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Voice Guest Columnist

Friday, March 25, 2005 | You have a 10 a.m. appointment with your doctor. You arrive at 9:45 a.m. just to be sure you won’t be late. At 11 a.m. you are still sitting in the waiting room. Nine times out of 10, the reason you are still waiting is because someone with an appointment before you was late. How can anyone be so inconsiderate, you ask yourself? Restaurateurs ask themselves this question daily as they struggle with guests who are late for reservations. And most of these customers are not only late, but they don’t bother to call the restaurant to let them know that they will be late.

This kind of behavior by the general public brings to mind the phrase “common courtesy.” What makes us think if we are late it won’t matter? That restaurants don’t care as long as we get there? And how did we get to the place where making a simple phone call to explain what is happening takes too much of our valuable time?

Restaurants, just like doctor’s offices, run on a schedule. Tables are booked based on the ability of the kitchen and wait staff to take care of customers. If one table is late, it throws off the use of that table for the rest of the day. So, all you eaters and diners out there, let’s try a bit of common courtesy.

Honor your reservation. That means be there on time. If you need to cancel, give the restaurant as much notice as possible. And if you are going to be late, CALL. Often the restaurant can make adjustments.

And don’t be surprised to find that the restaurant has taken some action as well. You may find yourself signing a reservation contract with a very large penalty if you are late or don’t show up. You may have to call the restaurant the day of your reservation to confirm that you will be there. If you don’t, the table will go to someone else. If you arrive more than 15 minutes late with no phone call, you may find your table gone and another table unavailable. And even though as customers and restaurateurs we don’t like this course of action, it is a direct result of a lack of common courtesy on the part of the dining public.

So, the next time you are running behind and are going to be late for your reservation, take a minute and make the call. This tiny expression of courtesy on your part will reap you many rewards, including having a table when you finally arrive.

Pamela J. Wischkaemper is a local food consultant and is the founder of San Diego Gastronomically Correct, a group that goes on the road twice a year to promote the San Diego restaurant industry. The only criterion for membership is having cooked at the James Beard House in New York. Nineteen chefs in San Diego are members.

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