Young and Hungry

How Not to Handle a Last-Minute Reservation


We've all been there: the last-minute phone call to a restaurant to see if we can possibly, pretty please squeeze in a reservation for that evening. It's no doubt exasperating for the host/hostess/reservationist but all it requires on their end is simple one-word response: "No." Done. We're on to the next phone call.

Last week, on the other hand, the wife dialed up Ping Pong Dim Sum in Chinatown to see if they had anything available on a Friday night. The person on the other end sounded a bit freaked when Carrie called around 7:15 to see how the wait was. "Oh, no, not right now" came the response.

Fine, Carrie said. How 'bout later? In an hour or so? The Ping Pong person told her, sure, 8:15 would be fine. We both had our doubts.

Sure enough, when Carrie arrived first at Ping Pong, she was met with a line. At least two other parties were waiting for a table. When Carrie checked in with the host stand, she was informed that the restaurant was "at capacity for the night" and wouldn't be taking any more tables. Carrie reminded the employee that she had called, that she had driven from Maryland, that she had specifically asked whether it was cool to just walk in.

They gave her a coupon for a free cocktail and sent her on her way.

This, in short, sounds like a cattle-call practice to encourage walk-ins just to make sure the restaurant is full for the evening, regardless of whether it puts a diner out on the other end. Has anyone had similar experiences at Ping Pong or other restaurants?

  • Chris Combs

    Ping Pong seems to still be ironing out the kinks, service-wise... Me & mine went at 4PM for a late lunch, were promptly seated, and rotted for 25 minutes before a surly server showed up (not even a "Hi"). Lots of things were unavailable and she didn't have any suggestions.

    And come time to order the food, she told us that we were too late for the "Available until 5PM" specials--it was 4:40 at this point. She conceded error, after some questioning.

    Food came quickly, though most of the various dumplings and rolls seemed to have the same filling.

    I'm 50-50 on the place.

  • Grumpy

    Why make the last minute res knowing there would likely be a problem?

  • Sam

    I can't tell, from this post, whether "the wife" made a reservation, or whether she was just told something more like that it was fine to come on and try for a walk-in. That makes a real difference to the story, doesn't it?

  • Sam

    (more precisely what I mean is, the first paragraph implies that this is a story about making a reservation - but the rest of the paragraphs say something very different.)

  • Tim Carman


    That is a fair point. We did try for a last-minute reservation. What we got was a loose, "Sure, come down at 8:15, there will be room for you." (Paraphrase, of course.) This isn't a full reservation. It is a promise, though, which is a step or two down from a reservation.

  • The wife

    I called and was specifically told that 8:15 would be absolutely fine, no question. I even said on the phone, "Are you sure?" Given that they weren't taking reservations, I had my doubts about the "fine" claim. I thought they would be likely be busy, and we were prepared to wait. But that wasn't even an option -- they had decided they were at capacity for the whole evening, which I thought was surprising given that it was only 8 p.m. on a Friday night.

  • B

    I'd have to agree with your WP counterpart -- you didn't miss much. Not to brag, but I'm going to NYC this weekend and includes a trip to Flushing for real dim sum.

  • Le Bleu

    The same thing happened to me at Marvin not too long ago.

  • nicole

    yeah, the host is cold, and misleading.
    the food isn't that great, you're not missing anything!