Friday, July 3, 2015

Blue Elephant Cooking Class, Bangkok


Indians must give up bad habit of not making prior reservations at restaurants. RUPALI DEAN cracks the whip 
 Being a Food & Travel writer I happen to know quite a few chefs across the world and some of the chefs also happen to be my friends so many I times I get calls saying, ‘Hey I’m not getting a table at Masala Library, can you please put in a word’? Which may be at least a day’s advance notice but there are those who call me on reaching the restaurant, ‘Get us a table at Bukhara (ITC Maurya) please, we have important foreign clients but I just slipped making a restaurant’ and I can’t help thinking why couldn’t you make a reservation if they were so important. And sometimes there are even strange requests like, ‘We are going to Indian Accent, do you think you could get us a reservation and a discount too please’? HELLO…and what makes you think I would want to take unnecessary favours from any restaurant? It doesn’t surprise me. Being a regular in the hospitality sector, I have often come across such bizarre requests, sometimes from even strangers. I humbly refuse at most times. Not because I am not willing to help people, it’s just that I am ruthlessly against our nonchalant habit of not making reservations in advance. I do help a friend if the request is genuine but I am extremely averse to the idea of not making a reservation at a restaurant where you know it is compulsory, or it happens to be an extremely popular eating hub.
If you are rich or influential, it doesn’t make a difference to the restaurant. Everyone who has a reservation is a paying customer and is equally important to the restaurant. So kindly stop threatening, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ Bullying restaurants is immoral and expect them to cooperate when it’s difficult to do so is unrealistic. Remember, you are not the only guests eager to dine there. They can’t call a person and call off the booking just because you are some big shot or have threatened to write something nasty on social media. Imagine their plight…or think if you are the customer they cancel the reservation of? There have been instances when restaurants have been forced to accommodate such a request which actually incurs business loss to them, as the person who’s made a booking and has been called to cancel, not only black lists them but also tells hundreds of other people about the restaurant being so callous. All in all, the restaurant suffers for no fault of theirs.
‘Noma’ in Copenhagen or ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’ in Tokyo are some of the best restaurants in the world and the hardest to get into! At Jiro, for instance, the endorsed rule is that you should call in the first day of each month to reserve for next month’s seating.  At Noma, when you try and book online (read months in advance), you are given a token number even to make a booking. Thankfully, Noma has added a shared table. While reservations for the systematic restaurant tables are booked a couple months in advance, the shared table is booked only a few weeks in advance. There are many legendary conditions at several popular food joints abroad where you have to be very particular about their policies and conditions. Connections do not work everywhere!
There are popular restaurants which have no reservation policy. But one has to plan in advance to grab a table. 
File photo: Farzi Cafe at DLF Cyber Hub, Gurgaon
If you follow the dos and don’ts of making reservations at a restaurant, it will help you to have the experience you merit and keep you on respectable standings with the restaurant. Proper etiquette, particularly as a consistent customer, can only profit you at the end. Most restaurants have two-seating, like at ‘Olive Bar & Kitchen’, they serve dinner at 8pm and 10pm. As much as you anticipate the restaurant to keep your reservation and follow your limitations and preferences, the restaurant expects you to hold up your end of the deal and to respect their policies.
Believe it or not, the act of making a reservation tells us a lot about your personality; whether you are an organised person who commands great perfection at deals, or a messed up individual who just looks for ‘jugaad’ at every step. Some people are so absurd that they just want to throw their weight around or fall back on their connections and there are people who just use this as an excuse to get some money OR ALL OF IT off their bill!!
·   When you make a reservation, specify date, exact time and the number of people. Specify allergies if any.
·  In case there is any change in the reservation even if it is cancellation, notify the restaurant.
·   Respect the Reservation policy of a restaurant; some may not want to hold a table for too long.
·  Wait for the hostess to confirm your booking, don’t just call up …check for availability and hang up.

Specially written for my friend Karan Bhardwaj’s new venture his web magazine