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Jun 25, 2007 11:09 AM

How long do you get to keep your table after you finish dinner?

My family and I stopped by the Metro Diner last night in Culver City (California).

It was about 7:00 (on a Sunday night). It was crowded, more crowded than it's ever been and we've been maybe half a dozen times.

Wife approached the counter and talked to the owner/manager. Said we were next and that several tables were "about to open up."

Okay, fine, we wait.

At one of the two tables, the party had finished eating as was waiting for the check. So, while they are waiting for the check, checking the check, paying the check and so forth -- another party comes down from the motel (the Metro is in a motel -- serves Serbian food) and talks to the owner/manager and I over hear the word "reservation."

Meanwhile, there is another table "about to open up." A man and a woman are sitting there and they've already paid the check. The leftovers are sort of sitting there and they are just talking.

And talking.

And talking.

The first "about to open table" opens up and we start to walk in -- we were next, right? Well, the owner/manager tells us to wait, then sits the party who, I guess, had a reservation.

He tells us, he's going to "kick that other couple out of their table" and for a second we watch him -- then he starts walking the "reservation" party to their table.

We just said "screw it" and left -- went for hot dogs, corned beef and onion rings around the corner.

My question is this:

How long is the right amount of time to occupy a table after your meal is done when people are waiting around trying to get seated? We stood around 10-15 minutes watching a couple who had finished eating and had already paid their bill just chatting.

Mind you, this is in a (I wish we had italics) diner. Not a fancy restaurant where one expect to linger over an after dinner drink. It's a diner. In a motel.

Granted, this particular diner has Serbian specials and attracts both chowhounds and foodies, but it's a diner. You can order a hamburger.

Without taking the time to query on the different permutations this might bring up, I'm curious to know what others think both generally and specifically about how long a table belongs to a party after they've eaten and paid while other people are trying to get seated.

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  1. I usually think if it's busy and you've paid up, you should go. I don't really see a point to sitting any longer, since there's... nothing to do there.

    But I don't think I would classify that table as really lingering. I've had people linger for 30+ minutes. But I think 10 or so minutes isn't all that bad.

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. i think they're entitled to sit for a reasonable amount of time- to finish your drink, let your food settle etc. "camping" (the resto-lingo for these types) is rude when the place is busy and others are obviously waiting for the table and also- when the restaurant is closed. in your situation i think a good manager could approach the table and "invite them to sit at the bar and have another coffee/drink/water/etc. " that's a polite way to say "get up already"

        unfortunately, we have to share the world with rude people.

        1 Reply
        1. re: excuse me miss

          Inviting them to the bar seems like a good idea, but I've seen a host of complaints on this board about just that. Many patrons get incredibly offended (and write so here) that they have been asked to leave the table, even in seemingly innocuous ways.

        2. It's a though call when you waiting you want people to hustle and move. When you have the table you want to sit back and enjoy the meal. You avoid making contact and thinking about the people who are now, where you once were, waiting. That being said I think once you have the table it's yours, to enjoy. As frustrating as that may be for those of us waiting.

          Ultimately it's up to the restaurant to figure out how to get the people to move. But there are always people who will simply sit and linger.

          On a side note that sounds like a very interesting restaurant.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Withnail42

            I can't really talk about the restaurant on this board, but if you go to the L.A. board and do a search there are lots of threads on the Metro.

          2. I may come off as inconsiderate, but my position is that you are entitled to the table as long as you want after you've finished your meal.

            That said, the longer you stay, the higher your tip should be.

            But in no event should you feel obligated, pressured, or coerced to leave prematurely even after having finished your meal long ago.