If you watch the HB Instagram stories (which, if you don’t, you should!) you’ll remember that not too long ago Nico was walking through some new added pages to the website and added cheekily, “If you are looking for the place to make reservations, that’s where I draw the line in the sand.” He was smiling as he said it, but it’s a serious policy, and one that has been a consistent theme and belief for HB since the earliest days.
But, before we get to that it’s important to realize that what your parents said was true: nothing in life is free. It’s the mathematical, inescapable truth. The “free” reservations offered to you by OpenTable in the US or UK or LaFourchette here in our beloved France are not free for the restaurant. At a minimum they will cost 1 USD/GBP/EUR per person to the restaurant. Those “free” airline miles you earn on your credit card? The businesses you swipe that card at will get paid less for your purchases. The “free” booking you make on Booking.com? The property gets hit for 20-25% of the nightly rate. Delivery food services (which HB will never participate in) charge up to 30% of the cost of the ticket. There’s always a cost. Nothing is free.
So too for HB. If either HB19 or HB5 took reservations, Nico and Sarah would need to add someone to the team to manage that book and handle the phones and electronic channels connected to reservations. He/she would need a regular salary. To cope with that new cost HB could either raise prices or surrender that salary to the profit margin.
That second option is hard because Nico and Sarah already spend to source the best ingredients, so there isn’t oodles of margin to give away.
More important than financial considerations, however, is the fact that HB simply isn’t a good fit for the traditional reservation and seating system. Some people like to come in for a hearty breakfast, but then are off and on their way to sightsee. Others like to stay and linger, adding cakes and coffees to a lingering chat with a friend. Not having reservations means we don’t have to tell someone to go because we need the table for a reservation.
But perhaps most importantly, having reservations isn’t Holybelly, at all. Nico and Sarah have always wanted to have an open and welcoming door. Everyone, on any given day, has the choice to get a seat and some great food and drink. They aren’t locked out because they didn’t “know” they needed to get a reservation 6 weeks in advance.
Don’t get me wrong. I do love reservations, and for certain restaurants they are absolutely crucial. But not for Holybelly.