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no seating until entire party arrives..

How does this policy of not seating a partial party make sense when
one has arrived to eat and drink and generally spend a serious
amount of money. Perhaps the 4th diner is slightly delayed - the
four have a reservation and are grown ups. (I'm not talking about
a young crowd at a crowded place where seating is first come basis.)
I believe it's disrespectful. (Happened at Otto at 6pm on a weekend
at a time when less than 10% of tables were filled.)

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  1. It can be difficult finding parking spots in Baltimore or D.C. so usually we all arrive at the restaurant in one car, but the driver may have to circle for some time to find a spot. So not to be late for a reservation the other members of the party usually get dropped off at the restaurant. I might accept a restaurant that offers valet parking not seating the partial party, but I think a restaurant that does not should understand the delays that arise when trying to park a car and seat the partial party.

    1. Restaurants usually institute policies like that in response to abuse. People reserve a table for four, two show up and get seated, other two never arrive, restaurant's lost two prime-time covers.

      1. Seats and servers are assigned based on the number of people who actually show up. Reservations are made for a specific time. Basic courtesy is for everyone to show up punctually (7pm means 7pm, not 7:15pm); if that basic courtesy is not shown to the restaurant, the restaurant can hardly be considered rude for instituting a policy in response. The restaurant would be within its rights to cancel the reservation; but it's showing flexibility by simply waiting to seat until everyone arrives. That also ensures much better flow in the kitchen which is basic courtesy to all the other customers.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Karl S

          I agree with Karl S. Parking problems are one thing, but I can't get over these people who stroll in for their 7pm reservation whenever they feel like it (or think that a 7pm res'v means drinks at the bar at 7, sit whenever you feel like it.) Also, as Robert said above, it's usually in response to some kind of abuse of the system.

          1. re: Kbee

            I agree about not hitting the bar for drinks when your dinner reservation was at 7. However, not too long ago, we took my parents out to dinner to a nice restaurant. We arrived, togehter, about 5 mins prior to our reservation. We were informed that they weren't quiet ready for us, would we like to wait in the bar? To us that indicated, "have a drink, have a seat, we'll let you know when we're ready." No time frame was given. About 5 after 7 the hostess came to tell us they were ready for us. We were about 1/2 done with our drinks and the bar was comfy, we were all seated and wanted to finish our drinks. We asked if we could finish our drinks and then proceed to the table? We were given some serious attitude that includes rolling of the eyes and a mumbles "whatever". Was I wrong to assume since we'd made an allowance for them, that they should give us a little leeway? Or, did the hostess really mean WAIT in the bar, not wait in the bar and have a drink?

            1. re: geg5150

              Wow. That was just plain rude. Personally I would have finished my drink. Thanked her for buying it and walked out. If she gave me any lip, I would demand to see a manager.

              1. re: bryan

                Unfortunatley, that wasn't an option. It was a busy Saturday night and a very nice place for my parents' anniversary and that's the place they had chosen. Fortunatley, I think I was the only one who noticed anything, so it didn't effect anyone else's evening. You know those times when you just don't have the energy? That was one of them and I totally should have.

                However, the rest of that meal and the service what some of the best service I've ever received. Just simple, little things that they did that really added to the evening. It really made up for the hostess' attitude.

        2. I agree with Karl that this is a function of abuse, and I am the punctual person of the year. I notice this tradition of all or none in major cities, destination restaurants and high end vacation places. In the burbs I have seen a little more relaxed attitude.

          But there can be abuse by the restaurant as well. How many times have you appeared with the whole party and told the table is not quite ready, please wait at the bar. Normally you hear, "the party at your table has the check and it should only be a few minutes." Then 15-30 at the bar and the table is ready. Isn't 7PM the same for the patrons and the restaurant?

          I once had a reservation at a very high end restaurant in NYC and we waited over 1 hour before leaving for another spot. Haven't returned and have influenced many not to go there either.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jfood

            The attitude from the restaurant was rude; when they are not ready on time, the burden shifts to them.

          2. Basic flaw in your premise:
            > the four have a reservation and are grown ups.

            It's been my experience from both ends (professional and personal) that while many might be physically grown up, there is often still a great distance for their maturity levels to travel before they are considered grown-ups.

            Restaurants implement no-seating policies in response to historic problems. That 'the fourth in the party is slightly delayed' is not the issue. Four bodies (or the full-party) present means that you are honoring your reservations. It would be best for all if you honored them fully by being on time and ready to be seated.

            Next time try being a little early. I've always found that works best for all concerned.

            5 Replies
            1. re: The Ranger

              You seem to have a very particular perspective on this issue. But you're argument makes me think about visiting the Dr.'s office. Recently I had made an error entering the time of a Dr. appt in my digital calendar and was under the impression that it was scheduled for 11:45 when it was scheduled for 11:30. When I arrived, book in hand, at 11:40 prepared to wait for 45 minutes to an hour I was really embarassed to learn that I was late.

              The receptionist was extremely rude and made me wait while she checked to see if I would be permitted to keep my appointment. Eventually I was told that they would make an exception for me. I read until 12:30 when I was finally called back to the examining room.

              Just as I've never visited a physician without waiting, I've never been seated at a restaurant at the time of my reservation. At a restaurant with a bar, that is fine. One expects to sit for 30-40 minutes waiting for the table. As diners, we just sort of live with this kind of thing and even though we're repeatedly burned, we forge ahead rather than issuing punitive policies!

              1. re: Kater

                A doctor is often dealing with the unexpected. Restaurants are organized about wringing the unexpected out of the production. Tables should be served courses in specified timeframes so that the kitchen can produce a turnover that both satisfies patrons and maximizes revenue. Et cet.

                I have usually been seated at restaurants at the time of reservation; I would consider anything more than a 20 minute way a serious failure on the restaurant's part and leave; most of my dining companions share this approach. A restaurant that overbooks on a regular basis so that most patrons must wait 30-40 minutes to have their reservations honored is not worthy of anyone's patience.

                1. re: Kater

                  If you can't -- or won't -- hold to your reservation then you should not bother making those reservations in the first place.

                  Ditto that with appointments, especially since every doctor and dentist I've ever had has someone on their staff calling patients one to two days in advance of the appointment to minimize situations like you experienced.

                  I am willing to wait for a doctor to see me because there is a point to it. The appointment usually has something to do with my continued well-being.

                  A dinner reservation, no matter which restaurant I might choose, does not hold the same importance to me. If they overbook reservations, they are already putting me in a defensive position. If I am late, or someone in my party is late, we put them in a bad position. I only have one person I will not dine out with because he cannot arrive to anything on time. I no longer even bother asking him to join us. Yes, his "feelings" were hurt when he wasn't asked but (shrug) if you don't want to act like a grown-up, then you don't get to join the grown-ups when we do fun things... And dining out at places that request you to make reservations can be very fun.

                  1. re: The Ranger

                    You seem to presume that diners are late for their reservations. I am extremely punctual. If the restaurant has found that other diners can't keep reservation they need to stop taking reservations rather than accepting reservation with no intention of having the table available to patrons who arrive on time.

                    1. re: Kater

                      Experiences and articles about why reservation systems have difficulty meeting customers' requirements lead me to believe this is the case. The unwillingness of the customers of those restaurants to be held to the same standards they hold their customers to (specific appointments) creates this view.