A Reservation Time Limit? – Restaurant Booking App

Most customers today are accustomed to making a restaurant reservation. A booking app for restaurants makes reservations easy, allowing guests to book tables at their convenience.

However, with many restaurants establishing table limits (ranging from 90—120 minutes), operators will need to make sure their customers feel like they’re not being rushed. 

We guide you through how your restaurant can ensure customers enjoy their dining-out experience with a table limit policy in place. Also, if you have any further questions about time limits, don’t hesitate to send us an email.

Setting a Reservation Time Limit is a Good Idea

A restaurant reservation is a negotiation. New customers have to work around their suitable time, while the restaurant operator makes sure reservations don’t conflict with one another.

Overbooking is possible, but this applies more to restaurants that have trouble with no-shows. Read how a restaurant reservation app helps prevents no-shows.

In most cases, a restaurant booking app speeds up the reservation process. Customers can select slots most suitable to them, and a restaurant operator can easily view all bookings at a glance.

However, with various hospitality restrictions in place, today’s restaurants need to consider whether they should cap diners’ reservations at 120 minutes or less. The decision is a tough one but can come with various benefits.


Figure 1. Restaurant Rambla, Copenhagen (Ørestaden), by Kristoffer Trolle via Flickr (creative commons 2.0)

Why a Reservation Time Limit Matters

If you run a busy restaurant with sold-out bookings, your staff will have little room to seat any extra diners.

Consider that at busier times (e.g. 07:00—09:00 PM, the golden hours) a single table with one sitting spells out lost revenue. Suppose three parties arrive in that space of time. Without an efficient table policy in place, they would have to sit at separate tables. 

On the other hand, a suitable table policy can help your restaurant maximise revenue. Setting time limits, your restaurant can go through two or more sittings at a single table in the space of two hours — multiplying that table’s income.

Business journalists have been quick to pick up on this. The Irish Times has recommended that if you have an “upmarket restaurant”, time limits are a very good idea. A time-limited slot of 105 minutes is ideal, something to start with, but of course, times will vary according to your restaurant’s trade.

In 2021 another important factor springs to mind: the extended impact of COVID-19, its prolonged measures.

Restaurants are now reopening and back in business, but government-mandated measures are still present across the globe.

For the sake of public safety CDC, a governmental advisory board, has made it essential for businesses in the food industry to restrict dwell times. When COVID seating procedures soon dwindle, these measures will likely remain.

If your restaurant is struggling against COVID-19, read how restaurants can bounce back in the post-pandemic period and eventually return to normal life.

How Customers Have Responded to Reservation Limits

With a recent TripAdvisor forum puzzling over table limits, some customers are naturally suspicious of a policy that immediately shows diners the door. (Answering why they exist, one customer quipped that table limits are really a casual hint for restaurants to show diners the bill.)

As such, restaurants with table limits need to strike a fine balance — implement a policy without seeming overly pushy. Customers want to feel welcomed and savour their dining experience; hence reservation limits should aim to maintain a positive atmosphere. 

Thankfully, many customers have already responded positively to restaurants currently setting limits. Last year the Wall Street Journal interviewed some eager diners about time limits, and one customer enthusiastically applauded the efficiency of a restaurant’s reservation policy — namely because the restaurant combined putting tables on the clock with online menus.

The customer enjoyed the speed of being able to decide what to eat before entering the restaurant. “We pretty much [had] everything coursed out in our minds.” No hesitating over starters, main course, desserts — straight to the meal.

Nevertheless, some will inevitably view table policies a bit differently. So how can a restaurant successfully implement time limits without creating extra worry?

How to Manage Table Limits — Customer Satisfaction

Clear communication is key. Here are a few uplifting ways to let customers know their reserved tables are on a time limit.

  1. Create an online menu so customers can decide what they want as soon as they enter your restaurant, speeding up dwell times.
  2. Post information about the steps your restaurant is taking to promote a positive experience for everyone, including any changes to reservation policy on websites, emails, and social media accounts.
  3. Produce media displaying your restaurant’s procedures. For example, videos can be a fun and upbeat way to share key information with guests, which you can then share in emails and/or on social media.
  4. Use a restaurant booking app’s 2-way communication features to guide diners through the door, sending guests timely updates on their reservations and letting them know the ins and outs of indoor procedures. 

A restaurant can do all this at little cost, especially when a restaurant booking app comes free.


Figure 2. Taking a Food Picture by Marco Verch via Flickr (creative commons 2.0)

Handle a Reservation Time Limit with a Free Booking App

Carbonara app simplifies matters for restaurants and gives an accurate idea of maximum table capacity, including a customisable time setting feature.

Whenever a customer makes a reservation with you, restaurant staff using the app can establish how long their dining period will be — say, one hour or one hour thirty minutes. This works in thirty-minute increments.

A Ready-to-Use Standard Reservation Time Limit

Our default time is two hours, an ample amount for diners to both have their meals and enjoy a restaurant’s atmosphere, but this can be altered at any time. Maybe you are seating diners during a quieter period in the afternoon or maybe you have a family booking of six — simple. Just use the app’s buttons to vary your time limit, adjusting it to your customers’ needs.

We’re working on advancing Carbonara App’s features to make new changes work for restaurants, both big and small. Regular updates will enhance our table management features, allowing restaurateurs to establish default table limits for certain days of the week. 

A party of six will likely spend more time eating Sunday brunch than a party of two spending a Friday evening indulging in a three-course meal. 

You may want to set a table cap for two hours and thirty minutes on Sunday; then ninety minutes on Friday. Whatever the situation, Carbonara App is adapting to today’s needs.

Thinking about what is the best restaurant booking app? Bookmark this page to stay up-to-date on Carbonara App’s features and discover how a free restaurant booking app can help your restaurant integrate a more efficient table management policy — at no cost whatsoever

Download today, then let us know about your best reservation stories.

How do you complement a reservation time limit? For more check out: