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"Time is up, you must leave now!"

The other night, called up a restaurant for a reservation at 7:30.

Was politely told they were booked, but could accommodate us at 7.

Was then also informed that if we took the 7 o'clock seating, we had to be out by 8.

WTF??

A mere hour for dinner?

Was this the pay phone version of restaurants?

And, what would've happened if at 8 o'clock we hadn't finished our meal?

Would we be forcibly ejected, arrested for trespassing? Shot on sight?

Has this happened to you?

(Note: We ended up at a different place ...)

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  1. Based off my experience taking reservations in a restaurant this is my guess as to what might have happened.

    Let's say the restaurant does a two-hour turn for their reserved tables. If there was a party that had come in at 5 and was expected to leave at 7 than that table would be free. However, perhaps the restaurant had booked that same table for an 8:00 party. There's an hour in-between where it's sitting unused, but most restaurants wouldn't seat anyone there due to it only being available for an hour. If the party would sound desperate sometimes I would offer the same thing on the condition that they understood the table needed to be available by 8. A surprisingly high amount of people would take me up on the offer, but then again service was prompt and it was an easy restaurant to get in and out of in an hour if one was motivated.

    It sounds to me like they were just trying to squeeze another table in, but it's generally not a good idea to even offer that option.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mariannas

      This is exactly what happened to me once, and why. I was a walk-in, though. I don't think it's very good form to offer a reservation under these circumstances.

    2. Happens to me occasionally. Generally as a walk-in after being told they're full for
      the evening and putting on our sad faces. Usually the offer includes being moved to
      the bar when table time's up. Sometimes we've gone for it, sometimes not.

      This doesn't get the "wtf" reaction from me since the parameters are clear from the
      start. Unlike the abruptly-hustled-out-immediately-after-coffee problem concerning
      which there's an epic thread or two hereabouts.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Chuckles the Clone

        If it's a Saturday night and the place is jammed packed when I get there, I can understand it. If I get there and I hear crickets in the background, then I would do a WTF?

        Not a big hot button for me. I've got so many more others.

        1. re: Chuckles the Clone

          This has happened to me with last min. walking in, or last min res. Not a problem, was not suprised and was happy to have desert at the bar

        2. jfood is glad that restos are starting to act like other businesses in communicating to custos the extents of their reso. This should hopefully start a trend in which the resto and the custo have confirmed expectations versus "whose table is it?"

          This happens to jfood often at one small resto in town that he loves and always forgets to call for a reso. when he does remember he is told that he can have a 630 but needs to be out by XXX (usually its 800 and if it's only M&M jfood it has never been an issue). Win-win. Jfood eats at one of his favorite , the resto has another turn and the people who made the XXX reso have their table when a greed to. One time jfood was not able to order dessert because the other couple at his early dinner was late (never doingthat again with this particular couple). The server was very polite and mentioned that the table was reserved for XXX and that there would not be enough time for dessert. Hey, that was the deal and a deal is a deal and it was the other couple's fault not the resto's.

          Remmeber that noone on these boards who had the XXX reso would have anything other than complete and total disgust if they arrived at XXX and were not seated until XXX+45.

          So hopefully restos that are planning to turn the table in 2-2.5 hours will adopt a policy of telling the reserving party that "yes we are confirming your reso for 730 and the table will be yours until 930."

          Once again communication is the key to not having any hard feelings.

          2 Replies
          1. re: jfood

            Absolutely. As it should be in reverse. As has been viewed on many of these threads, a restaurant will have an unhappy customer if communication from the customer to the server is not taken seriously and acted upon accordingly. Or, failing that, if a restaurant manager or owner then does not make the situation right.

            I have no interest in restaurants that don't put the customer first, within reason.

            Without good food and respectful restaurant owners and good servers, there will be, hopefully, restaurants that close due to lack of business.

            Someone here was spot on when they put it that a 'contract' is entered into when a patron enters a restaurant. If the details of the contract are known up front, then all is well. If there is a time limit on a table, if there is a charge for bread or water or takeout containers, I want it known and above board. I want no surprises.

            If I the patron can get a good meal, with decent service and at reasonable (for the area) prices, then the contract is fulfilled. If for any reason the contract is not adhered to by either party, both parties have cause to complain, here or in person.

            1. re: dolores

              I agree-it seems obvious to me that I am having dinner at a restaurant and in a way "renting" out that table for an agreed amount of time. If the management informs me that I need to be out by a certain time then that is my decision to eat there or not. By the same token, sometimes I ask the restaurant-sometimes those known for slower more detailed service-that I need to be out by a certain time and is that possible? At times I am told yes they can accomodate faster service and sometimes I am refused due to a busy kitchen. Either way, I have no problems as long as both I and the restaurant are on the same page.

          2. There are a couple of things to think about here. First, what are my plans. Sometimes I have a soup OR salad, a couple of appetizers, dessert and coffee. I can do this in an hour, if that is what I plan for. But the other side of this is that there is an onus on the restaurant that makes a reservation under these conditions to keep things moving so the hour is possible. I would not want to find my second appetizer, dessert, and coffee on the corner of my table packed up in Styrofoam at 7:58 because things were slow coming out of the kitchen.

            By the way, ipsedixit, I think you probably made the right move. Maybe "WTF" is not warranted. They told you what's up and you were able to make an informed decision.

            1. While your exact scenario has never happened to us, we did have a strange experience quite a few years ago in Chicago when we were much younger and more naieve. We had made reservations around 7 p.m. for 2 couples at a fairly popular new resto on a Saturday night. We ordered apps, drinks, entrees and dessert. We were still talking with our friends around 9:30 p.m. when we were asked to leave the resto unless we ordered MORE food or drinks after we finished dessert. The resto was busy, we had ordered a lot of $$ and it took 2.5 hours to deliver all. It was a strange situation, we left and never went back. Have never had this experience again.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Diane in Bexley

                Wow, Diane, how did you handle the situation? In the server's tip? Talked to the manager? Wrote a letter to the owner?

                Except for the dual rush jobs by My Nemesis, I have been lucky enough never to have encountered such rudeness in a restaurant again.

                1. re: dolores

                  Dolores, I am ashamed to admit we did nothing, just picked up and left with the other couple. We were very young, in our 20s, newly married, and just "getting out into the world". Today would have been a VERY different story. I wonder how much of the fact that we were young and inexperienced contributed to our being taken advantage of.

                2. re: Diane in Bexley

                  How were you taken advantage of? Did you think the table was yours 'til closing?

                  One cannot tell from your story how long you sat and talked to your friends. You say "7 p.m. for 2 couples at a fairly popular new resto on a Saturday night. .... We were still talking with our friends around 9:30 p.m. when we were asked to leave ...it took 2.5 hours to deliver all"

                  This says that desserts were served and you were asked to leave when they arrived. (7:00 + 2.5 hrs = 9:30) That is not what you meant to say I am sure.

                  Apparently you had finished your meal and were merely socializing. Why should you be allowed to transform the restaurant into your living room?

                  1. re: FrankJBN

                    Unless I was told there were people waiting for a 10:00pm reservation, I wouldn't assume there was anyone waiting to eat that late at night.

                    1. re: FrankJBN

                      Frank, service was very slow at this place and the waiter literally had just put down our dessert when we were asked to leave. No, I didn't think the table was ours till closing, but I was expecting to be able to savor my dessert instead of eat & run. Not my problem it took them 2.5 hours to serve 3 courses.

                    2. re: Diane in Bexley

                      A similar situation happened to jfood but with a slightly different timeline. It occured at a new "hot" resto in their town.

                      M&M jfood (and two friends) had a 730 reso at a resto in their town (their town is 15,000 people with maybe 9 restos). They were seated at 745 through no fault of theirs as they all arrived by 720 and were waiting in the bar. They ordered drinks, apps and entree and were having a nice leisurely dinner. At 900, one-hour and fifteen after seating dessert menus were presented, so the evening was nicely paced. The waiter comes over and tells them that they would have to vacate the table. Jfood told him they had not ordered dessert and the MOD came over and told them that the table was reserved for 900 and would we please move to the bar for dessert. We paid the bill and not wantng to cause a scene jfood et. al. moved to the bar area. And there were no tables. So there the four of them were, jackets over one forearm and holding a drink in the other hand.

                      5 minutes passed, then 10 minutes and they see nothing. They decide to leave and go down the street for some ice cream. As they were walking out the MOD is walking the other way with two desserts and when he sees them he stops in his tracks and says, "Now you're leaving after I was bringing you some desserts."

                      Stick jfood with a fork he is now done . Jfood looked at him, incredulous and said, "first you seat us late, then you evict us from the table, then you tell us to go to a table in the bar when there were none, then you ignored us, then you bring desserts that we did not order and then you are rude. Are you kidding me? You will never see us again" and the four of them walked out.

                      Two weeks later jfood receives a phone call at the house. It appears that the MOD was speaking with some of the other MOD's in town and relayed this story for guidance. When one of them asked the name of the party and he told them, the other MOD's told him, "are you kidding? you did that to the jfoods?" Nice to have friends. The MOD was extremely apologetic and sent a letter asking the four of us to return. Hey mistakes happen, and jfood thanked him, and the four of them returned.

                      You would think the service and food would have been extra-special good. The service was OK but the food was served raw or cold. They thanked the MOD for the meal and moved on, never to return. Sometimes a free meal is not worth the price.

                      Interesting as well as the place is now 50% full on Saturday nites, when before you could not get a reso. Efficient market theory at play.

                      1. re: jfood

                        (parethetically: somewhat interesting given some people's reticence to name
                        resto names in their "hypotheticals for guidance" that apparently MoDs are
                        discussing patrons by name when they "talk among themselves". i'm not taking
                        a position on this, but would be interesting if some of the principals of some of
                        the eggregious stories here end up being softly blackballed.)

                        1. re: psb

                          when apprpriate jfood names names:

                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/425103

                          See "Cava" review. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Likewise on this thread if you get too specific, it may lead to the big blue pen.

                    3. I do this rather frequently on busy weekend nights when we are totally booked for reservations. It only makes sense. We would rather not have tables sit empty for an hour, especially as we only have ten of them. Hungry diners get fed. The alternative would be to say no, we don't have any tables available for the rest of the night. In our restaurant, one is perfectly able to order salad, entree, and maybe dessert and coffee, (depending on how the kitchen is doing), in one hour. It is not a long leisurely dinner, but neither is it rushed. When the hour is up, I don't say anything to the diners. They almost always time themselves and leave at the appropriate time. They're happy we were able to sneak them in. We're happy the table didn't sit empty. Like others have said, no harm no foul if the terms are communicated up front.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: hilltowner

                        the flip side works, too. i've occasionally had a place tell me they are booked for an evening. then i told them i only wanted an app & salad, or just an entree w/out apps/dessert, and that i'd happily eat quickly. most times, they've accommodated me, and both sides have been happy.

                      2. "Has this happened to you?"

                        Now it's my turn to say WTF?

                        Yes, it has happened to me - restaurants have tried to accomodate me, but what they could offer wasn't to my satisfaction and I declined.

                        this is defined as something happening that is worth reporting?

                        1. We actually had something even better than this happen to us. It was for my daughter and son-in-law's rehearsal dinner. We were actually at the rehearsal, which was scheduled for 3 p.m. and the dinner was scheduled for 5 p.m. The prospective groom got a panicked call from the restaurant at 3:30 p.m. telling us that we HAD to get there at 4 p.m. because we had to be out by 6 p.m. He just laughed and said "no way people have made these plans weeks in advance." Then, when we got to the restaurant, the manager tried to inform the groom's parents of the time restraints, to which the groom's parents replied "no way. We've had this planned for months and anything else has to be planned around us." There were more than 50 people in our party and they only had seating out for about 35, so we had to take over another part of the restuarant. I noticed the other party was seated inside -- this restaurant featured a patio with a really nice harborside view, which was what we'd reserved. After we left, they were reseated. I was amazed that the restaurant would even ask us to limit the dinner. But it was easy enough to ignore them.
                          My problem with "timed' dinners is when we get bad service. As i've often told them when they ask, "we'll be done as soon as we're finished eating and that depends a great deal on the speed of your service."

                          1. This happens in Japan all the time. You walk in and they warn you that they'll be closing at a certain time (if that time is less than about 90 minutes away) so you can decide whether or not you want to go in or go elsewhere. It seems fair enough to me. At least they didn't take the reservation, let you come in and order then tell you that you'd have to hit the road by 8:00 pm.

                            1. I think the restaurant is honnest with you.

                              You have two choices :

                              1- Decline the offer, thanking them for the information, saying that you will try go get a reservation in advanced next time.

                              2- Accept the reservation, knowing that you only have 1 hour; be certain that you are on time, and even show up 15 to 20 minutes early, just in case the previous people already left, and since they know that you will leave your table on hour ( +/- 15 minutes) later, just skip desert and lengthy drinks ( you can do that elsewhere); and if the staff know that, they wil probably push your orders before others.