The ex-Googler reinventing restaurant reservations gives his best tips for booking the busiest joints in town

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  • In a Twitter thread Thursday, Tock founder and Chief Technology Officer Brian Fitzpatrick shared one of his top pieces of advice for booking a table at a busy restaurant: make a reservation for four instead of two.
  • Tock is an online reservation management platform that also offers guests and table management systems for restaurants.
  • Fitzpatrick also suggests diners look for reservations at 6 p.m. or 8 p.m. instead of 7 p.m. to increase the odds of landing a table at popular restaurants.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

When a new restaurant opens with major fanfare, reservations become a hot commodity. Restaurateur Nick Kokonas knows this first hand — he opened Alinea, one of the world’s top restaurants that receives multiple Michelin stars each year, in 2005.

But when he realised they were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on reservation management and losing even more in no-shows, he cobbled together a rough system to track and manage diners more efficiently. Kokonas joined forces with Brian Fitzpatrick, founder of Google’s engineering office in Chicago, to turn the homemade system into a viable business for restaurants to track and manage guest reservations, called Tock.

According to Crunchbase, Tock has raised $US17.5 million since Kokonas and Fitzpatrick founded the company in 2014, and most recently closed $US9.5 million Series B funding round in December 2018.

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In a Twitter thread Thursday, Fitzpatrick, now the company’s Chief Technology Officer, shared one of his top pieces of advice for booking a table at a busy restaurant: make a reservation for four instead of two.

Business Insider caught up with Fitzpatrick to hear what other words of wisdom he had for getting a coveted table at the hottest restaurants.


Bring your friends

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Make a reservation for a table of four instead of two. According to Fitzpatrick, the demand is much higher for tables for two because couples often go out to dinner just the two of them more often than with another couple or friends.

“Even restaurants that are ‘completely sold out’ usually have inventory, you’re just looking for the sold out stuff,” Fitzpatrick tweeted.


Shake up dinner time

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Fitzpatrick said the one thing most people get wrong when making reservations is choosing a popular time like 7 p.m.

“Shoot for 6 or 8 and you’re going to have much better luck getting a seat,” Fitzpatrick said via email.


Know when to book

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Many restaurants release reservations at a consistent schedule, according to Fitzpatrick. Diners who check in consistently are more likely to get a reservation for their preferred time and table size.

Fitzpatrick told Business Insider that Tock created a cheat sheet that tracks upcoming reservation releases so diners are able to plan ahead.


Don’t be a ‘dirtbag’

According to Fitzpatrick, no-show rates across the restaurant industry often exceed 20%, so restaurants tend to overbook reservations to account for the dropoff. He says it’s common for diners to make multiple reservations at different restaurants for one night because there aren’t any repercussions for no-shows, but it leaves other diners stuck at the bar waiting for a table to open up.

In addition to offering ordinary reservations, restaurants on Tock can also require diners to make a deposit when making a reservation to ensure they show up. According to Fitzpatrick, restaurants on Tock have reduced no-shows to less than 1%.

“It’s a common practice to make multiple reservations for the same night. Because there are no repercussions for no-showing a reservation, squatters often make multiple reservations for the same night and only show up to one. Tock solves this scenario. The industry term for people that do this sort of thing is ‘dirtbag,’ said Fitzpatrick via email.


Always call to cancel if plans do change

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“Let’s be honest, plans change-The babysitter cancels. The car breaks down. Netflix releases a new series, creating a Jupiter-level of gravity keeping you on the couch… and that’s fine. It’s human nature. The real harm is when a guest no-call/no-shows a restaurant,” Fitzpatrick wrote.

He said this unpredictability in human nature is why Tock built tools like automated text message confirmations and reminders. The reminders are a gentle way for diners to politely let the restaurant know they have to cancel with as much notice as possible.

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