Many restaurateurs, though, are delighted to do away with the formidable payroll expense and heartburn that come with reservations. Some point to Mr. Chang — with his first-come, first-served Momofuku restaurants in the East Village — as the trendsetter driving stakes through the hearts of reservationists.
“There is a little bit of something going on — maybe ‘democratic’ is the wrong word, but it is the closest one,” Mr. Chang said. “By not taking reservations, there is a certain lack of pretension. It is saying that we just want people to eat something delicious. And that people aren’t there for the scene — or anything else but the food.”
Others were willing to suspend judgment. “It’s not a typical businessman’s lunch, and I’m not a typical businessman,” said Leah Dickerman, a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, who was waiting in the bar for both a business guest and an available table. “I think the food trumps the wait.”
The rise of wait-your-turn dining “may simply be a function of the down economy,” said Rick Camac, a managing partner of the tiny Fatty Crab/Fatty ’Cue empire. The downturn “has dictated more casual restaurants, where people are not looking for uptight service or high price points — and often that means no reservations.”