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Reserving a Table -- Do I Have a Gripe?

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During my annual trip visiting mom in Florida, she made a reservation at a fairly upscale downtown restaurant for 7 on a Saturday eve. Our group of five was ready early, so we called to make sure we could be seated early, and arrived shortly before 6:30.

When we entered we were escorted to a table on the main floor near the back that had probably been a four-top, with one end of the rectangular table abutting against a wall window and a fifth seat added on the other end with the chair extending a bit into the flow of traffic. As the others sat, I noticed an empty large circular table in the corner next to us set up for five and empty. I began looking for a staff person to ask if we could move there, and a heavy-set man in a kitchen-type oufit curtly said no, that the vacant table was specifically reserved for his friends, who had specifically requested it.

Well, I was pissed, though my mom thought that it was reasonable for the restaurant to refuse our request if another party had requested that particular table. The hostess did say we could have scouted out another table on the second floor, but this was impossible since one of our party had problems negotiating stairs. The beautiful spacious round table of plenty and majesty remained blissfully vacant for almost our entire meal, until we were finishing our entrees. When what looked like a family with two adults and three mid to late teens was seated, they were greeted effusively by the hostess with hugs and kisses and upon my asking, verified that they did indeed know the ownership and the chef.

So Hounds, do I have a legitimate gripe about our request to move being refused? Or can and should a restaurant not only reserve a table, but a particular prized table?

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  1. no gripe from me, it's good to be the regular!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Tee

      Indeed.......it's good to be a regular. There are a couple of places I know we can always get a prime table at a prime time and I make no apologies for it.

    2. I don't think you have a legitimate gripe. If the table was already reserved, why should they give it to you? Restaurants can and should do what they can to cultivate repeat business. Next time you'll know to request that table!

      1. No, you have no gripe- if someone specifically requests a table, they get it if it's available. This ain't McDonalds.

        1. [quote]The beautiful spacious round table of plenty and majesty remained blissfully vacant for almost our entire meal, until we were finishing our entrees. [/quote]

          At which point, what?

          Reverse the situation: you reserved a specific table at a specific time. You show up at the resto a few minutes early, and the hostess says, "I know you have a reservation, but we seated a family at the table you requested earlier. They're finishing their entrees now. If they order dessert, it'll be another 45 minutes to an hour before the table's ready for you. We can seat you at another table, or, if you really want that table, you can wait."

          I'm sure you'd have NO problems with that, would you?

          1 Reply
          1. re: mclaugh

            that is exactly what I was going to say...put yourself in the other patrons shoes...would you have liked it if your table was given away, especially if you were a regular.

          2. the restaurant accomodated you by seating you 30 minutes early. if you'd arrived on time, chances are that other table would have seemed "blissfully vacant" for only a few minutes. they also accomodated this party of regulars by granting them a requested table. sounds to me like management did everything right.

            did you let them know upon reserving one of your party had limited mobility, making the 2nd floor not possible?

            i can't believe you had the audacity to ask the other party if they actually knew the owner. that seems a terrible invasion of their privacy.

            2 Replies
            1. re: hotoynoodle

              The invasion of privacy struck me too! So what if they know the owner? And who wouldn't enjoy great treatment in a place where one knows the owner?

              1. re: hrhboo

                I have to agree...Did you REALLY ask them if they were, indeed, friends of the owner???
                The first thing that I thought of is the Seinfeld episode in the Chinese Food Restaurant-when Jerry, George and Elaine can't get the table, but everyone else can...

            2. So Hounds, do I have a legitimate gripe about our request to move being refused? Or can and should a restaurant not only reserve a table, but a particular prized table?
              Sorry you were put out about not getting the table you wanted, but it's their restaurant! If the owner/chef wants to reserve any # of tables for special guests of his, that is his right to do so. Doesn't matter what time you came in - early or late. If he wants to leave a specific table open all night, on the off chance that a particular friend of his *might* show up that night, again - his right to do so. He owns the place.

              1. Try living in Los Angeles! Tables are reserved in the trendiest restaurants on the off chance that a celebrity will show up. You can be seated in a cubby by the toilet, and your discomfort just doesn't matter.

                On the other side, I always get the best seats at my regular places, and the best service where I know the staff. I expect it, since I spend so much money at these places.

                1 Reply
                1. Gotta agree with everyone here as well. Unfortunately a resto is not a democracy, and the owner has the right to keep certain tables for his friends and family.

                  Sound like you received quite the flexible treatment from the staff. They accommodated your 30 minutes, they gave you a window table, they were truthful in their reason for keeping the round open for others, they offered you a choice of going upstairs. What more could they do other than acquiesce and that was not what they were willing to do.

                  Even your adjectives (all negative for you abutted table versus a blissful table, whatever that means) could not sway any of us so far to your side.

                  I understand you were upset, but the resto was flexible and completely honest in this case.

                    1. No gripe, they DID offer to move you, but the space they had available was unacceptable to you. If you had showed up on time, they wouldn't have given you that table anyway and yes, of course they're entitled to reserve any particular tables they want. No one's forcing you to stay, and you obviously didn't even know that table was there, so how could you feel slighted at someone else getting it? If you YOU had requested the table being told something like "we don't do that" and then were later told it was reserved for friends, that would annoy me, but (a) one argue that's really OK too, friends *are* friends after all and we'd all probably do the same, and (b) it's irrelevant because it didn't happen.

                      1. I frequently make a specific table request when I make a reservation at one of my fav places. Making a table request in advance enables the restaurant to balance the flow of traffic in advance, while also enabling me to get what I want. I'd be annoyed if, with an advance request, the table was given over to someone else who arrived prior to my reservation.