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Restaurant customers view reservations as a form of contract, according to a survey of 1,230 frequent diners. The self-selected respondents to the survey had little patience for restaurants that fail to have tables ready, but they also thought that customers who could not honor their reservations should keep their end of the deal, by contacting the restaurant with their change of plans. Along that line, survey respondents often found it difficult to contact a restaurant when they needed to change a reservation. An examination of specific reservations-related policies found that, with regard to late-arriving diners, a policy of holding a table for no longer than a stated period, typically 15 minutes, is viewed as fair and acceptable. Also seen as relatively fair is asking guests to guarantee their reservation with a credit card. The respondents dislike the idea of premium pricing, question the fairness of policies that set a maximum duration at table or a minimum party size, and take a negative view of restaurants that penalize guests when one or more members of a party do not appear. Guests who linger at a table present a special challenge. Respondents do not want to be rushed or be asked to leave when they stay long at a table, but at the same time they realized that lingering guests cause delays for parties that follow them. One way to circumvent this issue might be for the restaurant operator to discuss time expectations when accepting the reservation.


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