Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

What happens when they just won't leave?


Dave Weinstein
 Share

Recommended Posts

What do you do when people stay (and stay, and stay) at a table, and just won't go?

What if the table is one that can't be substituted (i.e. the chef's table, or a table with a specific view) and that people specifically make reservations for?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For a table that just can't be subsitiuted, you either put a time limit on it during the reservation ie..."you will have exclusive use of our chef table from the hours of blah blah to blah blah" as if they're reserving a private room, or you just plan ONE TURN for the night (most adviseable)

Or you could stand over the guests table and cough until they get the message :rolleyes:

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

depends on the level of service more than anything. most average restaurants don't feel awkward at all asking a table to leave if it looks like they're just lingering...especially if they need the table for other diners.

if you're the french laundry...you only do one or maybe two turns (per se) per table...knowing that the dinner will take a minimum of three hours.

anything in between is at management's discretion, i would think.

but the hairy-eyeball might work...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tricky, always.

Two different issues here, people that won't leave in general (at closing, say), and those who are lingering at a table that you need for the next group.

Our rule is to never reserve a table for more than two servings each evening (three hour apart, minimum), and always have an extra two tables available, unreserved - for VIP walk-ins, and overflow.

Chef's table is control by the kitchen and not the FOH.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Accidentally" drop your concealed weapons carry permit on the table.

I suppose it's considered bad form to just rub your crotch and leer suggestively at the most attractive people in the party from a distance of like a foot.

This whole love/hate thing would be a lot easier if it was just hate.

Bring me your finest food, stuffed with your second finest!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But what if the response to that is not leaving?

Then you kick them out

It's bad business to have rotation at exclussive tables (i.e. chef's table). So the only issue here is that you want to close up the restaurant and they are still hanging around. Now, in any case, you can just ask them, politely, to leave. You explain the situation (there's people waiting, blah blah).

If it's a regular table and people still won't go, you can come againg and remid them, not so politely, that they should get going. Heck, you can even throw them out... they're not the kind of business you want to have in your establishment anyways. Or, if it's the end of the night you can come by and tell them that the staff needs to go and you have to close up. Start cleaning stuff around them, even vaccuming. They'll leave soon enough.

Follow me @chefcgarcia

Fábula, my restaurant in Santiago, Chile

My Blog, en Español

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Accidentally" drop your concealed weapons carry permit on the table.

I suppose it's considered bad form to just rub your crotch and leer suggestively at the most attractive people in the party from a distance of like a foot.

It's only bad form if there's no walk with that talk! :laugh:

does this come in pork?

My name's Emma Feigenbaum.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A good policy to have is to clear everything you can off the table. Regularly offer more coffee/water/soda. If they say they don't want anything more, take the glass off the table. If possible, take the candle, sweeteners, salt and pepper mills, and all other things, until they are sitting at a completely empty table. They will eventually get the message, and then, either they will get up, or decide to stay for the duration. In which case, you're screwed. Some people just don't really care, especially after dropping what they feel like is an extravagant amount(depending on the restaurant, it is to some, and isn't for other). I have a reservation at a fantastic restaurant for Saturday night, which shall remain nameless, but its my mom's birthday and we will sit as long as we want. All this being said, if someone doesn't want to get up, they won't. No restaurant will risk alienating a guest for a table, and those that do will probably not last long enough to feel its ill effects.

d :raz:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

if the guest is not leaving and you have the table booked for another reservation, offer to buy the table dessert / a drink elsewhere (the bar or another table). if they resist, politely explain your situation to them - another party has a reservation, they have a special occaision & they specifically requested this table. buy their desserts if you have to. if you need to embellish, do so.

but above all, be polite. if you did not tell the guest at the outset of thier seating that you would need the table back, you are almost obliged to kiss their ass to get the table back if you should need it and they want to camp.

Edited by dvs (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Offer the table a free, complimentary round of drinks. Slip roofies in the drinks. Let the kitchen staff have their way with the diners while using their credit cards to pay for their meals, plus 20% tip. Then put them in cabs bound for their homes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 6 months later...

Honesty - especially in closing time. Like someone said - Clear the entire table - drinks flowers everything - hopefully the check was already and the opportunity for that servewr to bid them goodnight is always a good one.

At the CIA in Service class at the E room we would leave around 3-330 after reset and decompression - but I had agroup that lingered forever - BUT felt comfortable enought to present the check and slowly start removing things and after that and 300 after they say for 3+ hours I spoke to Mr Fisher (Our Professor) and said to them that I hoped they enjoyed everything and that I said goodbye.....I was one of those "wreck" students that was scared to death of the front - I got along with the guests just fine and did not drop anything even though I found the bartenders filling up the martini glass to the top a sick joke - but it worked adn they left - you always want people to come back - that is your money - so you gotta be nice - the ripping one - I know a guy that would ahve set the smoke detectors off - so probably not a great idea

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've been guilty of not leaving (more than once. :embarrassed:). Mostly because the conversation was good and we were therefore oblivious to the world about us. All it would take was a polite request that the table was needed, or that the restaurant was closing. We'd have been up and out and gone, with no hard feelings, profuse but brief apologies for the inconvenience, and a little extra tip if it were closing time we were interfering with. Maybe for some folks its a power play? Not for us.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had the unfortunate experience once of being the customer waiting for that table.

I attend a yearly convention in Las Vegas. One year we decided to eat at Emeril's in the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. We were a group of 8 with 8pm reservations. We arrived early and let the hostess know we were all present. Time went by and nothing was said to us about the delay by the hostess. At 8:15pm we asked if our table was ready. We were told they would check on it and were eventually told "Oh, they're finishing up." Then by 8:30pm, when we still weren't seated we were finally told that the previous party at the table didn't seem to be leaving. They kept ordering more wine and booze even though the meal was finished. The hostess and manager said they were trying to find a table for us.

It ended up that we weren't seated until well after 9pm and then it wasn't at our original reserved table (since the squatters were still there). We were seated in the smoking section which is ironic since most of our group were nonsmokers from California where you can't smoke anywhere inside a restaurant or bar. We had a terrible time eating our meal in all that cigarette smoke and I was ticked off anyways because apparently the squatters at our original table seemed to be of more importance to Emeril's staff than our party.

We've not been back since and spread the word about our experience.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can offer only the experience of a customer, since I've never worked in a restaurant.

I suspect there are three kinds of customers: those who have no understanding of a restaurant's need to turn the table; those who do know, but become engrossed in conversation and don't realize they've overstayed; and those who do know, and don't care, for whatever reason.

Nevertheless, I think the restaurant staff must always rise above the problem and display only impeccable manners. Clearing the table of everything is a kind hint. Offering to buy dessert in the bar, or at another "special" table (possibly designated as special only 30 seconds ago...) are both very kind ways of handling the problem, and I think in most instances, that kindness would be deeply appreciated.

Put yourselves in the shoes of someone taking dear Aunt Hilda out for a birthday dinner, knowing that Hilda has cancer and probably won't be around for another birthday. Or people who are dining with friends or relatives, together for the first time in years, and it just feels too good to stop. Or young parents who are enjoying a rare night out. In either instance --or any of several other possible situations-- rudness on the part of the staff will alienate everyone at the table. That's a dangerous step for the restaurant to take, and one that could ruin an important evening for customers.

I think the successful restaurants are those who handle problems with kindness and professionalism. You just never know when a guest might introduce other friends to his or her new favorite restaurant... but you know that a report of a bad experience will make it across town faster than a speeding bullet.

If all else fails and you must ask customers to leave, a complimentary dessert or entire meal, in most instances, would smooth things over.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

if the guest is not leaving and you have the table booked for another reservation, offer to buy the table dessert / a drink elsewhere (the bar or another table). if they resist, politely explain your situation to them - another party has a reservation, they have a special occaision & they specifically requested this table. buy their desserts if you have to. if you need to embellish, do so.

but above all, be polite. if you did not tell the guest at the outset of thier seating that you would need the table back, you are almost obliged to kiss their ass to get the table back if you should need it and they want to camp.

I completely agree with the above. It comes down to percentages - How many customers will respond to a tactful request (and most will immediately ask for the bill or take you up on a complimentary snifter of something in the lounge), but there will be the arrogant or self intitled who will feel it is their right to stay as long as they want. In that case it's roll your eyes (back of house) and sweat it out.... or just ask them to leave knowing you have lost a customer.

For campers at the end of the night I've found asking if they want to see the breakfast or lunch menu usually gets the message across :biggrin: (this after all the other staff has left and the lights are almost all turned off). It usually helps when the server is a character and can make a joke of the whole thing!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've also been the customer waiting for that table -- with a group, and a reservation that we showed up on time for, and no table for an hour and a half. The staff made it clear that they couldn't disturb the group that was camping at the table, and that they didn't have anywhere else to seat us. They didn't offer us anything.

What they effectively did is sacrifice our goodwill to preserve the goodwill of the folks at the table. I don't know if it worked for them, but it worked on us; we never went back.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What about at home, when the guests just won't leave?

Start clearing up around them?

Get out the Hoover?

Fall asleep at the table?

Change into pyjamas?

Go to bed and leave them to it?

:laugh: :laugh: :laugh:

On occasion, I have tried each of these except the Hoover, without success. (The dishwasher is too darned quiet and has no effect at all). The falling asleep was entirely unintentional, but even tho both my husband and I were nodding off, our guest happily stayed and chatted.

Some guests I have learned, need to be invited with a time range given.

"C'mon over from 6-9, then we all need to get to sleep because the baby wakes up early". (The munchkin will be taking the blame long after reaching voting age, I suspect). This occasionally works.

What works in a final resort for us is to offer to make up a bed. Having a breakfast guest is no problem for us and it only takes 2 min to make up the spare bed. After all, it could be our guest imbibed a bit too much for his/her metabolism and doesnt feel safe driving. Somehow tho, few folks want to commit to spending the night and going home in party clothes the next morning.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another option is to say "I'm really sorry, I'm exhausted, we're going to have to wrap this up, I'm sure you understand". I have never had a true friend think ill of me for being honest with them in such a situation.

Si

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In a restaurant, dvs has it right, 100%. If this a need for the table to accomodate the next diners, apologize to the lingerers, profusely and sincerely, show them to a fresh table or a clean spot at the bar, bring them offerings(or remove charges from their bill), and thank them, effusively and repeatedly, for their kindness and understanding. Let them know that they are the most appreciated of clients, and that you will not forget this favor they have accorded you, and REMEMBER them next time. Oh, yes, if it comes into play during the conversation, this was YOUR mistake, because you are looking at this from their position and you are handling this situation in a way that allows them to have what is sometimes known as "face". You must never blame anyone else for these things, even faintly, for any negativity will reflect on the situation, and could become attached to the client's experience with your business, even in a subconscious way, which is certainly NEVER good.

If it is a matter of the restaurant closing, you again apologize profusely, bring them a little something, and again, remember them next time, and send them an app, an amuse, or drinks as soon as they are seated. It's often not a good idea to joke, because unless you are completely self deprecating, this can make the client lose face in some way, and they will never feel good in your establishment again. BAD IDEA.

Come back here, and vent to us instead!

At home, well, I would never have someone over who I would not be willing to leave alone in my living room, or to find a pillow and a blanket for, in the first place.

I really believe the old saying "Treat others as you would be treated."and I treat everyone as if they are the most important guest I (or the company, if I'm at work) has EVER encountered. That saves so much discord and discomfort, for me!

Of course, I do admit to being really REALLY proud of my track record with human relations, so it's all for a selfish reason, 'ya know.

Most of all, it's great that someone brought this up, because being prepared for these situations and thinking about them when you're NOT having to deal with them, helps you to practice experiencing them in your head, which calms you down when these things actually happen. I miss working :sad:

More Than Salt

Visit Our Cape Coop Blog

Cure Cutaneous Lymphoma

Join the DarkSide---------------------------> DarkSide Member #006-03-09-06

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another option is to say "I'm really sorry, I'm exhausted, we're going to have to wrap this up, I'm sure you understand". I have never had a true friend think ill of me for being honest with them in such a situation.

Si

Me neither, but I have had them stay another hour or so, saying goodbye. :laugh:

Rebecca, me too. If they were invited in the first place, they are welcome to stay the night, so long as they let me sleep! So very very good to "see" from you.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I forgot, if it's one of those people who declines to assist, you apologize to them again, then apologize to the waiting client and give, give, give. If you want to be the best, you've got to operate as if each client is the most desireable client. The truth is that a happy client might or might not tell someone about their pleasure at your business, but an unhappy client WILL tell many people about how awful a time they had. Even if they were the awful part.

More Than Salt

Visit Our Cape Coop Blog

Cure Cutaneous Lymphoma

Join the DarkSide---------------------------> DarkSide Member #006-03-09-06

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...