Though restaurant reservations have become a hot topic among restaurant owners, chefs, and diners, no one has really known when the idea to reserve a table for you and your guests became common. As it turns out, the concept of restaurant reservations originated in the 18th century. According to The Atlantic, it was common for people to reserve a room in a restaurant. These establishments would often have "a very large public eating room" and a "number of smaller rooms that could be reserved for more private meals." The notion of reserving a table came about in the 19th century as a way for "singly, affluent men" to court women in a manner that was considered socially acceptable.
It was frowned upon for the men to invite the single women into their homes or to dine in a private room at a restaurant. Reservations were a way of "being able to throw a dinner party" as a single man who does have all the "necessary physical and social accoutrements" such as a "wife and maidservants to a cook" and proper utensils. This is because when reservations were made, the meal was typically ordered and paid for beforehand, including the waiter's tip.
The recent rise in restaurant ticket systems, rather than a novel invention, appears to be a return to the customs of the 18th and 19th century. Restaurateur Nick Kokonas (Alinea, Next) who has been selling his $60 million ticketing system to select restaurants nationwide, tweeted: "Pre-paid tix go back to the 19th century. So much for originality!" Restaurants like Coi in San Francisco and Volvér in Philadelphia have been adopting the idea of pre-paid meals as a way of combating no-shows. Restaurant reservations have also been a hot topic of late thanks to a slew of new apps offering tables at trendy restaurants for a fee.