February 7

Valentine’s Day Reservations: The Reckoning


Valentine’s Day Reservations are filling up – but for a lot of people, it’s already too late.

According to OpenTable, the most popular day and time to make a reservation for Valentine’s Day was February 3rd. Now, with time running out, comes the hard part: your phone is ringing with callers who are growing more and more desperate. At first, they’re calm, but since scoring a Valentine’s Day reservation has about the same odds of the Cleveland Browns winning Super Bowl LIII, the panic sets in.

Since every time the phone rings you’ll need to brace yourself for a conversation as casual as a hostage negotiation, here are some ideas on how to handle each phase of Valentine’s Day reservation requests.

People will pretend there isn’t a problem with getting a reservation days or even hours before Valentine’s Day. They’ll try to rephrase the request to being “Well, how about 7pm on Wednesday then?” Be firm and stay on message. If you can, offer options: there are tables open this weekend, after all.

Once the message is received, that there are no tables available, even on Wednesday, expect some anger. This is natural. The caller may swing from “fake news” to attacking you. They’ll say it isn’t fair and not understand why this is happening to them. Try to calm them down and let them know they aren’t being singled out. People have been calling all day, you can say, but the books filled over the weekend. Hopefully they’ll be rational after a moment and refrain from tweeting about your restaurant.

Next, they’ll see if they can grease the wheels and get a table. They’ll offer money, blog posts and good Yelp reviews. Of course, none of these offers are credible, especially if they claim social media fame. Any “influencer” worth their salt would have made a reservation on February 3rd and tried to leverage their following into a gluten-free tasting menu. Let them know there’s just nothing you can do. The restaurant is booked solid.

At this point, not only will they question the value of Valentine’s Day, but that of their own worth. They’ll grow quiet for a moment as they contemplate that even their relationship is an illusion based only in existential dread of the knowledge that they will die alone, as will everyone they know and care about and eventually any legacy they leave behind will be buried and forgotten like the ash of a once warm fire under unending snow. Give them a few moments. This is a good time to check reddit for dank memes.

Finally, reality sets in. They regain their composure and even become polite. They may ask for recommendations to other restaurants. It’s worth it to put together a list of sites they can check: OpenTable, of course, but also upstarts like Resy. This is also when you can offer to put them on a waitlist and will call them if anything opens up. If you make this offer too soon, it gives them false hope and then the whole cycle of emotions kicks back to Anger.

Finally, you can always consider not answering the phone at all at some point – just let everything go to voicemail and decide how to respond on your own timing. For the last 72 to 36 hours leading up to Valentine’s Day, change your outgoing message to be a recipe for New York Strip and pan sauce and hope people get the hint.

Good luck out there!



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