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Dear Restaurant: If You Don't Take Reservations, You've Lost Our Business

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We finally found a time for all of our group of friends to get together for Sunday brunch. No small feat these days, as we all have hectic schedules balancing full-time jobs, family responsibilities, housekeeping and, well, sleep.

So, to maximize our precious quality time with our friends, we called around looking to book brunch reservations only to find out that brunch reservations are so last year. No one, it seems, is willing to book a table for this highly coveted feast.

After being assured by one pleasant restauranteur that tables flip quickly in her place and the wait is never long, we resigned to go there.

So when Sunday rolled around, we headed to the Quick Flip Restaurant. Walking in the front door we slammed into a wall of people, as they were also waiting for the quick turnaround.

Behind us, a young thing in falsetto politeness asked the harried hostess if it was possible to place her group's order while standing in line. Sure, it was a bit obnoxious, and it was clear to everyone she was really giving the invisible one-finger salute, but we couldn't help but agree with her sentiment: we're coming to spend money at your business. Do not make us wait to do it.

Sitting down at our table (to the restaurant's credit, it was less than 10 minutes just as promised on the phone) one friend remarked, "What is it with not taking reservations? I don't mind a slight wait for brunch, but don't waste my time with dinner."

And with that observation, a rant ensued about how "no reservation" means we're not coming to your restaurant. Period.

Restaurant owners, please listen up: as noted above, we're all really busy, so we cannot gamble on the fact that your swanky eatery will be able to sit us at 7 p.m., because everyone eats at 7 p.m. We're going to a place where we've booked a table, knowing we can go right in, sit down and relax. Because that's kinda what going out for dinner is all about.

Forget (and if our mom wasn't reading we would be using a different F word) waiting. Who has the time or patience to stand around in some hot, crowded lobby, coat in hand, constantly getting bumped by the door? Moreover, if you're the "lucky" one who arrived at 5 p.m. to get a seat, how happy are you that the growing lineup is staring hungrily at your steak? Awkward all around.

We can't see why restaurants don't insist on reservations. Both of us have spent nearly two decades working in restaurants, first as servers and eventually earning our sommelier certification and working as managers.

Reservations help restaurants staff properly (no one's standing around bored, no one's totally weeded -- well, in theory). Reservations help manage the flow of service ("sorry, 12 noon is currently full, but we do have an opening at 12:15"), so servers and the kitchen don't get so slammed at once that the patrons end up waiting 45 minutes for their apps. And reservations help restaurants keep tabs on who's coming and going and how often, which ultimately helps them shape their business and maximize their full money-making potential.

What's the downside?

Sure, restaurants may argue there's a lot of no-shows when it comes to reservations. Yup, that's true. So create a 10 minute policy. Someone books for 7 p.m. and still isn't there by 7:10 p.m., and hasn't called to explain why, then the table is up for grabs. No reasonable person can quibble with that.

To not offer paying customers the comfort and security of a reservation is flat out inhospitable, and really just bad service.

So restaurants, do what you want, it's your business, it's your money. But we've gotta think we're not the only busy people on the planet who don't have time to waste standing around waiting to purchase your product. To people like us, no reservations means we're not coming.