On Friday night I went into the vibrant Brixton Village with my better half Manuela for a pre-cinema meal. The village is fast becoming one of my favourite places to eat in London as the quality and value of the food is top notch and the diverse businesses within, display a real cultural and historical authenticity not purely concerned with image.
Having said that, the queues that we walked past as we were deciding where to eat was reminiscent of the heart of Soho on a midweek evening. Perhaps exaggerated more by the fact that the catering units are within spitting distance from each other, making the queues merge and creating a slow moving, organised chaos. A saving grace of Soho is that at least there are roads and pavements between the eateries and queues!
There is no doubt that the no reservations trend has hit London hard and is now rolling out to the rest of the UK like wild fire. I even found myself queuing outside popular Italian restaurant, Casa Italia on a recent work trip to Liverpool. First seen around two years ago with the influx of American cuisine into London, it was sparked by the New York fashion of a no booking policy. It actually amazes me that customers are willing to spend up to two hours of their evening waiting for their table place at the likes of Meat Liquor, Burger & Lobster and Pit Cue. When I started working in restaurants in London this was purely reserved for night clubs, but is a true statement of the current London food scene.
You might think that my tone when writing this is that of a disgruntled customer, waiting in the cold to eat on a Friday night, however, you would be mistaken! Putting my chef’s hat on, I can see what a smart move this is for the restaurateur. With no worries about no shows and losing money through holding tables it is a very tempting move to make. It is also a sure fire way to make your restaurant look popular and desired. Perhaps it might also be true to say that with the recent convergence of street food into our restaurants and the quick, informal dining style that this has created, queuing and fast table turnaround is more fitting to this style.
What restaurateurs perhaps need to ask themselves in long run, is how long will customers be willing to wait this trend out…?