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Feb 5, 2008 07:34 PM

Market doesn't like groups?

We had a group of 9 for dinner and Market in Del Mar turned us down saying it's "too hard on the kitchen staff" when they have parties of greater than 8? Hmmm, I've had a couple large groups at The Better Half in Hillcrest and we were greeted and accomodated warmly and professionally in a very small restaurant that is new. So much for me ever thinking about doing Market again. I was wary after hearing a thing or two about the service there. Now it's a done deal!

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  1. Huh? At least Market was candid enough to acknowledge that its quality may suffer with larger groups. Would you rather have it accomodate your large group, and then complain about the food and service when the staff and kitchen struggle to serve you? Market has a small dining room with a very modest kitchen (the building's converted office space, and the parking lot is even worse.) Before you write Market off, at least try it for dinner with a smaller group. If Market isn't your cup of tea, then fair enough. But to dismiss, what IMHO is one of the better restaurants in SD, because it candid on its ability to serve you seems a bit petty.

    1. I understand your frustration, but I enjoyed a very good dinner at Market last month and I wonder about the exact circumstances. Market has one long table in the middle (the only one without a tablecloth) that may be able to seat nine, and their patio room to the side may have flexibility. How far in advance did you call in your request? Maybe the proper tables weren't available, or they already had a couple of larger parties. Market also sells its "tasting" menu, which is really a four-course prix fix with three choices per course, and they require that all at a table order it or go a la carte, so that may have been a concern. I agree that it is better for them to inform you of their limitations up front -- maybe it is as simple as putting tables together to seat a party greater than eight simply blocks their traffic flow or kitchen procedures to such an extent that it compromises the dinner for the entire restaurant.

      1. I'm actually not surprised they said that at all. I like Market, but I've encountered a weird attitude there, sort of an arrogance mixed with informality - like "aren't you lucky to be here in this great restaurant with us serving you?" They're a little full of themselves, and they probably think they don't have to accommodate large groups - they are packed every night of the week.

        Since the service is marginal under the best of circumstances, they probably did you a favor, ultimately. If you're looking for something similar in the same area - maybe try Blanca or Amaya - the more casual restaurant at the Grande Del Mar.

        1. I do not really see what the problem is... At least they are being honest. You tried to make a reservation that they feel they cannot accommodate well so they did not accept it...I know a lot of restaurants that accept large groups only to mess everything up. I am sure that they are not turning business down just for fun. They probably realize that large groups are not working out for them. What's is the difference between 8 and 9 people? Maybe they do not have a table large enough to accommodate 9. Just like what is the difference when you book a party of 2 and show up with 3 people ( Oh so very common in San Diego !! ). Maybe , from past experience, they realize that large groups most always sit down much later than their reservation time, in the middle of the rush. Whatever the reason is, maybe this is just not the venue for a large group and at least, they are candid about it. Oh and let me guess, was that reservation suposed to be at 7:00 pm on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night?
          As far as the service being bad and arrogant, they are packed every night so they must be doing something right. I am sure that they have their off nights but overall, to say that Market has bad service......

          19 Replies
          1. re: jaysurf12

            So besides Blanca and Amaya, anything else in the area. We have a meeting right near the Torrey Pines Golf Course. Is there anything there or even in downtown Del Mar that is good and does groups? We've been at J Taylors with great food and service but they are remodeling now, unfortunately.

            1. re: keena

              What about AR Valentien at the Lodge? For a group that size they might do a Farm Dinner - they do a special dinner for your table and serve it family style. I know they have a minimum number but I don't remember what it is. I bet they would be happy to accommodate a large group, the chef might even greet you personally.

              1. re: keena

                For higher end restaurants in the area try Pamplemousse Grille in Solana Beach or Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in Carmel Valley/Del Mar. For something more casual Tony's Jacal or Fidel's in Solana Beach. They should all be able to accomodate your group.

                1. re: keena

                  Red Tracton's is just west of the freeway off the same exit (Via De La Valle) very close to Pamplemousse. Also on the expensive side, great steaks and specialize in prime rib, with a daily special and fish selections daily. Good service from pros that have been there forever, and you can usually get in except during racing season or an event at the fairgrounds.

                2. re: jaysurf12

                  Make no mistake, it's clear they did her a favor. And as far as what's wrong with that, it's not just the fact that they refused the reservation, it's the way they did it. I've repeatedly encountered staff at Market who seem to feel their experience is just as important as the guests. That's annoying to me. Some people may not mind it, and others probably just go back for the food and ignore it. That's what we try to do - all the while snickering at the servers for saying things like "And how are we doing? Are we done with that?" - interrupting personal conversations to make comments, to brag about the menu, brag about how busy they are... Sheesh. I don't want to hear it.

                  1. re: Alice Q

                    When did you encounter annoying staff? We've been there many times over the past year, party size ranging from 4-9 people and never ran into obnoxious service. I've found them attentive, not intrusive and generally helpful.

                    With the party of 8-9 (which I've done several times), we were seated in the long table in the center of the room. I can't remember if the 9th person ended up at the long end of the table.

                    1. re: daantaat

                      I actually talked to a friend of mine today that works there and the long table is gone.
                      I never had bad service there either but again, I am friend with some of the staff....Oh well, sometimes you just cannot please everyone ;)

                      1. re: jaysurf12

                        when we dined there, the woman in our party noticed the long dark unadorned table, which led to the disclosure that they never had the proper covering for that beautiful long dark table. after providing so much satisfaction, it is a shame they had to take it out.

                        1. re: jaysurf12

                          Oh, you've got to be kidding! That table was very useful for large groups! I really liked the dark wood and was happy with the place mats they used instead of a tablecloth.

                          And I'm not a friend of any of the staff or employees there and got good service every time.....

                        2. re: daantaat

                          I also noticed that the long table is gone - it's all regular four/six tops now. We have had problematic service twice out of three visits. On the first visit it was more just slow and ill-timed service (entrees delivered before wine, etc.) The second time was fine as I recall. This last time we got some attitude from both the bartender and our regular server, (and very slow service from the sushi bar - 30 mins for one roll) but we also had a second server who was very good - he was brought in to help us order wine and then helped out through the rest of the meal - he was very professional and yet friendly. He said he chooses some of the wines for the list - Jaysurf, maybe you know him?

                          1. re: jaysurf12

                            Honestly it wasn't that big a deal - and nobody was downright rude, it was more of a tone or overall attitude of self-satisfied-ness. Maybe some of my earlier comments came off a little too strong. When we were there, I did notice that the dining room cleared out around 9- 9:30 PM. I think we were the second to last table to leave at 10. You'd never see that in a similar restaurant in SF or LA.

                            1. re: Alice Q

                              There's nothing like cutting the throat of a sacred cow to get the posts flowing.

                              I'm going to ask a ridiculous question here. Why is a party of nine difficult? If the group split into tables of five and four, why would that be any more difficult on the kitchen? Is the problem that they are worried that they could get nine orders out around the same time? Well, then make it understood that they'll probably get their meals in two shifts.

                              I'm missing something here. Is Market really small? Was it entirely full that evening? I just find this...odd...

                              1. re: RB Hound

                                Nine means you are often compromising three four-tops to push them together to seat nine. You lose three checks. You punish the kitchen and serving staff to bring things out together. You almost always (in the case of Market) give up your prized four-course "tasting" menu that everyone at the table must opt for. And does the party of nine want to come at 5:30 or 9:00 when you need them and can best serve them? No, they always want 7:30 when you are packed anyway and think they are entitled.

                                1. re: nosh

                                  There are many reasons why a nine tops is different that say 2 tables of 4. By the way, I called many restaurants comparable to Market in other cities and the most they will accomodate is 8 to 10 people so there is nothing crazy about this policy.

                                  Every restaurant has its limit as far as how many people it can succesfully server per say half hour. That is a function of kitchen space, staff and equipment. Most fine dining restaurant with a modest size kitchen cannot serve more than 15 guests per 15 mn and usually 22 to 25 guests per half hour.
                                  Of course , if I am a restaurant that serves steak and potatoes , I can serve a lot more but as soon as presentation becomes part of the equation, it becomes a problem.
                                  Now here is a comon scenario. A guest books a party of 8. They call at 4:00 pm on the day of the reservation and want to bring 2 more guests. They expect the same reservation time, not realizing that all other tables might be booked. You have to re-think the whole floorplan and somehow find a way to accomodate them. They show up with 11 guests, instead of 10 and they are 30 late ( say it is a friday night and traffic was awful, so it is not necessary their fault ). Now you have 11 guests to serve on top of whoever has already sat at the restaurant. Not only that but in order to pay high rents and labor cost, you planned on turning that large table for an other party 3 hours later and it is not going to happen anymore....
                                  Even worse, that table never shows up for their reservation and since there is no contract, you cannot really charge their credit card ( who knows if the credit card # is right anyways and who wants to charge a $20 no show fee?? ) .

                                  The bottom line is that larger tables are usually not good for restaurants for many different reasons, some financial, some technical. Some restaurants are just better venues for it and some are not. Personally, when I go out with a lot of people, I tend to prefer more casual venues with smaller plates and keep places such as Market, Addison, Blanca and such for other occasions ( a date or a dinner with 3 or 4 friends ).
                                  Personally, I do respect a business that says no because they know that they cannot perform as well under certain circumstances. I used to work downtown back in the days, as a server and we took groups of 20-30 people and it was discusting how bad everything was , from the food to the service but the owners did not care....

                                  1. re: jaysurf12

                                    Well put. I've eaten with a large group at Market (8 people) and it didn't miss a beat. However, many higher end restaurants tend to struggle with large groups as each dish is made to order, rather than serving simply something warmed from a chafing dish. With large groups I usually defer to Mexican restaurants or Italian.

                                    I also suspect that in Market's case, they eliminated the large table because of the flow of the dining room, and econmics. They would rather have two tables of four, with two seating for the evening, than one group of eight which typcially stays for the evening.

                                    1. re: wanker

                                      I think people missed part b of my question, which keena would probably need to answer. I can understand why they wouldn't want to do a large table for 9. Did they ask if the party would do a 4/5 combination, or are the 4 toppers at Market so small that there is no way to expand to 5? Or was keena's party completely against splitting?

                                      A lot of missing details, and a lot of conclusions being drawn...

                                    2. re: jaysurf12

                                      I actually agree with you - I wouldn't go there with more then 4 - 6 at the most. I just think it's a little odd to say absolutely not - at least from the person's post there's no indication that they weren't somewhat flexible - or that Market offered to accommodate them in any way. They could have at least put them on that covered patio area or something like that. As Jturtle points out below, they could also offer them a three course set menu at a set price, or provide a limited menu. It just seems like there should be some options there.

                                      1. re: Alice Q

                                        Well, we all ended up at AR Valentiens last night and had a wonderful meal. They did a great job with a group of 10 and those banana beignets for dessert were heavenly. Food and service were awesome. I would happily bring a big group there again but it is not for the faint of heart when the bill comes.

                                        1. re: keena

                                          How nice - I am glad it worked out for you! I will have to get back there sometime soon.

                      2. I can't comment on groups at Market but I can tell you that we dined at Tango in Escondido on Friday and then Market on Saturday and while both were impressive I can honestly say I enjoyed both the quality of the food and atmosphere more at Tango. It is nowhere near as big as Market but there is a much more welcoming attitude and atmosphere. It could be that Tango is a new restaurant and eager to please but I was blown away by the service and dishes and I was also surprised that Market was less enjoyable since it is so highly touted. It's worth a trip to Escondido to sample the menu at Tango. I will probably not rush back to Market anytime soon but I cannot wait to have my next meal at Tango.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: knickin

                          AR Valentien sounds like a great suggestion-thanks!
                          Some people in the group mentioned Sbicca's but the last time I was there I just thought the food was good, nothing more. Is that an incorrect impression?

                          1. re: keena

                            Sbicca's is overrated. Waay overrated. I would take Market over Sbicca, despite the above reported service complaints. AR Valentien has very good food and service.

                            1. re: daantaat

                              So I think Sbicca's is pretty terrible too. But they seem to be very popular. Maybe its the spillover from their wine deals on Tuesday or Wednesday. Or maybe I have ordered the wrong things there.

                              1. re: jturtle

                                My theory on Sbicca's popularity is that it is in Del Mar, in a prime location, near the beach, in a wealthy area that is populated with lots of "old timers" that think PF Chang's is good, authentic Chinese food. I went so many times, hoping it was an issue of "ordering the wrong things," but every time I left feeling unsatisfied and overcharged for mediocre food.

                                1. re: daantaat

                                  I actually agree with you 100% about Sbicca's and other restaurants in the area....