They Get Down, You Get Out

They Get Down, You Get Out

'Tis the season when restaurants host those big office holiday shindigs...although, come to think of it, they probably involve fewer guests this year. I only glanced at the invite to our party, but I think it mentioned something about "pay for your own."

There are benefits to these events, of course. Companies often pay a set fee to the restaurant, guaranteeing both a crowd and (hopefully) a profit.

Who knows how much they have to write off in broken stemware, though.

Yet it can be rather frustrating for those hoping to grab an impromptu evening meal when a restaurant or bar shuts down to accommodate an office party. They show up, walk to the door and get the wave off.

In this, large spaces and those with a dedicated room for private parties are fortunate. They can serve both regular diners and the office crowd. For smaller restaurants, however, such holiday events create a dilemma: a set income for the evening versus the risk of sending away walk-ins, who may never return.

Being shooed from the door is rather annoying, after all.

Yes, you can ask the "why don't they call ahead" question. But a number of restaurants don't accept reservations--including some of the most popular spots, such as Park, Neighborhood Services, Bolsa...and almost every restaurant that opened this year (or so it seems). Besides, it has been relatively easy to get into most places without advance notice lately. I'm even out of the habit of phoning up to book a table.

Ah, but not this time of year.

I've often wondered how it balances out for small restaurants--if there's a realistic benefit vs opportunity costs model they use to determine whether to close down for private parties or just to refuse to host them and stay open as usual. Over the years I've broached the subject with a few owners and heard a lot of guesswork from those adamant on both sides.

So I don't know. The one thing you can be sure of is this: there will be no City of Ate holiday gathering to get in your way. Not that we don't want to party, mind you. Just that when we explain how much we want to pay, all we hear is a not-very-Christmassy exclamation and a click.

We're gonna sit around at home and play the How the Grinch Stole Christmas drinking game.

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