I’d arrived early this weekend at one of the “hot” restaurants in Paris, where I was meeting a friend for dinner, so I chatted up the barman while having a glass at the bar. Since it’s one of my favorite restaurants, I asked him how things were going because I want them to succeed and continue. He replied, “Well, we just had three groups of people who had reservations at 7pm, who didn’t show up.”
For a place that has fewer than a dozen tables, that’s a substantial percentage of places that could have gone to someone else. Many restaurants in Paris are small and it’s hard to absorb the loss of not having all – or most of – the tables filled, when they could be. And because costs to employ people are extremely high in France (higher than you might imagine), only the fancy places can afford to have a dedicated reservations person to keep track of who is coming and who isn’t. The rest rely on waiters or the bar person to answer the phone and write reservations in the book. So when you call and they seem harried, it’s usually because they are talking to you while serving customers or welcoming people walking in the door.