Beating the ‘No Booking’ Blues
Andrew Brook, managing director of food supplier and expert butcher Hensons, shares his thoughts on the new trend sweeping the capital…
As part of my job I get to eat out two or three times a week, for research and development. It’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it! But recently I seem to have spent as much time queueing as eating, thanks to the new wave of dining which has come over from New York and taken hold in London.
‘No-booking’ restaurants offer the customer a unique, rare and value for money experience. Tables can be turned more quickly, no booking clerk and no agency commission make sense for the owner. While the diner gets the chance to experience a seat in a trendy or new restaurant, without having to endure the agony of an impossible reservation wait or cursing themselves because they aren’t a celebrity! But how do you make sure that when you open your doors there are people waiting to come in?
If an expected 40 minute wait turns out to be under half an hour, I’m pleasantly surprised. Keep me waiting for an hour though, and I am not a happy bunny. In fact, I’d appreciate being told a better time to come back, avoiding a queue.
I don’t feel as if I am queueing if I am in a bar, cocktail in hand, even if I am standing cheek to jowl with other would-be diners. In fact, it can be fun and I hardly notice that I am already spending money.
I might be freezing and ravenous by the time I get to my table, but present me with a complimentary cup of popcorn, or a shot glass full of Smarties and I will soon warm to the evening. And I don’t even like Smarties.
‘No-booking’ restaurants are meant to be more democratic. In theory, I could find myself queueing next to Salman Rushdie or Katie Price. It never happens, but I don’t mind, especially if I am made a fuss of by charming waiting staff who make me feel like it is me who is the VIP!
Under promise and over-deliver
At last, I am about to eat. My expectations are high; I’m composing tweets in my head. I can’t believe that I am going to have a burger made of Kobe beef. Topped with real truffle. For £20! The secret, of course, is that the increased cost of these ingredients has been off-set against some of the saved operating costs. It might seem too good to be true but, really, that’s what you have been queueing for. Literally, as well as figuratively
You want to turn the table, I want to linger and enjoy the convivial atmosphere for a while longer. Remember those glasses of liqueur that signal the end of the evening on holiday abroad? Well they work just as well at the end of a dinner in the UK – with the added advantage that you walk out into the cold night air feeling warm inside and ready to tell your friends how the queue was nothing, the food was great and – oh, if you go there before 6.30pm on Monday night there isn’t even a queue!