Are Restaurant reservations necessary?

Aug 18th, 2010, 12:03 AM
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Are Restaurant reservations necessary?

We are taking a week long trip through Cannes, Antibes, Nice, etc. mid-Sept. All the guides that I've read say to make reservations at the good restaurants even for lunch, but my friends insist that we shouldn't bother - just go with the flow. Any advice? Thanks.
CYESQ is offline  
Aug 18th, 2010, 12:10 AM
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I always go with the flow....I've never booked a reservation before arriving in a city/town...might have done it on the day having walked past somewhere and fancied it, but hardly ever.
alihutch is offline  
Aug 18th, 2010, 01:27 AM
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In reference to restaurants in France, always reserve. Always. (And just to be clear, we are talking about restaurants and not cafés or brasseries.)

Reserving is a simple courtesy that a restaurant operator appreciates. Allowing for menu planning and appropriate staff sizing, it also assists management’s efforts to developing personal relationships with clientele – they will know your name. There is a reason that the first thing you will be asked when entering a restaurant is: “Avez-vous réservé?” You may take this to mean that if you haven’t called in advance, you should have.

Not reserving does not always mean you will not be seated but there is a distinction between what you must do and what you should do.
Sarastro is online now  
Aug 18th, 2010, 01:43 AM
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However I don't think that they'll turn your trade away.

I don't book as I don't know where I'll be each day and how I'll feel.

"You may take this to mean that if you haven’t called in advance, you should have."

er no, they just want to know if you have a reservation
alihutch is offline  
Aug 18th, 2010, 01:46 AM
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It depends what level of restaurant you are talking about. Michelin-starred, definitely (2 or 3 months in advance). Others - it depends how popular, what day etc.
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Aug 18th, 2010, 02:40 AM
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thanks Folks. What I've read is that many of the better restaurants get filled by the locals and yes, alihutch, there are lots of reports of people being turned away as the place is packed and without a reservation, you're out of luck. Since it will be Sept we may have a better chance, but I already have several selections pretty much pegged with our itinerary, so I'll go with Sarastro and Caroline's advice and call ahead so that we're not disappointed. Appreciate your thoughts.

If you have personal favorites, am open to suggestions: Cannes, Antibes, Nice, Monaco and San Remo.
CYESQ is offline  
Aug 18th, 2010, 02:53 AM
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I'm a mix...go with the flow and book some ressies. If I know for sure there is a restaurant I want to try then I will definitely make a reservation. I also like how it puts a little bit of structure in the day when you need it. I did this last time I was in Cannes and it worked well.
lizziea06 is offline  
Aug 18th, 2010, 02:58 AM
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Ach I guess my holiday's never been spoiled by not getting in to a restaurant.....I'm just happy to be there
alihutch is offline  
Aug 18th, 2010, 05:02 AM
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IF you really want to go to a specific restaurant, why wouldn't you reserve? If you have to drive to a restaurant, why wouldn't you reserve?

My experience is that most people don't want to do this because they are afraid they will have to speak French to someone who doesn't speak English. Virtually anywhere you as a tourist are likely to be will have someone who is able to speak to you on the phone.

Unless you are going to a cafe or brasserie, where people come and go all the time, we find it useful and courteous to reserve. It means that you know the place is open, that they are still serving - they know that you are coming, and so can prepare.

They may in fact turn your trade away (this is not North America here) - we were turned away once because the people who invited us insisted on having drinks at home before we went out. Only to find that the chef had gone home because they assumed no one else was coming to the restaurant. It's different here!

Yesterday we were in Toulouse and dropped by a favourite place without calling - forgetting that many city spots are closed in August. Found a good place nonetheless, but why have that additional stress if it isn't necessary?
Carlux is offline  
Aug 18th, 2010, 05:21 AM
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If I know where I want to go, I call ahead, but usually just the day before or the day I am going.
Nikki is offline  
Aug 18th, 2010, 06:50 AM
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We like the flexibility of not calling ahead because we rarely know exactly when we will be ready. Additionally most Americans tend to eat dinner by 7pm when it is wide open. Whereas most Europeans prefer 8pm or later...
CaseyMorgan is offline  
Aug 18th, 2010, 07:21 AM
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We almost always resere for dinner - since many of the places are booked full when you arrive otherwise. We don;t reserve for lunch, since we don;t know where we'll be when we decide to eat and generally just stop at a cafe or brasserie for something simple.

(And I'm not talking about 3* restaurants - just pleasant ones - and we're typically in France in May or June - not August.)
nytraveler is offline  
Aug 18th, 2010, 07:22 AM
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In Paris, I have only made a reservation once, since I was walking by the restaurent and decided it was convenient to do so.

In other places (Lyon, Loire valley) also just showed up.

I arrive at dinner opening time ~7:30-8PM. I also travel solo, so I may be easier to accomodate.

My preferences are good restaurants. I have a simple lunch, in order to have a nice dienner. I have visited several restos taken from the Michelin guide. Not star'ed restaurants, but recommended ones.

Because I tend to wander, and often plan my day over breakfast, I like the flexibiily of picking my restaurant closer to the time I am going to eat. Alst trip I was on Left Bank and decided to check out Balzar, looked good, but was packed. I had planned on another restauarant anyways, so went there.

I had created a spreadsheet of restaurants, based on arroindissements, address, specialities,etc..and used it. I'm creating a new one now.

Last time, I was in the 16th. I asked my hotel front desk , but their recs did not match what I wanted, so I found a super fish place by going to nearby main street.

If I really wanted to go to a particular resto (like at Eiffel Tower), or a popular one, I would consider a reservation.
Michel_Paris is offline  
Aug 18th, 2010, 07:31 AM
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It depends on the type of the restaurants and the type of tables you don't mind getting.

For very restaurants, it does not matter.

For popular restaurants that plan to have only one seating for dinner, even if there is no one in the restaurant at 7pm, they will not give you a table if you just walk in at 7pm unless there are tables totally unbooked for the evening.

Even if I find a table, I often get stuck with a lousy locations in front of the kitchen or at the entrance.

Except for casual places, I reserve even if is just a few hours before the meal.
greg is offline  
Aug 18th, 2010, 07:43 AM
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We reserve our dinners ahead of travel, at least a few weeks ahead. Certain restaurants are popular and you don't want to show up for dinner and find you will not be served. It's easy enough to make a reservation if you have a set itinerary for your travel. Several times we have witnessed groups without reservations being turned away because tables were being held for those who had made reservations. It must be disappointing for those travelers and it's a simple problem to avoid.

We only reserve lunch if we have reason to believe the restaurant will be busy. And, it gives us the freedom to move about during the day. As someone posted above, it's often good to be assured of dinner and not have to think about one more thing at the end of the day. In some instances we've been greeted as if we were regulars simply because I made a few telephone calls in advance.

I also recommend confirming your reservations when you arrive.
portiaperu is offline  
Aug 18th, 2010, 08:49 AM
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I will take total flexibility of my travel plans over a good restaurant meal any day of the week. I can eat well without even setting foot in a restaurant.
kerouac is online now  
Aug 18th, 2010, 09:55 AM
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I agree with kerouac, I rarely reserve, and I speak French. It isn't because of that, it is because when I am on vacation, I don't know where I will be at a particular time, when I may want to eat, or what kind of mood I'm in. I really don't like being tied to a schedule like that.

Now I'm not a foodie and don't go to fancy restaurants, though, so I know that is a whole different level of concern about what and where you eat. But I eat good food IMO, most of the time. Not sure I've ever eaten in a "restaurant" in Paris, though -- well, okay I have a few times, but there is one place I like just outside Isle sur la Sorgue, for instance, and I went there a few weeks ago without a reservation. The place was practically empty, they were happy for my business. I almost always eat in places you'd call brasseries or bistros (or cafes, but grander ones than usual).

oh, yeah, I like to eat at Chez Clement about once during every visit in Paris, and they are a restaurant. I never reserve there and don't think most people do. They are a good place to go as they are open every day, have a good variety of food, and are very reasonable in price. They have good profiteroles, also.
Christina is offline  
Aug 18th, 2010, 10:06 AM
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Funny, Chez Clément is perhaps the only chain in which I have never eaten in Paris. I have never avoided it, and it looks pretty good, but the occasion has just not presented itself yet.
kerouac is online now  
Aug 18th, 2010, 10:12 PM
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Thanks to all of you who wrote. I really appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.
CYESQ is offline  
Aug 19th, 2010, 12:06 AM
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I should add, my not reserving has nothing to do with not speaking French......I speak French and as I live in the UK have been a number of times during my life, starting with a school exchange when I was 14.
I think that Kerouac sums it up well.
alihutch is offline  

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