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Being Seated by the Kitchen [moved from Manhattan board]

Last week I went to Sapa. And even though there were plenty of open 4-tops, the hostess tried to seat my next to the big a$$ kitchen doors. Of course I asked to be moved and she readily agreed. However, it started the dinner off wrong for me (and there ended up being many things wrong with the dinner). BTW....most of the 4-tops remained unoccupied for the rest of the night,

My question is this: Why do they do this? Do I look like someone who would accept a sub-standard seat (I am SO not someone to try it with)? For those of you in the know, how does this work?

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  1. Depending on the restaurant, servers have their section of the restaurant, and the hostess may have led you to whoever's section was next to be sat. Managers can be particular about things, and this one may have had the order of tables he or she wanted seated. Also, your hostess could have been completely clueless and not known any better.

    1. To start, servers are usually assigned to "stations". As the night progresses, the servers are sat in a rotation. This helps the restaurant to stay organized and the servers to not get slammed at one point by filling their entire station at once. Some restaurants also aim to spread guests out in the dinning room so that it looks full and also to give guests a bit of privacy from each other. In closing, not EVERYONE has issue with sitting near a kitchen. Some people like myself prefer a busy louder room when others want quiet private rooms...to each their own! If you do not want the seat by the kitchen it is very simple...tell the host! They most likely do not care. You shouldnt take it so personal.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Just Me

        Exactly, there are ways restaurants do things and the key part of the story is that the hostess readily agreed and accomodated your request. Not everyone cares about where there table is, not everyone would view the same tables as "sub-standard" and unless you're wearing a sign to that effect, how would someone at a restaurant know what's acceptable to you?

        The expectation that absolutely every single thing that takes place in a restaurant is going to be exactly as one personally perfers is an unreasonable one. Everyone has different preferences so there is no way a restaurant can do one thing and meet all of those needs. The essential thing in a restaurant is for the staff to do their best to meet your preferences wherever possible _after_ you've made them known.

        1. re: ccbweb

          But with many open 4-tops being passed on the way to the table near the kitchen, why would the choice be that table near the kitchen - unless they were all previously reserved? In this case they weren't, as the hostess immediately moved them to another table.

          I would say that the majority of people would prefer NOT being given the table near the open kitchen doors vs. the other way around. So if there are other 4-tops available, why not use those up first and *then* the one near the kitchen or bathroom doors?

          If someone then *wanted* to move to that table, for some reason, they could then pipe up and be moved, opening up a more desirable table for the probable majority would prefer not being seated next to kitchen or bathroom doors.

          1. re: LindaWhit

            If the OP was a single diner or one of two, the hostess had probably been instructed not to seat smaller parties at a 4 top. And as soon as she voiced her preference, they moved her. Sounds like they did the right thing.

            1. re: mojoeater

              Well, the OP gave no indication that there were only 1 or 2 in the party - by the way it was written, the assumption is 4 people, hence the confusion at passing up all the other empty 4-tops on the way to the table near the kitchen doors.

              Yes - if they were 1 or 2 people, I absolutely agree that they shouldn't be at a 4-top. But unless the OP pipes up for a clarification, we don't know that.

      2. ehrmanna, I'm with you. No way, no how am I accepting a table near the kitchen or bathroom-no exception. If that is the only option, I leave for another resto.

        10 Replies
        1. re: HillJ

          No exception? What about the tables at WD-50 that allow you to look right into the doorless kitchen as they prepare your food? :)

          1. re: jpschust

            LOL, jps...I have no desire to sit outside a noisy kitchen or busy restroom area. If dh and I want to enjoy watching a chef in action there are other alternatives for that.

            So yes-no exceptions.

            1. re: HillJ

              I'm amazed that anyone actually gets into the restaurant business. Its hard enough to try to put out good chow on a regular basis much less manage to design a space that has no tables anywhere that anyone won't want to sit. Near the door, near the kitchen, near the bathroom, near a post, too close to another table, near the bar, near that other loud table, etc.

              If I had such a firmly held belief about where my table should be, I think I'd get in the habit of calling ahead of time and being very specific about my requirements. It'd save me and everyone else a lot of time.

              1. re: ccbweb

                I know you are being a touch sarcastic, but I have restaurants I frequent, and even some I've only been to once where I know exactly where in the room I'd like to sit- when I make my reservations I request those tables.

                1. re: jpschust

                  Actually, I'm not being the least bit sarcastic in this case (a rare thing for me). I think that if you've got such expectations and requirements, its a good idea for all concerned to call ahead to make sure they can be met.

                  As for spontaneity, I agree completely. It just doesn't seem like having such a concrete feeling about not sitting at particular tables in a restaurant would work out with such spontaneity simply because if that's all they have, then you've got to keep moving on.

                  And I didn't mean to disparage your preference at all, you're completely entitled to it. I was musing on running a restaurant when having to face various and completely polar opposite desires from various customers. As I said, some want X table and some wouldn't sit at X table for any reason at all.

                  1. re: ccbweb

                    ccb, honestly, it hasn't been a big problem for me. but when offered a table near either the kitchen or a restroom (and I will add the size of the restaurant plays a part in why it matters to me) I would more than likely leave. If waiting for another table is an option, I might decide to do that.

                    1. re: HillJ

                      I think I presumed you were far more...um...something about it than you actually are. Reality seems to be that you've got your preferences but you're not going to think that the restaurant is some sort of horrible place if they don't happen to have a table you'd enjoy. You'd just accept it and move on. Which is one of the more reasonable approaches to anything I've heard recently :)

                      And, if customers approached it more like you, I actually think that restaurants would be happier about it all.

                      1. re: ccbweb

                        I don't believe I referred to a restaurant being horrible at any point in our discourse but thank you for reading my lines, not btwn them :) Your perspective is appreciated and I can guarantee you the next time I'm offered a table near a kitchen, I'm going to smile wide because of this discussion and ask if I can wait for another table BEFORE heading for the exit.

                2. re: ccbweb

                  ccbweb, I'm sorry you feel so strongly about my preference. I run a service oriented business and deal with customer satisfaction issues every day. It's part of the environment. When it comes to my own satisfaction, I am no different.

                  As for calling ahead, life is far more spontaneous and frankly when I replied to this thread it wasn't a big issue for me, just a preference. Nor do I run into countless, unmanageable problems while dining.

                  Thanks for sharing :)

              2. re: jpschust

                >>>No exception? What about the tables at WD-50
                >>>that allow you to look right into
                >>>the doorless kitchen as they prepare your food? :)

                (For some reason, I remember that as a big window.)

                Better yet, a view of the entire kitchen at Citronelle in Washington, D.C. You could even choose to dine at the chef's table IN THE KITCHEN, if you reserved ahead of time. (When I lived there, there were only a handful of truly good restaurants, and Citronelle was one of them.)

            2. I have to admit that we are also a bit particular where we sit. I dont care for places where the tables are on top of each other or you share a long table and bench. When trying a new place I'll ask for a menu at the host station pretending to read it but I'm really glancing furtively at the seating arrangement. If it is somehow not to our liking, I'll hand the menu back and say no thank you.

              Although kitchen and bathroom tables doesnt necessarily bother us if there are no other seats available. But in the OP's experience the hostess should have brought them to a "prime" table considering the resto was empty. Although it seems the food quality was the cause and I expect the soon demise of Sapa.

              1. There have been several discussion about good and better tables at restos on these threads before and the difference people perceive. But Jfood thinks that there are certain tables that are just "bad". For example the one next to the bathroom is the best case and when the chair bangs the service area.

                Two summers ago in the Hamptons the jfoods and friends (4 in total) went to a resto. Resto was 20% full and has about 50+ tables. The brought us through the entire resto to the table next to the bathroom. Nope, we asked for "that" table. No problem. Over the next 60 minutes, each time a 4-top came in the hostess brought the patrons to the same bathroom-table and 9 times in a row the people asked to move. A quick smile from the hostess and to another table. On the way out jfood, being the firendly type aksed the hostess if they run a pool on how many people turn down the bathroom table and that 10 was the winner tonight. She smiled and said that the manager told them to rry "everyone" for that table since noone likes to sit there. The winner tonight was actually 12 because two groups turned it down before we arrived. :-))

                Jfood agrees that the resto would like to spread the groups amongst "stations" to get the flow for the kitchen off on the right foot. But it is rare when Mrs jfood gives that million-dollar smile and asks for "that table" is she turned down. The restos know the gig and if you are pleasant about it, it is rare that this request is not agreed to. If they give you any slack, you are probably in for a long evening.

                1. "My question is this: Why do they do this? Do I look like someone who would accept a sub-standard seat (I am SO not someone to try it with)? For those of you in the know, how does this work?"

                  wow. no restaurant is presuming anything about you by where they place you. i'm astonished how many people take this sort of thing as a personal affront.

                  there is a rotation to seating a dining room, so that one or two servers are not *flat sat*. they also try to keep the number of covers even between servers so potential for money-making is fairly distributed.

                  there are tables in every restaurant that are difficult to seat. some places try to seat them early to get at least one turn off them. the hostess was gracious and accomodated your move. how does that set a bad tone?

                  lastly not everybody is particular about where they sit.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    Hoto

                    Nicely put. When the "do i look..." comment was read I almost fell off the chair, a little self-important, ouch.

                    Jfood does not understand the "Do you know who I am?" syndrome. Yes I do know who you are, you're a custo like most everyone else who comes through the door. And if you were a regular, the hostess would know you more personally and know which table you might like. Showing up as a name on a reso sheet, that's what the hostess is working wit, a name on a reso sheet.

                    As you so aptly said there are tables that the resto knows from experience are not "I would like that table please." sorta tables and if they can seat someone there to get the turn that's great. Jfood views this as a try-for. Does that work for the jfoods? Usually not and similar to bringing my water to the table in a shot glass, I just ask politely for a larger glass or a different table. No biggie.

                    Years ago jfood was taken to Lutece for lunch by a colleague and they sat us next to the kitchen doors. For that meal it was fantastic because I barely looked at the menu but ordered my dishes from those that went by me. :-)). The table overlooking the kitchen at Citronelle in DC, I love it but Mrs jfood would rather i look at her (that's OK with me too) instead of the kitchen staff. :-)))

                    1. re: jfood

                      Jfood, I love your posts.

                      Before I went into the restaurant business I served twenty years in the Air Force as military police. This provided me with a wealth of experience with people from all walks of life, civilian as well as military.
                      Then thirteen years as a restaurant owner.
                      You can not look at someone and know who they are. You treat everyone that walks through the door the same unless they are repeat customers that you have grown to know do or do not like certain things.
                      Host/Hostess do not deliberately insult anyone by placement so people just need to chill and if you don't like a certain seat ask for another.

                  2. You know, I'm with you on this. I've seen it in nearly-empty restaurants where the hostess keeps trying to seat parties at the BAD table by the kitchen (and yes it is the bad table) until someone doesn't object. I would be less annoyed if the restaurant is approaching half-full. Why should a customer have to speak up and feel like they're starting off the evening as a second class citizen?