I had one goal yesterday: Get a Home Depot hot dog. I recently moved and have yet to explore my neighborhood Home Depot, where I knew I could pick up a few odds and ends for my new place. But my eyes were on that food cart prize, and I worked up quite the craving on the long walk over. So imagine my devastation when just beyond the rows of lumber I saw a completely darkened snack stall. The folks who run it must have decided to close early, an orange-aproned employee told me, and I was left to stroll the hardware aisle with a growling stomach. While caressing copper door knobs I sighed, “Should have called ahead.”
In the digital age, we sometimes forget that picking up the phone and speaking to another human being is sometimes the best and quickest way to get the information we need. Whether you’re stopping into a fine dining establishment or heading to a store’s food court, calling ahead is always the way to go. Here’s why.
- Make sure the place is open. This seems like common sense, but it’s always nice to have a reminder that not everything that you read on Google dot com is true, and that includes restaurant hours. Especially as businesses continue to navigate the pandemic, they might have reduced hours, unexpected closures due to illness, or, in the worst case scenario, have closed their doors for good.
- Confirm pandemic protocols. While mask and vaccine mandates have been lifted in some cities (including Chicago), individual businesses can still require whatever they please. You don’t want to be the person who’s left out of the celebration dinner because you didn’t think you needed your proof of vax on hand. And if you’re trying to be cautious, a phone call could help you avoid any spots that may sound a little too lax about keeping germs at bay.
- Ask about dietary restrictions and menu changes. Once again I must reiterate: do not trust Google dot com. Even if a restaurant has its menu posted online, thanks to supply chain issues and inflation, you never know if your favorite item will be available in person. If someone in your party has allergies or dietary restrictions, it’s doubly important to call to make sure they’re not left empty-plated, or worse, having an unexpected reaction to a dish.
- Give the restaurant a heads up for a large party, and check on wait times. If a group of six or more is dining out, it’s always worth checking that the restaurant will have room for you. Even if the spot in question doesn’t take reservations, knowing that a large party will be swinging through will likely cut down on the amount of time you have to wait for a table before being seated. And on that note, it’s often worth calling ahead even with a smaller party to see what kind of wait there is. Then you can decide based on your hunger level if it’s worth sticking it out or if you’d rather opt for a quicker meal.
Don’t be shy—go ahead and give your fave restaurant (or local Home Depot) a ring! You’ll be glad you did. Don’t trust Google or you’ll end up hungry.