Booking a table is going to keep getting harder, and it’s not just because everyone wants a seat.
I have this theory that I really, really want to be true: I am waiting for a return to spontaneity in restaurant dining. I hypothesized that once reservations reached an inevitable peak — probably some time around the time reservations culture was declared “out of control” — demand from diners would drop off as we got tired, so tired, of planning our evenings in advance. Instead, warmer weather and return to office work might herald in a new era of impromptu walk-ins.
So far, I’ve been wrong. Data from SevenRooms, a bookings and guest management platform, shows the percentage of walk-in guests across its restaurants has been basically the same over the past year. The number of diners seated by OpenTable has also remained relatively steady year over year.
It seems the spirit of booking ahead is alive and well. There have also never been more ways to book, thanks to new ideas and entrants into the space. That’s good news for companies trying to change the way we reserve a table, but it might make things trickier for the rest of us. Multiple booking methods split up inventory, potentially spreading it thin. And a new push toward direct reservations could upend the entire operation.