Why More And More Restaurants Have Been Ditching Their Phone Numbers

The last time you made a dinner reservation, how did you get in touch with the restaurant? If you're anything like a majority of American diners today, you did so through the restaurant's website, or through the booking service OpenTable. According to OpenTable, online bookings were 42% higher in 2021 than in 2019. Lots of diners especially millennials, who tend to spend a lot of time on their phones and on social networks also make restaurant reservations these days through Instagram and Facebook messaging (via The New York Times).

Dining out has changed drastically over the past few years, most especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and one of the biggest changes has been to how customers reach restaurants. As Eat This, Not That! explains, more and more restaurants aren't even using their phone lines anymore, relying instead on apps such as GrubHub, UberEats, and DoorDash, whose use skyrocketed especially early on in the pandemic. And because of increased ease and cost effectiveness for restaurants, many of them aren't going back to phones at all.

Phone-free is easier for restaurant employees

In many cases, restaurants have found that a decreased reliance on phone lines a trend that kicked into high gear as a result of COVID-19 has worked well for them. Per The New York Times, eateries across the U.S. are shifting their operations to email, messages through social media pages, and reservation apps. Doing so frees up front-of-house staff to work on more pressing tasks, and might also save restaurants money if they're able to cut a staff position altogether.

Horses, a Los Angeles-based bistro that opened last fall, is one of several restaurants that told the Times that they only communicate with their customers through email and Instagram now. "It's just a waste," Horses' administrator, Charlotte Lansbury, said of maintaining a phone line. "I'm glad that other restaurants are doing it, too, to spare their poor hosts and hostesses from having to deal with people on the phone saying, 'I'm just running late.'"

Still, while many diners, especially the younger set, might be more than happy to communicate with eateries online, some are less than content with changes to the industry. "People get so angry," Jim Gottier, co-owner of Richmond, Virginia's no-phone Hotel Green, told the Times. "You wouldn't believe it."