurant, the prime-time slots for Friday and Saturday are filled as much at 2 months in advance. That leaves 6PM and 9PM.

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It depends what night of the week it is. In our restaurant, the prime-time slots for Friday and Saturday are filled as much at 2 months in advance. That leaves 6PM and 9PM.

That might be true, however sometimes it does not pay to book early! It's happend to me so many times when I call to book at least a month or more in advance I always get the early or late seating. Most times I don't mind because the meals are usally running around 3 hours. But there is more to it, that just being booked 2 months in advance.

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Well, short of a completely ridiculous scenario under which a restaurant would deliberately block their prime time slots, these times are indeed booked and what you see is what is available. I find it a bit hard to believe in Washington, where you can almost always get a table almost anywhere, but for a very popular place that may be true.

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Well, short of a completely ridiculous scenario under which a restaurant would deliberately block their prime time slots, these times are indeed booked and what you see is what is available. I find it a bit hard to believe in Washington, where you can almost always get a table almost anywhere, but for a very popular place that may be true.

I don't think it's that ridiculos for some restaurants to block the prime spots. In a town like this where there are so many "important" people. I am sure all restaurants hold back some tables for VIP's or regulars..just in case.

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Chica - congratulations. I've read all three articles. and I am beginning to see the writer in Nadya that we all know and love. You are holding back on your descriptions aren't you? Go ahead and risk it! Transport us into the house. So many topics to choose from. I love the idea. Great stories. Congrats again

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I don't think it's that ridiculos for some restaurants to block the prime spots. In a town like this where there are so many "important" people. I am sure all restaurants hold back some tables for VIP's or regulars..just in case.

As devil's advocate I think that perhaps we should approach it from another angle. When people are making a reservation so far out, wouldn't it make sense to book the less desirable seatings first, with the knowlege that the prime slot can be filled easily at any time. Not a VIP-held slot, but a more easily fillable one. From a business perspective this would seem to work, as long as the people reserving in advance still take the reservation. This is definitely a luxury scenario for a very desirable restaurant

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Some restaurants take the least amount of reservations at 7:00. Even though it is a desirable time, it makes it difficult to seat the the 7:00 table more than once.

If hours of operation are 5:30 until 10:00, and turn times are 2 hours, it's easier to move you to 6:30 or 7:30, and have the opportunity for a 8:30 or 5:30 table. Tables after 9:00 are still fairly rare in most towns not named New York.

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There are 7 slots each half hour. It's not hard to fill them way in advance. Each Saturday at least 80% of the tables are celebrating a birthday or anniversary, so these are not spur of the moment reservations.

NotQuickDraw and I are having our anniversary on the 25th, and didn't decide until last week where we wanted to go. Ten days out is plenty of time for most places, but Citronelle isn't most places. We ended up with reservations for Thursday the 29th. Not the best of nights, but as soon as we decided on Citronelle we knew we had left it too late.

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Nadya, I love your articles, but my admiration cannot altogether eclipse my disappointment that such basic education is apparently necessary in the fairly large capital of a fairly large country. I couldn't help having the notorious corkage story involving Corduroy replaying in my mind as I read your sadly esoteric advice.

Opentable is beginning to sound better and better!

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Nadya, I love your articles, but my admiration cannot altogether eclipse my disappointment that such basic education is apparently necessary in the fairly large capital of a fairly large country.
Ya think? So go look at the comments at the end of the article. :unsure: And, no, I am NOT trying to reopen this particular can of worms. Since Nadya is taking a beating over there, I would hope we value her friendship and participation here will enough to give her some immunity on this board on this subject (which have beaten to death already). IMHO.
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Nadya, I love your articles, but my admiration cannot altogether eclipse my disappointment that such basic education is apparently necessary in the fairly large capital of a fairly large country. I couldn't help having the notorious corkage story involving Corduroy replaying in my mind as I read your sadly esoteric advice.

Opentable is beginning to sound better and better!

Well said. I'm glad you are beginning to appreciate corkage dorks more Nadya. Those of us who do it on a regular basis appreciate being able to do so and I always make sure to leave an extra large tip to the servers when I do so. I certainly don't think I've been identified on OpenTable as a cheapo, but then I always bring the best wines in my cellar when I bring wine to a restaurant.

One should remember however, that corkage here in DC or in California is much different than BYOB in PA or NJ. There it is normal to BYO because the restaurant doesn't have a license and the only way you will be able to drink a bottle of wine with dinner is bring it yourself.

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Since Nadya is taking a beating over there, I would hope we value her friendship and participation here will enough to give her some immunity on this board on this subject (which have beaten to death already). IMHO.
I am mostly inclined to agree with Barbara but must admit that the idea of "blacklisting" makes the wait staff sound like a bunch of 9th grade girls. How do you tell those who violate the policy out of ignorance from the self important tossers who will just do whatever they want regardless of rules?
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I am mostly inclined to agree with Barbara but must admit that the idea of "blacklisting" makes the wait staff sound like a bunch of 9th grade girls. How do you tell those who violate the policy out of ignorance from the self important tossers who will just do whatever they want regardless of rules?

In my experience as a waiter, the difference between the politely clueless and the self-important tossers is fairly clear.

PS, the blacklist crap starts long before 9th grade. Brace yourself. :unsure:

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It's amazing how divisive the issue of corkage is. If I ran a restaurant, I would allow it only on a case by case basis and instruct the staff to tell those who ask that the establishment does not permit corkage. Those restaurants that do allow it seem to get nothing but shit for it.

Actually the restaurants that don't allow it catch a major load from the wine community. A reasonalbe corkage policy is an asset to a restaurant, but a well priced wine list is an even better one. I avail myself of corkage privilages all the time, but if the restaurant doesn't permit it, I don't complain, I just decide if I want to buy something from the list, forgo wine althgether, or eat somewhere else instead. I also understand that wine is a major profit center for a restaurant, and as long as the markup is not obscene, I have no problem buying from the wine list. However, I collect wine, as do many others on this board, and I much prefer drinking a fine and/or rare bottle from my cellar in a restaurant where I can get a meal that will complement and do justice to the wine than drink it at home with my cooking, good as it is.

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This is why I only make reservation over the phone: much harder for the previous restaurant to warn the next one about me.

opentable notes cannot be shared with other restaurants. the system is not designed to function that way. making reservations over the web saves a significant amount of staff time - this really only applies to small restaurants that do not have a dedicated person to answer the phones during operating hours. that being said, if you don't see the slot you would like on the web, it never hurts to call. humans are smarter than computers and can sometimes find a way to accommodate your party.

I am mostly inclined to agree with Barbara but must admit that the idea of "blacklisting" makes the wait staff sound like a bunch of 9th grade girls. How do you tell those who violate the policy out of ignorance from the self important tossers who will just do whatever they want regardless of rules?

in every business there are times when it becomes necessary to fire a client/customer/guest. this is reserved for the most sever instance of asshole whose money is not worth the aggravation required to earn it. consider this example from another industry...

an attorney has a client that constantly calls to inquire about pressing a nuisance law suit that will not earn that firm substantial contingency fees. this client calls four times a week to explain their latest grievance. each call takes 30minutes. at the conclusion of each call the attorney decides it is not worth the time to press forward. how long would it take for that attorney to stop accepting this person's calls?

if a guest is known to be boorish, mistreat the staff, disturb other diners, etc. would it not be a smart business practice to fire this guest? during a recent visit to notti bianche, members of this board were moved to another table because the table next to them had a person that was talking rather loudly on a cell phone. i made the decision to move them, thinking it was the path of least resistance for all parties. but what if cell-phone guy came back and did the same thing the next night, next week, and continued to do so. how long would it take for this man’s behavior to impact the experience of my other guests, the morale of my staff, the regard in which my staff holds me because i allowed this behavior to continue? how long would it take for this person’s behavior to impact my bottom line? what if while disturbing others, and screwing with the making of everyone’s risotto, this guest only ordered a salad and a coke. what if this guest kept a table for over 2hours each visit to do so?

it is only for these extreme examples that one would be 86’d from my place.

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One thing to note... open table is a reservation management system. When we take a reservation, we put your name and phone number into the system. THen you get a record in our system. We can put notes on your acount etc etc etc. I know if you tell me you love Opregon Pinots or if you order big ticket Brunellos (at least if I am functioning well enough to put the note in. GIGO. But in any case, one of the side beneftis of open table is this record keeping function. Of course it is more fun to record the vast majority of customers who are good customers, have preferences as to where they sit, who waits on them etc.

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Just a quick note to say I appreciate everyone's support very much. I had no idea so many feathers would be ruffled. You'd think the Segway thing woulda taught me something :unsure: But seriously, y'all's appreciation is a big motivation to keep going.

Plus, being called masturbatory really rocked.

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