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Diners face long wait at some Christchurch restaurants

By Olivia Bascand for The Press

Christchurch diners face longer waits to get into popular restaurants with restaurateurs advising they book weeks in advance to be sure of a table.

At Chillingworth Road, one of Zest’s top 10 restaurants last year, diners need to book at least three weeks ahead for a Friday or Saturday night.

Duty manager Kerryn Matthews said groups of more than four could face waits of “up to a month”.

Office manager for Victoria St restaurants King of Snake and Mexicanos, Sarah Beaker, recommended diners book as early as two weeks ahead.

“We still give people the option to wait for a table in the bar,” she said, but on busy nights walk-in customers could face up to an hour-long wait.

Norman Engel, general manager of Tequila Mockingbird, a recent finalist in the Christchurch hospitality people’s choice award, advised customers to book a week ahead to get a table in one of the Victoria St restaurant’s two dinner sittings.

Restaurant Association Christchurch branch president Sam Crofskey said that with so few office workers in the CBD, “no-one is finishing work in the city and heading into bars on foot”.

Diners now had to drive to bars and restaurants and dining had become “very purposeful”.

The trend is at odds with the move elsewhere toward no-reservation dining.

Several restaurants in Auckland, including TV chef and writer Al Brown’s popular Depot Eatery, had no booking system.

Depot Eatery manager Dana Johanson said the aim was to make the restaurant a place where people could drop in whenever they wanted, without being confronted by reserved signs on empty tables.

Christchurch’s Harlequin Public House owner Jonny Schwass said the no-reservation model worked in cities where customers could pop into another bar while they waited, but “wouldn’t work in the suburbs, or in Christchurch where people are no longer coming to dine in one area.”

Tequila Mockingbird had tried a no-reservation system, before abandoning it, Engel said.