Before You Skip Out on That Reservation…

People who think they can behave badly in a restaurant with no repercussions might want to think again. There’s a little-known fact about OpenTable, the online service that allows diners to make reservations at many of the area’s dining rooms: Restaurants can store notes about customers through the system. According to a former fine-dining manager who now runs a consulting business and an anonymous blog called Restaurant Refugee, restaurants use the system to help diners get their preferred table—or to make note of bad behavior.

Restaurant Refugee says it’s in a restaurant’s best interest to know who might cause trouble. “Some people’s money just isn’t worth it,” he says. So some of the more toxic diners at a local spot earned these remarks in its OpenTable database: “We are full the next time this gentleman calls for a reservation. If accidentally made, immediately call to cancel. No good comes from this man and his nutjob of a wife.” Another comment: “Gets exceptionally loud when drunk; gets drunk easily. Try to seat someplace out of the way.”

The system is not just for snarky snippets. “For every negative comment about a guest, there were 20 comments about guests we loved,” Restaurant Refugee writes on his blog.

A couple of regulars at one place earned an OpenTable entry that read like a love song: “The nicest people on the planet. ALWAYS sit at table 67. . . . There exists no baller, VIP, DC famous person, or celeb who trumps them.” The note even included the name of their dog.

“They weren’t big tippers,” Restaurant Refugee says. “They were just really nice. They made the staff happier when they walked in the door.”

This article appears in the May, 2010 issue of The Washingtonian. 

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