Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
May 11, 2005 06:22 PM

How long will you wait to be seated?

  • d

So it's dinnertime and you realise you don't have time, energy, or the ingredients to cook, and you decide to go out at the last minute.

You show up at a restaurant and hope for a table.

"Welcome to P.F. Ruth's Outback Chili Friday Garden Jumper, home of the two-hour wait, may I help you?"

What's the longest you're willing, on average, to wait? I don't mean you just got out of work and are eyeing the lampposts hungrily, just a normal night.

I rarely if ever am willing to wait more than 30 minutes, even if there's a bar where I can get a martini or a beer while I wait.

I live in a suburban neighbourhood of Los Angeles, and I notice longer and longer waits at the chain restaurants (some of which I actually like for certain dishes -- I'm ashamed to admit that I like the salad, soup and breadsticks at the Olive Garden and a bunch of the food at Chili's, which gets big points for delivering to airports).

By the same token, if we go out to a mid-range (nice, but not ridiculous) restaurant, say Cafe Bizou or Marmalade or Yujean Kang's, it's either no tables available or we're seated in ten minutes -- and the size of the crowd at the bar seems to have no relation to it.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I'll only wait 10-15 minutes.

    However, besides being impatient, I'm lucky to be in Manhattan, so I can just flounce out and stroll down the street. I'm sure a major factor for most cities is the car.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Fida
      JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

      You are very much correct. Out here in Phoenix, we drive EVERYWHERE. The point that I get second thoughts is usually 30-40 minutes just because if we leave there and go to another place and it turns out they have a 10-15 minute wait, we might as well have just stayed at the first place. If the restaurant is really, really good, then I'll wait a couple of hours. I always keep a deck of cards or two in the car especially for situations like this; a glass of wine, some good conversation, and a game of canasta makes two hours feel like much less.

      1. re: JK Grence (the Cosmic Jester)

        Me, too. For me it's following the law of diminishing returns. I will wait as long as it would take me to get back into the car, find another place, and wait 15 minutes there.

        1. re: Dorothy

          I am the same way. I also will often eat at the bar if that is an option. I also try to call on the way to see what the wait is and if I can get on the list.

      2. re: Fida

        15-20 minutes max. The same time frame that I wait for anyone who is late for an appointment before leaving, and the same standard would use if a party is late for a reservation before considering it cancelled.

        1. re: Fida

          That's the wonderful thing about living in the city. I usually won't even wait that long--if I see a crowd or a line and I don't have reservations, most likely I move on.

        2. Depends on what I'm waiting for, how hungry I am, and the available alternatives. Usually this amounts to 30-35 minutes.

          1. I agree with the "diminishing returns" argument. It really depends on how quick and easy it will be to get to another place that I find equally acceptable.

            I think 20 minutes is about the breaking point.

            The other thing is that, if I'm going out because I'm tired, I certainly don't want to stand around and wait. I'm more willing to wait for a "special occasion" meal.

            I can never figure out why people wait for hours to eat at a chain. The whole point of a chain is that it's just like another restaurant. Why wait to eat there when you can go somewhere else and have almost the identical experience?

            In the other discussions about chains currently taking place on various boards, "quick and convenient" is often cited as a reason for eating at chains. But when you have to wait more than a few minutes, it's no longer quick and convenient, so why eat there? I'm thinking specifically of places like Cheesecake Factory, where people have mentioned waits of 2-3 hours. I can't imagine waiting 3 hours to eat at the Cheesecake Factory.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Yes, to wait in line to eat at a chain (unless it was an occasion for a child or elder who dearly loved that place above all else) strikes me as the depth of ridiculousness.

            2. Ten minutes MAX.

              Recently, I did wait 20 minutes at one of the Basque restaurants in Elko, NV. The hostess said that it would be twenty minutes. I was ready to walk but then she blurted out ... "but it's worth it."

              And she was right.

              1. Thirty minutes with a bar; 15 minutes without.