Starting this August, area foodies will have a new way to make reservations at Horry-Georgetown Tech’s International Culinary Institute of Myrtle Beach.
The school’s Fowler Dining Room, which has a five-star rating on TripAdvisor and has historically taken reservations by phone, is switching to a new online reservation system to make the process easier.
Making reservations used to be a game of phone tag, according to Chef Joseph Bonaparte, the institute’s executive director.
He said the dining room was 90 percent booked within the first two weeks last year after receiving between 800 and 900 phone calls, with most callers leaving messages if no one answered. The phones aren’t manned all day, so some callers in the past have waited several days before getting a call back.
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“I’ve been told by tons and tons of people they can’t get a reservation,” Bonaparte said. “This to me should be way less frustrating to be able to go to a website as opposed to trying to get through on the phone and leaving messages and waiting and waiting.”
According to Bonaparte, the new online system Tock is a more user-friendly way to make reservations than multiple phone calls.
In addition to making reservations easier to book, the pre-paid nature of the site could solve another problem: no-shows.
“We had a fair amount of people book reservations, but because the demand is high, they would book reservations, and then they didn’t show up,” Bonaparte said. “Part of it is people want a reservation and then they book it and they’re like ‘I’d rather have it and know it’s there even if I’m not going to use it.’”
By forcing people to pay up front, the system incentivises people to show up for the reservation, which is especially important for the restaurant’s planning. The dining room is open for lunch only four days per week with a set menu, so the school doesn’t have the flexibility to turn over other food that goes unordered.
The Fowler Dining room features an “American Bistro” style menu for the first seven weeks after opening on Sept. 4 with entrees using steak, chicken and seafood, all locally-sourced when possible.
After those seven weeks, the menu changes with the season as different produce becomes available and a new class of students comes in.
Bonaparte said the school uses produce and meat from local farms whenever possible, and that the fish are generally sourced from the East Coast in areas like North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
“We almost always have shrimp on there somewhere because the shrimp in this area is world-class,” he said.
If you go
The Fowler Dining Room, located at 920 Crabtree Lane, will serve the $17, three-course lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with 16 reservations being taken every 15 minutes, according to Bonaparte, who said he hopes to have the online reservation system working by Aug. 20.
And if you can’t get a reservation, there’s another way to get in: the communal table.
“People don’t know this,” Bonaparte said. “We don’t put them on the reservation system so people can walk in, and sit down and kind of sit at a communal table and eat and have lunch with us. There’s maybe 20 of those seats, so it’s not a ton.
“I tell people at the market all the time, they’re like ‘I can’t get a reservation,’ I’m like, ‘Just show up, we’ve got seats.’”
Christian Boschult, 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian