7 alternatives to «reserved» signs

7 alternatives to «reserved» signs

Translation: Katherine Martin

Reserved signs in restaurants look the same almost everywhere. But why? And is every table with a sign really taken? Not only do I have the answers, but I’ve also found seven potential alternatives.

They’re the restaurant table equivalent of bouncers. Whenever I walk into a pub feeling ravenous, they eye me up from the tabletops, silently and motionlessly marking their territory. It’s as if the word on the signs is smirking at me: «Réservé. Get lost!»

Reserved signs fill me with dread. In a lot of places, they look identical: stern, black lettering on pallid metal, and mostly written in French, even in German-speaking Switzerland. Sometimes, there are more signs than guests, which begs the question: are all these tables really reserved? What’s the deal with all this?

Patrik Hasler-Olbrych, media spokesperson for the Swiss Hospitality Association, has the answers (linked website in German). Apparently, there’s no rule prohibiting restaurants from reserving tables. In other words, they’re allowed to put reserved signs on tables that are actually free, usually doing so for planning purposes. «Every table has to generate a contribution margin, so it’s important to fill the seats as efficiently as possible,» says Hasler-Olbrych.

Ramona Keller, Head of Sales (Retail) at Maison Truffe AG (website in German), a company that sells reserved signs, knows why they’re so often written in French. «Gastronomy has deep historical ties to the French language. It’s hard to imagine the field without terms like 'à la minute', 'à la carte' and, as you mentioned, 'réservé'. English and German, on the other hand, haven’t infiltrated it as much.» Incidentally, there’s a practical reason why the signs are made of metal: the material is water-resistant. As a result, the signs are easy to wipe clean.

Fine, that all makes perfect sense. Even so, I’d like to see some more imagination and variety in the way restaurants indicate which tables are reserved. Here are seven (almost) serious suggestions for restaurants:

1. Beware of the customer

How about using a reserved sign marked «Guard on duty» illustrated with a picture of a hangry customer? You can already get similar varieties emblazoned with snarling dogs. It wouldn’t take much to change «Beware of the dog» to «Beware of the customer». And it’d certainly keep other patrons at bay.

2. The date

If a table’s reserved for a couple on a date, there’s bound to be a lot of sweet talk going on. But in case one of the pair turns out to be a slimeball, it might be worth signalling the danger of slipping into their clutches.

3. The ex

Perhaps the couple have already broken up and come to the restaurant to lay it all out on the table, so to speak. Nobody can predict just how explosive the atmosphere could become, so it’s only fair to pop an «Ex» warning sign on the table they’ve reserved.

4. The biohazard

Have any diners ordered the lentil stew with garlic bread? If so, it’d be worth placing a biohazard sign on their table as a safety precaution. It’ll cause would-be guests on the lookout for a table to vanish like farts in the wind.

Rs Pro Hazard warning vinyl label self-adhesive, Biological hazard labeling , 100 mm

Rs Pro Hazard warning vinyl label self-adhesive, Biological hazard labeling , 100 mm

Rs Pro Hazard warning vinyl label self-adhesive, Biological hazard labeling , 100 mm
Safety markings

Rs Pro Hazard warning vinyl label self-adhesive, Biological hazard labeling , 100 mm

5. The virus warning

During flu season, the table in the far corner should stay reserved for diners who come coughing and spluttering their way through the door. This infection risk warning sign should do just the trick.

6. The crime scene

Are any of the customers staging a murder mystery dinner? If so, it’d be a good idea to fence off the table they’ve reserved with crime scene tape. A few red wine stains on the tablecloth would be perfect for recreating a bloody scene too.

7. The mother-in-law

If a big family dinner with the in-laws is on the cards, arguments are never far away. To properly mark the party’s table and give other diners advance warning, a sign might be in order that reads, «Caution, mother-in-law on the loose. If she approaches, get on the floor and wait for assistance».

Have you got any bright ideas on how restaurants could mark reserved tables?

Header image: Shutterstock/Anikin Dmitrii

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I like anything that has four legs or roots. The books I enjoy let me peer into the abyss of the human psyche. Unlike those wretched mountains that are forever blocking the view – especially of the sea. Lighthouses are a great place for getting some fresh air too, you know? 

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