Japanese Essentials: How to Book a Restaurant by Phone?

Tokyo is home to a large number of Michelin starred restaurants but getting a table can be difficult if you haven’t made a reservation in advance.
Unfortunately most restaurants in Japan are not able to handle online booking so you will have to book your table by phone. We know how challenging making a phone reservation in Japanese can be, so we’ll guide you through everything you need to know to book a restaurant by phone without accident.
Reservation or booking in Japanese is 予約(よやく) and to book/to make a reservation is 予約をする.  When you call a restaurant, you could start with:
Excuse-me, I’d like to make a reservation.
The restaurant staff will follow-up by asking when and from what time you’d like to book. If your reservation is for an exact date such as November 25th, you would say:
For the evening of November 25th.
Or if your dinner plans are for the next day you could say:
Tomorrow’s evening.
Tomorrow’s lunch.
To give the time you wish to book, you can say:
6:30からで お(ねが)いしたいんですが。
I’d like to book from 6:30 if possible.
From 7 pm please.
The clerk will also ask how many people will come with you. Remember that Japanese language uses various counters and that the counter for people is “(にん)” with the exception of 1 person (ひとり) and 2 people (ふたり).
For 4 people.
For more restaurants, the above phrases are enough to complete your reservation. However, depending on the restaurant you’re booking, you could give your seat preference (table, counter, private room), you could ask for a smoking or non-smoking section.
()りごたつ」の(せき) ありますか?
Do you have kotatsu seats?
I’d like to have a private room.
I’d like to have counter seats.
I’d like to have table seats.
I’d like the non-smoking section.
(しず)かな席 お願いします。
I’d like a quiet seat please.
If they can’t accommodate your needs, you could say:
Oh, I see.
It’s a pity.
Well, whatever.
Once the details of your reservation are decided, the clerk will ask for your name and your phone number. They will also make sure all information are correct and repeat the details.
If an information is wrong, you can correct them using the expression “じゃなくて”:
Not Saturday, but Friday.
Not at 7, but at 8.
Let’s see an example of a phone call to book a restaurant:
店員(てんいん): お電話(でんわ)ありがとうございます。「なになにレストラン」です。
Clerk: This is NaniNani restaurant, thanks for your call.
あなた: あのー、予約(よやく)したいんですが。
You: Well, I’d like to make a reservation.
店員: お()にちはいつでしょうか?(or いつよろしいでしょうか?)
Clerk: When would you like to book?
あなた: 11月25日の 土曜日なんですが。
You: On Saturday, November 25 if possible.
店員: お時間(じかん)何時(なんじ)からですか?(or 何時からでしょうか?)
Clerk: From what time?
あなた: 6:30からで お願いしたいんですが。
You: I’d like from 6:30 pm.
店員: 何名様(なんめいさま)ですか?
Clerk: For how many people?
あなた: 4人なんですけど。
You: For 4 people.
店員: はい、少々 お()ちください。… … お待たせいたしました。
Clerk: Sure, please wait a bit. … … I’m sorry for keeping you waiting.
It’s fine. Please then let me know your name and phone number.
あなた: ジョン・スミス、080-1234-2578です。
You: John Smith, 080-1234-2578.
店員 : 復唱(ふくしょう)いたします。080-1234-2578ですね?
Clerk: Let me confirm. It’s 080-1234-2578, right?
あなた: はい。あ、個室(こしつ) お願いしたいんですが。
You: Yes. Oh, and I’d like a private room…
店員: (もう)(わけ)ございません。その日は 個室が全部(ぜんぶ)()まっておりまして・・・。 テーブル席でもよろしいでしょうか?
Clerk: I’m really sorry. On that day, all our private rooms are occupied. Are you fine with seats at a table?
あなた: あー、そうですか。じゃ、それでいいです。
You: Oh, I see. It’s fine, yes.
店員 : (おそ)()ります。では、11月25日土曜日6:30から、4名様でお待ちしております。
Clerk: Thank you very much. So, we’ll wait for 4 people, on Saturday, November 25, from 6:30.
あなた:よろしく お願いします。
You: Thanks.
Useful expressions: 
Some restaurants may ask if you already have chosen a course. If you prefer to pick the menu on the day, you can say:
Or you can precise:
()放題(ほうだい)で お願いします。
All-you-can-drink please.
3,000円の コースで お願いします。
The 3000 yen course please.
If you have found the restaurant reference online, on website like Gurunavi or Hot Pepper, you may have a discount coupon. The clerk might ask:
Do you have a coupon?
You can answer:
ぐるなび / Hot Pepperのクーポンを持ってます。
I have a Gurunavi / Hop Pepper coupon.
日にち: date
名様: polite way to counter people
少々(しょうしょう)()ちください: polite way to ask “please wait a moment”
回復する: to repeat; often used in this contexte to confirm information that were given
個室: private room
禁煙: non-smoking
喫煙(きつえん): smoking
全部埋まる: be all taken
恐れ入ります: very polite way to say thank you

If you’ve decided at the end of the day to not reserve a spot at the restaurant, walking in would still be an option for some restaurants. However, knowing how to ask for what’s on the menu and place orders at a Japanese restaurant can definitely be helpful!

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