The opening graphs
Harley Esposito, 30, was surprised when she couldn’t find a phone number for Hotel Greene, a mini-golf, bar and restaurant space near her home in Richmond, Va. After going to Hotel Greene for a work event, she needed a copy of her receipt. Looking through Hotel Greene’s website, she saw a small note: “We do not have a phone line.”
“I Googled them and didn’t see a phone number listed, and I was like: Oh, that’s weird , ” she said. “I was just surprised by it more than anything, because I’ve never seen it before. I was like: How do they expect people to get in touch with them?”
Like Hotel Greene, restaurants around the country are pulling the plug on their phone lines. Channeling all communication through emails, direct messages on social media and reservations apps might frustrate diners and deter those who are technology averse, but restaurants are finding that communicating this way frees up time for front-of-house employees, is more efficient for restaurant administrators and gives flexibility to restaurants operating with a small team or through Covid-related staffing shortages.
In their first month of business in the summer of 2019, Hotel Greene would get a stream of calls to the front desk asking about the wait for a table. Mr. Gottier said that a host offering people wait times in advance can be fruitless since the waits can change quickly in real time.
“It was just this constant barrage,” said Jim Gottier, 67, the co-owner of Hotel Greene, adding, “to pay someone $15 an hour, or whatever, to do that is just outrageous.”
For some restaurants, the decision to forgo the phone is an easy one. The co-owners of the vegan Singaporean restaurant Lion Dance Cafe in Oakland, Calif., have never liked talking on the phone. After hosting pop-ups around the Bay Area for about a decade, C-Y Chia, 32, and Shane Stanbridge, 32, opened Lion Dance Cafe in September 2020, and for months they were the only employees.
“Since we were running around shopping and making all the food, it felt like also having to deal with picking up the phone would just be too much of a hindrance,” Mx. Chia said. “It wasn’t even a big decision for us. It was just an obvious call.”
It’s a long article, with comments from a number of restaurants, some who love this idea, some who don’t.