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Hate to wait? first-come, first-served etiquette


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article from Restaurant Edge

The study found:

Priority seating by party size and call-ahead seating are viewed as relatively fair;

Large-party reservations were seen as a neutral policy at best; and

VIP seating was considered to be essentially unfair.  “Restaurateurs should be wary of using VIP seating and other tactics that guests may perceive as unfair. The study shows that offering a clear explanation of a policy, particularly call-ahead seating and seating by party size, may assuage guests who would otherwise be unhappy.”

This has become an increasingly annoying issue for many who hate waiting for available tables in restaurants ...

What annoys you about the wait?

How long is reasonable to wait for your table?

Does the order in which people are seated seem unfair to you?

Ever decide to try to call ahead?

At what point do you simply leave and go somewhere else to eat?

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I don't have a problem with call-ahead, basically it is just making a reservation on the fly. I do it sometimes when I can actually think that far in advance, and am anticipating a wait.

I am willing to wait half an hour or less to get in, and that is only on rare occasions when I realize I picked a busy time to dine, and I will have to suffer the consequences. Generally, if I am not dead-set on the place, or if it is a time I feel they are unjustified in not being able to seat me, I will leave if the wait is anything over ten minutes, there are plenty of other places out there. Then again, I tend to eat out at odd hours, either considerably before or after the main rush, so it usually isn't a problem.

As far as order of seating: people should be seated in the order in which they arrived or called in their party, assuming of course there is the space for a party of their size. If I were ever somewhere and saw another party of comparable size get seated before mine, who had arrived or called in after, I would leave and not return to this establishment. In fact, I might have a few choice and unpleasant words with whoever was doing the seating.

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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VIP seating was considered to be essentially unfair.  “Restaurateurs should be wary of using VIP seating and other tactics that guests may perceive as unfair.

That's not going away. There are just some customers who are more valuable to a restaurant for various reasons. Undemocratic perhaps, but there are customers who invest in developing an ongoing relationship. As for celebrities (I'm in LA so I think along these lines) they add to the "buzz". It doesn't interest me, but I know that alot of folks want to know which celebrities my husband has cooked for. Not a way to measure quality, but it creates alot of excitement.

What annoys you about the wait?

An uncomfortable place to wait.

How long is reasonable to wait for your table?

up to 30 minutes.

Does the order in which people are seated seem unfair to you?

I don't worry about my place on the food chain. It seems silly to watch the room, who came first and why are they getting that table and I'm not. I'm too busy enjoying my company and my own experience.

Ever decide to try to call ahead?

Yes.

At what point do you simply leave and go somewhere else to eat?

Depends on the situation. Rarely though. If I leave I'll just have to wait more. I understand that sometimes it's not possible to turn tables according a timeline. If I complain feeling rushed I can't complain that my table is not ready as I arrive.

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How long I am willing to wait depends on the quality of the food. I am annoyed if I have to wait in a smoky bar or if it is excessively loud. I'm also annoyed to wait a long time if I have a reservation.

I'm willing to wait up to 45 minutes for really good food, 20 (maybe 30) minutes for decent food. I'm not willing to wait in line 2 minutes for Taco Bell. Especially not when there is never a line at the Greek place next to them in the food court...

Usually first-come first serve is pretty fair, although sometimes larger parties have to wait, which is OK with me, even if I'm in a large party. Shoulda called ahead!

We actually don't eat out much (not many choices here), but once I have committed to a place I usually endure the wait, b/c there is probably a wait everywhere else, too.

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Yep, I'm fine if the establishment is honest about the ground-rules and wait times, whatever those may be. I may decide, based on what they tell me, to go someplace else instead, but I'll leave with a good impression of the place because of their honesty. What really gets up my nose, however, is when the hostess (or whomever) has been saying "ten more minutes" for the past forty-five. Gives the impression that they're either prevaricating on purpose, or are so disorganized that they don't know what the heck is happening in their room. I understand that Crap Happens when restaurants get slammed--fine, then tell me that there's an unexpected problem, and make some kind of sincere-sounding apology noises. I may still decide not to wait, but again I'll respect the place for their honesty. But if they're screwing up and not showing signs they even care that they're screwing up, I won't be back.

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One of the restaurants where I work just discontinued "call ahead" seating, because it simply led to more dissatisfaction than any happiness it created, because the perception was that "someone just walked in and was immediately seated, but I'm still on a wait," because the other person had called and was placed on the wait list as if they'd already arrived, whereas the complainer walked in without calling. I'm fine with the change in policy, because "call ahead" did not bring any more people to the restaurant, but it did make some people very unhappy.

The same restaurant also has a policy of discouraging "to go" orders, because the quality of the food diminishes when packaged up, taken home and eaten after it's had considerable time to cool. Yes, you get some unhappy people on the phone when you tell them you will not take to go orders on the phone, but they may come in and sit at the bar to place an order to go, and that you will not put their names on the wait list, but ultimately, both of these policies lead to fewer complaints overall, and I agree with them completely, even if it means that some sales will be lost in the short term. It is far better to hold high standards of quality and customer service, ensuring that the guests who do eat in your restaurant get a great experience, every single time.

Personally, I don't wait for tables much. If it's a place that I'm dying to visit, chances are they take reservations, and I'm the sort of person who will only make reservations if I'm planning on honoring them. People who make reservations and then don't call and don't show up, well, that's another story altogether, and not a pleasant one when you see how much money is lost on that table.

And it's true that misquoted wait times are usually due to people who stay long after their meals are finished. I'd really love to hear suggestions as to how to deal with that. If there's an hour wait at the door, and a table has decided to stay for an hour or two after they've finished everything they ordered and paid their bill, how, exactly, does one ask them to vacate that table without sounding rude?

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As long as there is a comfortable bar/waiting area, I don't mind up to 30 minutes. Anything above that, I will go elsewhere. I could never understand a "no reservations" policy in restaurants. It just doesn't make sense to me. What is there to gain for a restaurant that takes no reservations??

Get your bitch ass back in the kitchen and make me some pie!!!

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As long as there is a comfortable bar/waiting area, I don't mind up to 30 minutes. Anything above that, I will go elsewhere. I could never understand a "no reservations" policy in restaurants. It just doesn't make sense to me. What is there to gain for a restaurant that takes no reservations??

I think it makes a lot of sense for places with lots of foot traffic. Why go through the hassle of taking reservations, and then risking that some won't show up and you will have unbooked tables, when people all by themselves will line up out the door just waiting for an open seat?

He don't mix meat and dairy,

He don't eat humble pie,

So sing a miserere

And hang the bastard high!

- Richard Wilbur and John LaTouche from Candide

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As long as there is a comfortable bar/waiting area, I don't mind up to 30 minutes. Anything above that, I will go elsewhere. I could never understand a "no reservations" policy in restaurants. It just doesn't make sense to me. What is there to gain for a restaurant that takes no reservations??

From what I have read there are two main reasons

1) With reservations, people who walk in see empty tables and can feel mis-treated when the reservation walks in. Not saying that they should, only that it happens.

2) With no reservations, restaurants don't have to hold empty tables out of circulation. This means more covers for the night and more $$

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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What annoys you about the wait?

Honestly, the fact that I'm hypoglycemic. If I wait thirty or forty unplanned minutes for a table, then another thirty minutes (at least) for my order to be taken, and to return from the kitchen, then I am usually no longer in a state to enjoy the food; I'm bitchy, headachey, so hungry I can't taste it, and generally no longer fun.

How long is reasonable to wait for your table?

Fifteen, maybe twenty minutes. Same amount of time you'd give a friend who was late, yo.

Does the order in which people are seated seem unfair to you?

No. It's usually pretty clear when someone's called ahead or got a reservation; they give their names at the door.

Ever decide to try to call ahead?

Sometimes, sure.

At what point do you simply leave and go somewhere else to eat?

At the fifteen-twenty minute point, usually. The entire ruining of the rest of my day/night after a blood sugar crash isn't worth it, and I truly resent the idea of eating first in order to go out to eat.

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What is there to gain for a restaurant that takes no reservations??

As has been stated, lots and lots of money. If you frequent a restaurant that takes reservations, you should understand that they do so as a courtesy to you, at the risk that others can (and will) make reservations and not honor them, costing the restaurant hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per night.

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I've had to wait up to an hour for a seat (i.e. I had a reservation for 7:30, arrived at 7:30, and was told to wait in the bar - not seated 'til 8:30). I don't understand why restaurants do that - can anyone enlighten me? Just to make more money at the bar?

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I've had to wait up to an hour for a seat (i.e. I had a reservation for 7:30, arrived at 7:30, and was told to wait in the bar - not seated 'til 8:30). I don't understand why restaurants do that - can anyone enlighten me? Just to make more money at the bar?

I don't know of any restaurants around here that intentionally try not to honor reservations for any reason. Restaurants generally try to seat you at the time of your stated reservation, as far as I know. But, as stated upthread, some people are reluctant to relinquish their tables after they've finished their meals, and that can lead to unexpected delays.

I take reservations at one of the restaurants where I work, and let me tell you, it's quite challenging. The restaurant is small, with less than 20 tables, and when it's full, it's full. There are simply no other places to squeeze any more people in.

I was taking reservations one night a couple of weeks ago, and a guy called on a Friday night and asked me if he could get a reservation for 2 at 8 p.m. the following night. So I looked at the book, and the whole evening was booked solid - somewhat overbooked, in fact. So I told him we didn't have anything available that evening, so he said OK, how about next Saturday, 2 at 8 o' clock? So I looked at the book for that night, and I noticed that 8 o' clock was heavily booked, but there were some openings earlier and later. I offered him 6:30 and 9:30 as options for that evening. And then he said to me, "Look, either you want me to come or you don't!"

Well, of course I want him to come and enjoy the restaurant, but I can't make a table exist where one does not. And I certainly can't give him a table that someone else has already reserved, can I? But some people take it as an affront when you tell them that you're already fully booked, even when you're simply telling them the truth.

Maybe I should look for a line of work that doesn't make me want to strangle people.

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I've had to wait up to an hour for a seat (i.e. I had a reservation for 7:30, arrived at 7:30, and was told to wait in the bar - not seated 'til 8:30). I don't understand why restaurants do that - can anyone enlighten me? Just to make more money at the bar?

I don't know of any restaurants around here that intentionally try not to honor reservations for any reason. Restaurants generally try to seat you at the time of your stated reservation, as far as I know. But, as stated upthread, some people are reluctant to relinquish their tables after they've finished their meals, and that can lead to unexpected delays.

I take reservations at one of the restaurants where I work, and let me tell you, it's quite challenging. The restaurant is small, with less than 20 tables, and when it's full, it's full. There are simply no other places to squeeze any more people in.

I was taking reservations one night a couple of weeks ago, and a guy called on a Friday night and asked me if he could get a reservation for 2 at 8 p.m. the following night. So I looked at the book, and the whole evening was booked solid - somewhat overbooked, in fact. So I told him we didn't have anything available that evening, so he said OK, how about next Saturday, 2 at 8 o' clock? So I looked at the book for that night, and I noticed that 8 o' clock was heavily booked, but there were some openings earlier and later. I offered him 6:30 and 9:30 as options for that evening. And then he said to me, "Look, either you want me to come or you don't!"

Well, of course I want him to come and enjoy the restaurant, but I can't make a table exist where one does not. And I certainly can't give him a table that someone else has already reserved, can I? But some people take it as an affront when you tell them that you're already fully booked, even when you're simply telling them the truth.

Maybe I should look for a line of work that doesn't make me want to strangle people.

My guess is that after that conversation, the answer is that you didn't want him to come. Some server lucked out whan he rang off.

I'm always surprised that people haven't caught onto the fact that restaurants crowd up between seven and eight and that a table is much easier to get if you book or wander in at 6 (the "I have a movie later" plan) or 9 (the European plan). Getting that first table after the rush slows down is great -- the kitchen still has its rhythm and they haven't run out of anything, and you have time linger without getting the evil glare.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I'm always surprised that people haven't caught onto the fact that restaurants crowd up between seven and eight and that a table is much easier to get if you book or wander in at 6 (the "I have a movie later" plan) or 9 (the European plan). 

My boyfriend always refers to the latter as "eating with the Rockefellers" because that's what his dad used to say to his mom when she didn't get dinner on the table until later in the evening. "Oh, we're eating just like the Rockefellers today, having dinner at 9 o' clock at night!" I really have never figured out why he said that, unless the Rockefellers were known to eat dinner late.

Anyway, it is a much nicer way to get into a popular restaurant, so maybe I can figure out a way to popularize that saying as a way of encouraging people to take a less popular reservation time. Whaddaya think? Can I start a new catch phrase? :cool:

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[...]

I was taking reservations one night a couple of weeks ago, and a guy called on a Friday night and asked me if he could get a reservation for 2 at 8 p.m. the following night. So I looked at the book, and the whole evening was booked solid - somewhat overbooked, in fact. So I told him we didn't have anything available that evening, so he said OK, how about next Saturday, 2 at 8 o' clock? So I looked at the book for that night, and I noticed that 8 o' clock was heavily booked, but there were some openings earlier and later. I offered him 6:30 and 9:30 as options for that evening. And then he said to me, "Look, either you want me to come or you don't!"[...]

My guess is that after that conversation, the answer is that you didn't want him to come. Some server lucked out whan he rang off.[...]

I would agree. He sounds like just the kind of jerk you don't want around.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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There is a restaurant in Vancouver ( and the owner is an egulleter, but a lurker !!! ) ) that does not ake reservations at all, never has, no matter what. THere have been visiting dignitaries, stars, and food celeb's , and everyone has to wait their turn. He has a comfortable waiting area that can seat a few people but quite often people have to wait outside.

The food is excellent and worth the wait, everytime. He is a fabulous host, to all in the dining room and waiting area.

This is quite an anomoly in our town where reservations are very easy to get. He is busy every night without fail. I am a wee bit jealous of the steady, guaranteed volume, of polite, knowledgable guests he has every night but it comes from years of consistantly excellent food and service. His no reservation syle is the only one I know in the city, and , it works very well.

Neil Wyles

Hamilton Street Grill

www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

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I am a regular customer at a place in town. I get jumped in line all the time yet I still call for a reservation when I know it will be busy. Last night 20 people waiting, I walked up he checked me off in the book and no one Thought I jumped the line. It's a courtesy to make a rez. :biggrin:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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I'm always surprised that people haven't caught onto the fact that restaurants crowd up between seven and eight and that a table is much easier to get if you book or wander in at 6 (the "I have a movie later" plan) or 9 (the European plan). Getting that first table after the rush slows down is great -- the kitchen still has its rhythm and they haven't run out of anything, and you have time linger without getting the evil glare.

When I first met my wife she was on the Korean plan, dinner around 6:00 and I was firmly on the European plan, 9:00. But after eight years together the compromise plan is

7:30-8:00. This still doesn't always work either, because most evenings she is famished by 7:00 and I just can't start untill 8:00 at the earliest. This has been the hardest cross-cultural difference to overcome, actually it was the only one. Although she might have a different opinion about this. :biggrin:

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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What annoys you about the wait?

Honestly, the fact that I'm hypoglycemic. If I wait thirty or forty unplanned minutes for a table, then another thirty minutes (at least) for my order to be taken, and to return from the kitchen, then I am usually no longer in a state to enjoy the food; I'm bitchy, headachey, so hungry I can't taste it, and generally no

Ever heard of a small snack?

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What annoys you about the wait?

Honestly, the fact that I'm hypoglycemic. If I wait thirty or forty unplanned minutes for a table, then another thirty minutes (at least) for my order to be taken, and to return from the kitchen, then I am usually no longer in a state to enjoy the food; I'm bitchy, headachey, so hungry I can't taste it, and generally no

Ever heard of a small snack?

I'm not hypoglycemic, but to take a snack because you might have to wait...in a restaurant...when you have a reservation?

I think the restaurant would be a bit confounded if everyone who came to eat came with a doggybag...but maybe that's just me. Of course, I left a restaurant $50 poorer and just as hungry as I went in, yesterday...so maybe it's all about the experience now, and not actually about the food.

Agenda-free since 1966.

Foodblog: Power, Convection and Lies

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