Friday, 2 March 2012

Reservations about reservations

I’m always slightly annoyed when I see tables in pubs with “Reserved” signs on them. It suggests both an excessive concentration on food and a somewhat snooty, exclusive attitude. Surely a “public house” should be just that – open to all comers, and first come, first served for the available seating.

If pubs want to reserve tables for diners, then it’s quite simple, they should have a separate restaurant, distinct from their public bars. Indeed, twenty years ago there was quite a vogue for pubs opening up restaurants, as it was seen as something bringing a bit of extra cachet. I can think of at least one where the former public bar was turned into a restaurant.

But more recently the tide has been running the other way, with the separate restaurants being stripped out and in effect colonising the rest of the pub with their place settings, pricey food and table reservations. It is more true than ever before that many pubs have, to all intents and purposes, turned themselves into restaurants and left behind their original purpose in life. Very often, there isn’t any attempt at providing even a small area with the “feel” of a drinkers’ bar.

And “Please Wait Here to be Seated” is a notice that really should never be seen in anywhere that lays claim to the title of “pub”.


  1. There is a pub here in Sheffield where on my second visit the table we were sat at suddenly became "reserved". They had followed the sensible route of having a separate dining area, but we were sat in the slightly smaller drinking area. Apparrently it was soneone's 50th birthsday, like I cared.

    On return visits said pub has improved bit by bit and is now rather good, but that single event still sticks in my craw.

  2. Yes, if pubs want to hold private functions, they should have function rooms. As quite a few round here (Nursery especially) still do.

    I was recently in a busy and characterful pub on a Sunday lunchtime and one room (arguably the nicest in the place) had been set aside for a private party.

  3. I agree with what you say. It's all about money really.

  4. So what's the problem with one room of a pub being reserved for a private party for an evening ? As long as the rest of the pub is open to the public, I can't really see much of a problem. I have had people ask me if they could hire an entire pub for an private function before, which I would never do, no matter how much money they offered me, but there's nothing wrong with giving a party their own section of a pub. It's better than having a massive group amongst everybody else, using strength in numbers to dominate an area.

    Tandleman, running a pub is about money of course. Why would it be any other way ? It's a business just like any other. I don't hear people complaining that shops are just there to make money. I'm running my pub because I want to provide an unique place to drink, and to add value to the area, but I also want to make a bit of money out of it. I could make a lot more money by running a huge sky sports bar serving bottled lager to rowdy twats, but there's no fun or satisfaction in that.

  5. So what's the problem with one room of a pub being reserved for a private party for an evening?

    Well, I might have been expecting to have a drink in that part of the pub. The clue is in the name, "public house". I can think of a few occasions over the years when I've found a substantial chunk of a pub (if not all of it) closed off for a private party. Without exception, it has been a serious deterrent to going there again. If the pub otherwise was very quiet, it might be excusable, but in none of these examples was that the case.

  6. They are called public houses, but they are not. They are private business's with no obligation to allow anybody in. I don't have to serve anybody, and I don't have to give any reason.

    Anyway, lets say that I know thirty people are planning to visit my venue on a Saturday evening, just for drinks. I have a side room that holds this number, but instead of reserving for the party I leave it open to anybody. The group are all going to come in dribs and drabs, and a few of the tables in this area become occupied by other drinkers before everybody else turns up. These people are going to end up resenting the fact that room they have chosen to drink in is overwhelmed by a large group having their own party. They are going to get squashed into the corners of the room, and leave of their own accord anyway. This is without adding any kind of food into the equation.
    If you are going to allow such large groups into your venue at all, it's best in my opinion to put them into a separate area, where they can't annoy other customers too much. My thoughts behind this are not about catering to the larger group to the detriment of other customers, but trying to stop the larger group naturally dominating and irritating everybody else in the pub.

    These days I don't have this problem, as I wouldn't let a group of thirty people into my pub, no matter how nice they were. My pub is too small for this kind of thing.

  7. Pub themed restaurants, ain't pubs. Simples.

    You need a function room for functions, and a pub for punters.

    The most stupid thing I've seen is the new landlord kicking off his tenure with a private party and turning away his regulars on a Saturday night. Put out they walk down the road and stay there. Then after 6 months of his regulars drinking in the pub down the road it closes.

  8. Maybe a slightly different issue, and something you don't see so much of now, but it was always a bad sign when a pub seemed to be run for the benefit of the landlord's mates rather than the general public.

  9. Cooking Lager, in that respect I was lucky that my pub had been closed for 18 months before I reopened it. Once the pub is open, I would never dream of closing it for myself, or my friends, or a private party. We announced the pub would be open for Monday, and had a opening party for my friends and family on the Sunday evening. And you would maybe have liked this Mudge. We'd been smoking in the building while we were decorating and such, but that Sunday people were allowed to smoke. One of my friends was even smoking as she was serving some people. And yes, people did comment on how strange but good it was to see people smoking in a pub again.


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