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please be seated

in an earlier thread today, the op described arriving early at an empty restaurant, with no reservation. the hostess swore the place would be full in 20 minutes and tried to seat them at a high-top in the lounge. so, they left and ate elsewhere.

how important is your table to your dinner? i understand not wanting to sit near the kitchen or bathroom doors. lots of folks don't like sitting near waiter stations.

once i asked to change tables at lunch because the july sun was broiling me through the waterfront windows.

but to me, the restaurant matters more than the seat.

what about you ?

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  1. Yeah, it matters. I feel insulted if I'm given a poor table in a not crowded restaurant. To me it's more of a service issue than a seating issue.

    That being said, the food and the restaurant matter much more. Stella in Boston's South End has what, in my opinion, one of the better brunches in the city. Unfortunately, the winter sun comes through the windows at such an angle and at high wattage to quite literally force one diner to wear sunglasses and glint while the DC sits in brunch bliss.

    2 Replies
    1. After being bumped, dumped and thumped by waiters at bad tables, Jfood is pretty pickey on where he sits. Over the years i have had hot soup, leftovers spilled on me, been elbowed in the head by a passing busboy and have been leaned on while a waiter inputs his order at the wait station, and lets not forget all that silverware clanking in your ear. So YES, I care where i sit.

      Fortunately mrs jfood is a looker and overly-pleasant so we split our duties. She is in charge of table grabbing and I schmooze with the host. It has worked out very well over the years. since she dislikes "bad" tables worse than me. She has to go home with the guy with the tomato soup on his head and that does not make for a fun time at home.

      3 Replies
      1. re: jfood

        Boy do I hear ya. I hate being bumped into. So yes, the table does matter... it matters a lot.

        I've seen my share of bad table disasters but my all time favorite was a poor woman who took a smoked trout to the head. Man, I wish it had been bass so I could then call it a weapon of bass destruction. After going to clean up, sitting back down and taking it like a damn good sport... a passing waiter emptied a tray of drinks into her lap.

        1. re: jfood

          oh goodness, are you particularly tall?

          My 6'5" husband has had tomato soup spilled on him (down the back of his head/collar) and he gets bumped about a lot too -- his shoulders, knees etc just take up more space.

          We're not particular fussed about the 'prestige' of the table but we prefer to sit where he can both fit, and be out of the way.

          Also, we eat at ethnic restaurants that serve family style and we tend to order a lot, so most times a two-top isn't enough surface area for our food. Where we are regulars, they see us coming and seat us at a 4 top (and for this reason, we like to tip v well at our regular spots). It's not fun juggling dishes on a too small table but I understand it in some places.

          1. re: orangewasabi

            No I am not tall, 5'8" but I think the male pattern baldness on the back of my head is being recognized as a bulls-eye by many waiters and bus boys.

            As far a prestige table, I have no idea which ones are which. I was so happy to be at La Cirque for lunch 20 years ago sitting next to the doors to the kitchen because I got to look at all the wonderful food coming out. Who needed a menu, "I'll take one of those."

            Now I want quiet, away from the crowd, do not bother me and DW in the corner. I also like sitting next to instead of across from Mrs Jfood.

        2. Its annoying to walk into an empty restaurant and be told "oh, we're sorry, we are completely booked there are NO tables available" (unless they are having an Invisible Man dinner party ).

          Now, its true that balancing reservations and walk-ins is a delicate art at best, and host/esses must plan for no-shows, late arrivals, early arrivals, and every other type of fickle customer.

          However, just the other nite as a matter of fact, we were in a restaurant, had gone in just as they opened at 5pm, and were the first table seated. One other couple came in, leaving (a rough guess) 20 tables empty in the small restaurant. Another couple was seated about 15 minutes into our meal. A third couple came in a few minutes later and I overheard the hostess say "no tables available". Now, being almost 20 minutes into the first hour of being open, we are assuming the first reservations have either not showed, or EVERYONE was given a reservation at 6pm (which shows poor management and planning on the part of the hostess). As we were leaving and the other seated couple was on dessert (thereby freeing up 2 more tables in the next 5-10 minutes and leaving the entire restaurant empty at 6pm, ANOTHER couple walked in and was also turned away.

          Now, take into consideration this was a cold, crummy mid-week evening in a tourist town (read: dead ) and the restaurant more than likely was NOT going to suddenly be hit with a parade of people streaming in..... well, you get the idea.

          Also, as far as crappy tables, its awful when you are the first people in the place and are given a tiny table in a bad location. Did everyone else who made a reservation specify a specific "good" table? Or are you just being shoved into the corner?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Sethboy

            SB, most people do not eat at 5pm during the week and you are lucky you can take advantage of such an early in by 5, out by 6, dinner as you describe. Most restos assume a 2-hour time frame for dinner. So let's use some basic queuing theory ro help you understand why the may have told you they were booked solid.

            Crush time is normally 630-8 but it sounds in your town for mid-week this may be 615-700 for resos. Your resto has 20 tables (as you stated and they do not want all the tables sitting at the same time because then the kitchen gets slammed for apps and then 20 minutes later get slammed for entrees, making people who needed to wait angry. So the resto books the resos in an equal stream, (similar to a nice easy flow of water). In your case they probably have reso available on the 1/4 hour, so from 615-700 they have 4 "slots" to reserve with 5 tables available per slot. Since they sat you at 500 they figured, worse case, that table was available for the last 700 turn. You were out by 600 so you did not witness the 615 arrivals or later.

            When the hostess turned away the people at 520-530, there was a chance that this couple would have still been at the table past the 700 resos and did not want a reso to wait while others, without a reso, were still at the table.

            All of this assumes a leisurely dinner which may not be correct or the hostess had others reasons to turn away couple #3. What she should have done was tell couple #3 that she would gladly seat them but that they would have to vacate the table by 645. This has happened to me on several occcassions and although it is not the best solution, honesty by the hostess allowed those with reso to eat when they reserved and allowed me to eat.

          2. Sometimes it is not readily apparent which is a good table and which is not. We were out Friday night. Bad weather, slow crowd, the table was fine. As things picked up, we found that we were next to a center corridor with frenetic servers rushing past. We'll be going there again, and we'll make sure we're away from this central passage.

            Last Sunday we had brunch at a place where we had never been for brunch. We had been there previously, but not for brunch, so we didn't know the layout. Today, other plans running amok, we went there again. The hostess showed us to a table that was absolutely as far from the buffet tables as we could be while still being in the restaurant. Sharp hostess, she must have seen my look of dismay (I could have been scowling) and asked. I explained and she showed us a table much closer to the dessert table.

            Both cases were not easy to know until you have been there.

            1. Some older people find it hard to sit at a high top.Others have handicaps that may not be visible that make it difficult to sit on a high chair. So-there are lots of reasons to not want to be seated at a high top.