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Stockton Inn (Stockton NJ) BOO HISS [Moved from Mid-Atlantic]

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We went to the Stockton Inn for dinner on Saturday nite.
At 5:30pm on a lovely day, we walked inside and asked to sit outside.
The snooty boy at the host stand barely glanced at his reservation book and said "oh, no, we are COMPLETELY booked for outside. You can only sit inside".

On our way OUT the door, I counted the tables outside. At 5:30pm, they had approximately TWENTY FIVE empty tables out on the patio. Almost the entire patio was EMPTY. Yes. 25 EMPTY TABLES yet they claimed they were full.

Now, you mean to tell me that the restaurant is THAT popular and THAT busy that you can't sit a party of 2 people outside for dinner??!!!???

PUH-LEEZE. Shame on them. And we will never go back to try the food now.

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  1. Same thing happened to me years ago at the Mount Vernon Inn. The place was completely empty when I asked to be seated for dinner. Imagine an entirely empty dining room with 50 or more tables and the maitre d' says "I am sorry, we have no tables available."

    Thing is, I was much, much younger at the time and I didn't realize yet that restaurant tables are like hotel rooms. Once they are rented (reserved) they are gone for the assigned night (dinner hour).

    No one was seated there at 5:30. Do you think it impossible that every table might have been filled a half-hour later? A place like the Stockton Inn has to figure 1.5 to 2 (maybe more) hours per seating. Were you going to be done by 6:00?

    If you had a reservation for 6:00 for a table for two outside and arrived at 6:00 to be told "We seated a couple at 5:30, they will be done in an hour or so." would you think they had disregarded your reservation? Would you have been just as dissatisfied as you feel now or perhaps even more so, since you had a reservation and they had seated a walk-up instead of you?

    It sounds like you were a walk-up cutomer and that they were willing to seat you in the dining room without a reservation on a Saturday night. I don't see that you have anything to complain about.

    1. Restaurants have to walk a tightrope when balancing reservations with no-shows and still helping walk-in customers. The fact that they still had empty tables, and the ATTITUDE were what I am complaining about.

      Restaurant tables are NOT like hotel rooms. If that was the case, you'd never be able to eat anywhere on a whim, and have to use a credit card weeks before to confirm (and be charged for) your table reservation. Rather, a restaurant has to balance expectations with reality: customers who may come 15 minutes late, customers who may come early, customers who don't show up at all, people who wander in, time and weather and season of year, the pace of dinner, the pace that servers and the kitchen set for dinner, the size of the party, and about a dozen other factors.
      So for example, sure, if we had a party of 4 or 5, you would have to factor in that people might linger and talk a long time over drinks, eat slowly, etc. A party of two walk-ins probably would not stay and chat for 3 hours, tying up a table the whole time. Likewise, if the server does a little bit of hurry-up, it moves the meal along, rather than procrastinating (without, of course, rushing the diners).

      Possibly, they could have had every table "reserved"... but a 5:30 dinner, we probably would have been out by 6:30..... and I highly doubt ALL their reservations were for exactly 6pm and that a line of people would suddenly be clamoring for their tables at that moment. If they were smart and had things balanced, they would have spread their reservations out properly and left "wiggle room" for just such an occurence as a walk-up.

      Oh, and besides, it was such a nice nite out, who would want to sit in their stuffy inside dining room??

      Anyway, I still think they need to learn how to deal with reservations properly, and treat customers like valued guests.

      1. "Restaurant tables are NOT like hotel rooms."

        No? So when you reserve a restaurant table, they can reserve it to someone else too? Other than your stretched explanations, aqddressed below, how are these two spaces that are reserved for designated time periods different?

        "If that was the case, you'd never be able to eat anywhere on a whim"

        I don't quite know what this means. No, you can never take someone else's table or room on your whim, but certainly you can dine anywhere that is not fully booked on a whim. You were able to dine at Stockton on a whim, just not at the tables that had already been reserved.

        "have to use a credit card weeks before to confirm (and be charged for) your table reservation"

        This is the massive stretch I am talking about. Because a restaurant doesn't charge for a reservation it doesn't really count as a reservation? Actually at the most popular restaurants, credit card reservations are required and yes, there is a service charge for no show or late cancellation. Taking an unpaid reservation is a courtesy performed by the restaurant.

        "a restaurant has to balance expectations with reality:"

        Doesn't the customer have to do this as well?

        "customers who may come 15 minutes late, customers who may come early, customers who don't show up at all"

        Late or early seem to me to not enter, unless the restaurant has a stated policy of cancelling for lateness. Would you have been willing wait to see if a party failed to show? Would that have been satisfactory, waiting an hour or two to see if there were a cancellation? Then that doesn't enter either.

        "a 5:30 dinner, we probably would have been out by 6:30"

        Come now - I often dine alone and it takes me more than an hour. Besides, does the fact that you would have inconvenienced a customer with the foresight to reserve a very popular table and therefore the expectation that they would get that table for only a half-hour or so make that a practice a restaurant should maintain?

        "Possibly, they could have had every table "reserved""

        Not "possibly" - they did. They told you. You just don't want to believe it. Do you ever make reservations at fine restaurants? Lots of people do. haven't you ever called a place and found that the earliest Friday or Saturday on which you could get a table was a 3 or 4 weeks away? Happens all the time.

        "If they were smart ... left "wiggle room" for just such an occurence as a walk-up."

        Smart? Let's see - I can have a guaranteed sale, or I can turn down the guaranteed sale on the chance that someone else might drop by and be interested...hmmm. You had better believe that 90% of those tables reserved so early were the last reservations they took for that space. Others made them because they couldn't get those tables at 7:00, 8:00, or 9:00.

        "besides, it was such a nice nite out, who would want to sit in their stuffy inside dining room??"

        This is supposed to be an argument against the fact that all those tables were reserved? Look at what you have said. Now ask if everyone who reserved may have reserved outdoors.

        They need to learn how to "treat customers like valued guests."

        By honoring their reservations perhaps? That's something I value from a restaurant. Maybe if you had agreed to become a customer, as they offered to accomodate you, you might have been treated as a valued guest. You never gave them the chance.

        Instead you question their honesty, call them snooty, (if I had every table in an area booked, probably every Saturday night too, I wouldn't have to check the reservations list too closely), you decline to eat there, then publicly denigrate their service. As angry as your initial post was, I have to imagine that you took umbrage at the time and were perhaps a little "snooty" yourself. This they should value?

        There are going to be many restaurants that you won't be able to walk into on a Saturday night. If you eliminate them all so easily, there will be nowhere left for you to dine.

        1 Reply
        1. re: FrankJBN

          Most of this is not germane. If they were fully booked, they should have explained it -- it would have taken maybe two minutes when they clearly weren't busy to explain that the tables were all booked for parties coming in at whatever time.

          Had they done this, then the OP might actually have eaten there. Of course, the possibility exists that the OP would have still had a snit and left, but they wouldn't have lost anything in that case except two minutes.

          I agree that a maitre d' doesn't need to look at the book to see that they're full, and 1730 is really early for dinner reservations that probably start pouring in at 1800 (it IS New Jersey, after all, I've never figured out why dinner is eaten so early there).

          Your point about maitre d's' attitudes generally being a reflection of customers' attitudes is well taken, but you might want to take a look at your own post and see the tone it's written in -- a reflection of the OP's tone.

          As for denigrating the restaurant's reputation: ideally the maitre d' would have been gracious about it regardless of the OP's demeanour, but public denigration of restaurants happens every day on this website.

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