No-bookings restaurants are a giant middle finger to diners. Here are five reasons why hungry people should stop standing in the street.
Newsflash: apparently we’re fed up with queueing for tables in no-bookings restaurants. Thanks to a survey by Open Table, whose exhaustive research has exclusively revealed information from inside our own minds, we now know that one in five diners do not consider queueing when hungry to be a barrel of laughs, and that each year, the average Brit spends roughly a full day queuing for restaurants that do not know how to operate a telephone.
Cheers, Open Table. Thanks so much for pointing out that the roiling dyspepsia I experience upon hearing the words: “That’ll be a 45-minute wait” isn’t the sensation of the happiness fairy fluttering around my chest cavity. Oh, and given that you are in fact a restaurant booking system, you’ll excuse me if I assume that your “survey” is not exactly impartial. But, much as it saddens me to say it, I’m sort of glad to see someone – albeit for publicity – raising a fuss about restaurants that have no reservations book. After all, shouldn’t we all be up in arms about these places by now? Haven’t we all accepted that no-bookings restaurants are essentially a gigantic middle finger to diners? We really should have. And here are five reasons why.
1. They are lying to you
In 2012, when no-bookings restaurants became what people in east London call “a thing”, their beauty was supposed to be a folksy egalitarianism: an everyman entry policy that celebrated spontaneity and boldly battled the unfair privilege afforded to people who didn’t just lurch from meal to meal, clutching at the nearest burger-shaped object whenever hunger stabbed them in the belly. What utter drivel. No bookings restaurants are the exact opposite of accessibility. They turn dining into a physical competition to see who can stand on a pavement the longest. They are a brutish, discriminatory battle of strength that removes the power from the customer and turns us into a bunch of desperate, hungry supplicants waiting in line until our foodie overlords deign to toss us serfs some of their delicious feudal entrees.
2. They are using you as a human advertising hoarding
Nothing advertises a restaurant like a huge crowd of people frantically trying to squish into the building. Hence so few no-bookings restaurants make the effort to jot down your name and ask you to return at a certain time. They could do it, but if people are willing to queue for them, why would they send them away? By forcing you to stand out on the street, they are making you market their restaurant for them. You are pavement meat. Human bunting. A fleshy billboard.
3. They turn dinner into a spectator sport
There are pleasant, relaxing meals and then there are ones conducted with the hot glare of a dozen ravenous diners blowtorching the back of your neck. When you are seated, it is to the backdrop of a resentful crowd desperately willing you to hurry up. When you eat, your food is also being hungrily devoured by the eyes of queueing customers. When you converse, it is over yearning coos of: “Look at his food!” No-booking restaurants create a little cauldron of resentment in which people are divided into the haves and the have-nots, then forced to stare at each other across a pulled pork sandwich.
4. They are single-handedly ruining birthdays
Remember when you used to be able to celebrate your birthday with a cheap dinner? Me neither. That’s down to no-bookings restaurants. Nowadays, what exactly are you supposed to do if you want to take a group out for a reasonably priced meal to an interesting new restaurant? After all, no cheap new restaurant takes bookings any more. And standing around on a street corner isn’t exactly the party to end all parties. Especially if you’re in a big group: not exactly no-bookings places’ forte.
5. They are behind the times
Waiting? In the 21st century? In an era when we can instantaneously purchase transcontinental travel and a mere right swipe of your hand will send a wannabe sex-pal scrambling towards you, queueing up does not exactly scream “the future”. These are places whose food distribution system is as forward-thinking as queueing for your government-allotted ration of powdered egg. They are anachronisms-in-waiting.
Top photo: A queue of diners outside Dishoom in Shoreditch, east London. Photograph: Alamy