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Feb 29, 2008 06:25 AM

Service Faux Pas at Vee Vee?

Walked into Vee Vee last night at 8:30 with my parents - all tables were full and a party of three was waiting for a table. We were greeted by the host who said there would be a 20-30 minute wait. Noticing that 4 of the 6 bar stools were open we asked if we could eat at the bar. In order to accommodate us they would have needed to ask the 2 people having their dinner at the bar to move over one seat. The host went back to the bar manager to inquire ā€“ after watching them whisper and debate for a minute the host came back and informed us that the couple was eating their dinner and they would not ask them to move and that the wait would be 20-30 minutes. Unfortunately, this was a very awkward exchange and I was disappointed they were not willing to accommodate.

When I sit at a bar ā€“ even if Iā€™m in the middle of my dinner I would have no problem moving to accommodate another party. I did that at Grammercy Tavern in NYC only a few weeks ago and I was certainly not offended when the bartender politely asked me to move over one seat so he could seat another party. I have to ask my fellow Chowhounders ā€“ was this completely unprofessional of the host?

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  1. Did you consider asking the couple yourself if they wouldn't mind moving over a seat? Typically I never get anyone at the restaurant involved in those types of situations.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Servorg

      Yes - we debated if we should ask. We even said to the host that we would ask the party to move over. Noticing how uncomfortable he was with that prospect we refrained. As a service industry vet I do expect that the bar manager, host etc. would have "helped" the situation. I certainly would never go up to a table of seated people and ask them to move however, IMO when sitting at the bar you are somewhat in the bartenders territory - its their responsibility to manage the dynamic of the bar.

      1. re: southendchow

        Right. Asking a party seated at a table if they would mind moving without getting someone at the restaurant involved would be, hmm what's that word I'm looking for - oh yeah, "crazy". But the bar is a "free agency / DMZ" situation, and when this has happened in the past I've never thought about asking the bartender to intervene in making the request.

        Did you ask the couple afterwards yourself just to see what would happen?

    2. I have never gotten staff involved in these types of situations. If the people I'd like to move down are just having drinks, I'll sometimes ask if they mind moving down a spot, but I would not do it if they were having their dinner at the bar. OTOH, if I see a party who could sit as a group if we'd just scoot down, I will offer to scoot down before asked if possible.

      1. No. My feeling is that you have to bite the bullet and either wait until your table opens up, or the couple at the bar are done eating dinner. The nit to pick here: does the couple at the bar have to be inconvenienced in the middle of their dinner to accommodate you? I think not and believe the staff response was appropriate.

        8 Replies
        1. re: scoopG

          Actually scoop, I equate your response to the situation like a movie theater. You and others at a movie which is already in progress, theater is pretty full, but there are seats available in the middle of the row. To make it work, you would need to ask a couple to get their belongings, move themselves, food, belongings, etc down a seat or 2. No other seats are empty in theatre. I have a feeling you would ask them or get an usher to help. Very little difference between 2 scenarios. It's called kindness to others, thoughtfulness, and in most cases the people will move over/down. As a GM of a restaurant..I think it was handled poorly by staff, and should in that case been handled by the guest. Bar areas are a different beast, when you slide into a bar, you should fully expect people to move down to accomodate, as they should expect the same from myself.

          1. re: Rob83

            Rob, don't know if you're familiar with Vee Vee, but it's not exactly a low end dive, and the bar is quite nice. It's quite possible the couple already at the bar were having an upscale, possibly expensive, dinner. Sliding over dishes, utensils, water glasses, wine glasses, etc. would be pretty inconvenient. Again, if I was just drinking, I'd have no problem. I'm the kind of person who notices things like that, and I enjoy being helpful, as I like receiving kindness in return. Hell, I always buy someone a drink for volunteering to move over. But I'd be angry if I was bothered during my dinner for such a reason.

            I know you're a GM at a quick-serve joint, where perhaps asking someone to move is a bit more feasible, but in this situation, it'd be downright rude.

            Your movie theater example doesn't work, either. If there are only a few seats left and you're late, you take what you can get. I'd never even dream of asking someone else to be bothered for my tardiness.

            I think the host handled the situation well. Guests can't expect everything to stop the minute they walk in the door. They were told they'd have a 20-30 minute wait. Is that really too big of a deal?

            1. re: invinotheresverde

              I agree in some respects, and believe me, my restaurant I would not use as an doesn't fit here. But 2 other restaurants I have run sound very similar. Here's the thing no matter what the expense is for your dinner---because believe me it's not 5 star if you are actually eating at the bar---even if your over a benjamin for dinner and some wine, you lose a little of the ambience of a "wonderful, 3 course meal" by sitting on barstools and eating. Again it's all a matter of who wants to be kind and who does not.....

              1. re: Rob83

                Some people, myself included, prefer to eat at the bar. My husband and I have eaten at some of the best restaurants in the the bar. Don't assume that people do not dine very, very well (spending WELL "over a benjamin") at the bar. Just because YOU don't...

                1. re: invinotheresverde

                  If I want to actually have a conversation with my spouse, then no, we don't go to the bar. Even your best restaurants, the bar is noisy to an extent. Maybe a different approach would have been to designate which 3 people in the group would take the 3 seats together while the 4th stood in between his/her group and the couple already see if they would offer to move. That can be intrusive.

                  1. re: Rob83

                    Rob, there are those of us in the world who believe that doing the small act of kindness of sliding over a seat at the bar is no big deal and there is the group that is going to defend their "turf" from all interlopers. Neither one is going to change the mind of the other. But you can be sure that if you ask me to slide down you will always get a friendly "no worries".

                    1. re: Servorg

                      It is refreshing to read a post such as yours, amongst some of these , "It's my spot, go get your own" attitude of some. Curious though, if some of these people were on a date, how they would look to their date when they refused to move down. AND how that changes when we are dealing with spouses.....oh well for another forum and thread I suppose.

                      1. re: Rob83

                        My first job was at a movie theatre, and there is now way that a theatre manager would support asking someone to move once the film has started. In fact, they hesitated to do this as soon as trailers started. It's usually your fault if you're late for a movie. In cases where it was the theatre's fault (i.e. computer issues), everyone would be delayed, and the films would be started later to accomodate the problem. So even if you asked an usher for help, they'd probably be telling you the next showtime.

                        However, if I'm at a bar in a restaurant, I would sit at an end, if possible. If another party left, I would likely just move down to the end myself, before any situtation like this could occur. Though maybe not if I was mid-main course. But any other course, I would just move.

        2. i think your hands were tied once you asked the restaurant to intervene & the staff chose not to do so.

          i'm with some of the others above in that, rather than ask the staff, i would have taken it upon myself to ask the bar diners to slide down. when i do this, it's phrased graciously & generally accompanied by an offer to buy a round or dessert; never been refused, and the offer is rarely accepted.

          1. I can see how the restaurant wouldn't want to be the ones to ask them to move over. They probably didn't want to be the ones to blame if the patrons were peeved by the request. I doubt they would be, but you never know. Some people freak out over very little things.