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Feedback, please: Was this handled correctly?

Last night -- yes, a Tuesday night -- I had reservations to eat at Modo Mio with friends at 7:00P. We arrived on time, and looking around the dining room, there didn't seem to be any tables opening up soon. After repeatedly asking the hostess/server what had happened, she finally told us that a number of other people had shown up half an hour late for their reservations. (She blamed it on I-95 which seemed lame as we had all managed to arrive on time.)

We waited forty minutes to be seated. Forty minutes during which we were not offered even a menu or a glass of water. Nor were we compted anything for our inconvenience. In fact, we had to ask for the complimentary after-dinner sambuca that was prominently displayed near the entry.

In other situations, I've been turned away for being more than fifteen minutes late for a reservation. Knowing that we were coming, should they have similarly turned tardy patrons away? Or is (Shudder) the expectation in Philadelphia "first-come-first-served?"

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  1. Under the unusual circumstances wiith I-95, if the other party had reservations and was late (maybe coming from a different direction than you and tied up in back street traffic), I don't blame the restaurant for seating them. Wait staff depend on their stations being filled if they are to make a living and management was looking out for their interests by seating the late ones.

    As a safeguard, I always enter the restaurant number in my cell and inform them if there is a delay just so they know how to juggle the seating.

    As for the restaurant, yes, they should have offered you a complimentary cocktail and/or dessert as a good will gesture. Gratitude for patronage goes a long way, especially if they are unable to meet your needs as expected. Perhaps front-of-house was understaffed that night. You never know.

    If you made a reservation and they were unable to honor it, maybe a polite letter to management recounting your experience (and hesitation to trust their word for timely seating in the future) will get you a complimentary brunch. Any restaurateur worth his/her salt would much rather make amends than be bad mouthed - especially in the World's Biggest Small Town (which we are.)

    1. No, it wasn't handled correctly. After 30 minutes of tardiness, the table before you should have been treated like a walk-in customer and fit in if possible, along with a warning from the restaurant concerning when they need that table for the next party (you). 30 minutes is too late to show up and expect to get the table you reserved. I've been fit into tight timeslots at other places, it's never been a problem as long as the restaurant tells me beforehand when they need the table. Obviously if they were 30 minutes late and you had to wait 40 minutes, their lateness (and the restaurant's inability to deal with it) was the problem. It's possible they were warned by the restaurant about the time crunch and just ignored it.

      Of course, it's possible that the party before you called and warned the restaurant they would be late, in which case it's then on the restaurant to accommodate you some other way, or at least call you and explain the situation. They didn't do either.

      And that's not counting the excuse-making after you showed up..

      1. Nope, the restaurant blew it on this one. That other diners showed up late is not your problem, regardless of the reason they were late. The only thing that matters in this case is that you had a reservation, arrived on time and the restaurant didn't have a table for you for far too long. You kept up your end of the deal (you showed up on time, with the correct number of people) and they didn't keep theirs in a reasonable manner. The after dinner drink issues sounds like a similar but unrelated issue....ie, they were having a bad night of service.

        They should definitely have offered a complimentary drink or glass of wine or at least water while you waited.

        1. Doesn't sound like it to me, how does someone else being 30 mins late translate into you twiddling your thumbs for 40 min? FOTH dropped the ball on this.

          1. They should have comped something for you.

            Call the manager and let him/her know because he/she probably didn't know nor did your waiter.

            I swear there is some invisible tube over the hostess stand that sucks the brain out of every person that works behind it.

            3 Replies
            1. re: BlueHerons

              "I swear there is some invisible tube over the hostess stand that sucks the brain out of every person that works behind it."

              Nice! I'll think of that this weekend while I'm hostessing.

              Really though, they should have, at the very least, apologized. Delays do happen. It's inevitable in a business where you really have no control over how long people stay at a table. Especially if you are smaller. And have no bar. Not that I know of the restaurant in question. I am merely speaking from experience.

              Having said that, 40 minutes is an awfully long time to wait for a reservation. If any party had waited that long, I would have apologized profusely every fifteen minutes and would have definitely bought the party drinks while they were waiting. At the very least.

              1. re: hilltowner

                Modo Mio is BYO, so free drinks weren't an option. Of course, the OP said they weren't even offered *water*!

                1. re: hilltowner

                  My apologies if I offended you.

                  I promise, walk into any one of my husband's restaurants and you'd swear the same thing.

                  Believe me, I've run a many a dining room and ran the hostess stand, it is a tough job.

              2. As usual, I'm going to try to give some perspective from the side of the restaurant here.

                A reservation, while a consideration to guests, isn't a guaruntee of time. Restaurants always try their best to seat diners at their reservation time. Sometimes this doesn't happen because:
                a) The diners at your table haven't seen each other in 20 years and take four hours, instead of the normal +/- two (especially prone to happen to large parties, where many tables may need to be pushed together to accomodate).
                b) No matter how "lame" you find the traffic/accident excuse, it's a reality. Just because you experienced no traffic doesn't mean there wasn't gridlock an hour earlier. If the guests call and explain the situation, the restaurant is not going to turn them away, or treat them like walk-ins. Their reservation is just as valuable as yours.
                c)People begin late because one or more members of their party is late and they won't start without them. This is probably the most frustrating thing for seating plans, kitchens, servers and management. If a whole party is late, no biggie; someone else can take their table. If just one or two guests at a table is late, the table just sits, causing backup for the whole night.

                These are just a couple reasons, out of the restaurant's control, that could've caused the delay. I don't see how offering a menu would've helped the situation, and frankly, if I'm thirsty, I ask for a drink. I think having a few complimentary appetizers prepared to be on the table when your party was finally seated would've been a nice gesture (which is what we do in my restaurant), but I don't think it's a necessity. Someone definitely should've apologized for the inconvenience.

                I don't think being angry at the restaurant is sensible. I assure you, the restaurant wanted those initial guests to be on time, but if they called and said they were going to be late due to traffic, how could the restaurant turn them away? If the sitaution was reversed, and you were late due to factors outside of your control, there'd be a thread titled Modo Mio Gave Away My Table While I Was Stuck In Traffic.

                Sometimes you just can't win.

                23 Replies
                1. re: invinotheresverde

                  I disagree. If you are 30 minutes late to a doctor's appointment, they may still try to squeeze you in, but they aren't going to reshuffle the rest of the appointments they have to accomodate you. I think the same should go for a party that is late to a fully-booked restaurant, regardless of the reason for their delay. Further, by giving a table to the late group over the people who arrived on time, they have messed up the schedule of everyone arriving later and risk offending far more patrons than just those who were the late group.

                  The restaurant compounded this problem by not doing anything to make it up to the party that had to wait 40 minutes for their reservation, as well.

                  1. re: DanaB

                    First of all, we're not talking about a doctor's appointment, we're talking about a restaurant. People wait 40 minutes at the doctor all the time. Should I expect my doctor to "do something to make it up" to me? Secondly, if I call my doctor and tell her I'm stuck in traffic and will be there as soon as I can, I am seen immediately once I arrive (which has happened before).

                    The OP said that, "a number of other people had shown up half an hour late for their reservations". You think a restaurant is going to turn away basically the majority of their first seating to avoid "a messed up schedule"? Yeah, that's likely.

                    The resataurant doesn't really care what time they seat you, as long as they seat you. Yes, they'd like you to dine as close to your reservation time as possible, but that's basically to keep you from complaining. You eat at 7:00 or 8:00 or whenever; they don't care.

                    In those 40 minutes, the guests had every option to leave, but didn't. They chose to stay, ergo accepting the situation.

                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                      Sounds like you need to take a little break from the resto biz. While I'm a long way from believing the customer is always right, your tone is suggesting a fair amount of disdain for the dining public. I too have managed a sit down resto, and our standard was a little higher than keeping the customer from complaining.

                      1. re: Scrapironchef

                        No, I have disdain for people who have no idea about the inner workings of a restaurant saying what the restaurant "should" and "shouldn't" do.

                        Of course the restaurant wants happy guests, but it's all a balancing act. You can't make every guest happy, especially in situations such as this. Someone's going to lose. If the late customers call, explain the sitch, and arrive as quickly as possible, I highly doubt any restaurant would turn them away, especially for later reservations which may or may not show up.

                        I stand behind the notion that the irate guests who had to wait could've left at any time, and that had the situation been reversed, and OP was late to his reservation due to traffic, he'd cry foul.

                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                          "No, I have disdain for people who have no idea about the inner workings of a restaurant saying what the restaurant "should" and "shouldn't" do."

                          I just have to say, as one who is also in the service business (lawyer), clients routinely do not have an understanding of the inner workings of the legal business, let alone the law itself. It's my job, among other things, to make sure my clients are satisfied with the service and product that they receive, regardless of the fact that they have no idea about the inner workings of a legal practice.

                          The fact that I don't understand the inside of the restaurant business has nothing to do with the level of service and product I should expect to receive at a restaurant, and what my expections should be (assuming that my expectations are in line with the nature of the place at which I am dining - i.e., no Daniel-style service at the local taqueria where I had dinner tonight).

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            "I just have to say, as one who is also in the service business (lawyer), clients routinely do not have an understanding of the inner workings of the legal business, let alone the law itself. It's my job, among other things, to make sure my clients are satisfied with the service and product that they receive, regardless of the fact that they have no idea about the inner workings of a legal practice."

                            Agreed, but do they tell you how you "should" run your business? Doubt it.

                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                              You'd be surprised ;-). Lots of comments out on the internet from non-lawyers about how to improve the business!

                              1. re: MMRuth

                                Then you must share in my (albeit different) frustration! :)

                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                  It may be frustrating, but it is also part of the job - keeping one's customers happy by listening to their needs, examining one's own practices, and trying to strike the proper balance.

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    I completely agree.

                                    However, it's hard to make the balancing act work, as what pleases one guest displeases the other. Use Chow as an example; the boards are full of conflicting opinions. 99% of people may want things done one way, but it's the 1% who will make a fuss if it is.

                                    I guess I get frustrated mostly when customers think they've been wronged somehow and want something for free. They always want something for free. Even the OP stated he was upset because nothing was given to them for free.

                              2. re: invinotheresverde

                                jfood tells his law firms all the time how to improve their service.

                            2. re: invinotheresverde

                              Those of us who fortunately, or unfortunately, have not worked in a resto should not be viewed with disdain, but with a perspective that the biz people can also learn from, just like us customers are learning about the biz.

                              This was an incredibly unfortunate event on an interstate so let's take the traffic out of the equation for a second and just give opinions from a customer. If a customer is going to be late he owes the resto a call, as jfood has mentioned many times. The resto has 2 responsibilities at that point. First they need to be honest with customer Late. Second it needs to be considerate of customer Second Seating, who at that moment is getting ready to leave their house unwittingly exposed to potential lateness.

                              So for cutomer Late, the restaurant should tell them that there is a second seating for that table and they could give some leeway, but they may not have time to have dessert at the table or may have to quickly order. The social contract that the restaurant entered into with the second seating should not be in jeopardy as a result of customer Late. Maybe a 15 minute grace period but forty minutes is too long.

                              And as you might remember you and jfood have discussed people hanging out at the table way past the resto's preferred time frame and how the resto is now loosing money at the table. And jfood thinks you and he agree that it is a bit uncaring if people are waiting. Let's change the situation here to the first seating showed up promptly yet they dilly dallied at the table forcing the second seaters to wait the same 40 minutes. Just curious as to would you would feel the same about the second seaters leaving and losing your resto revenue on the second seating.

                              Jfood agrees that the reso plans for two seating at 2-2.5 hours each. Yes it is a difficult position to be in as the resto owner, and yes someone will be a bit peeved. But shouldn't the people who have caused the event have the consequences instead of the people who have done no wrong, whether or not it was there fault?

                              1. re: jfood

                                jfood, you always hit the nail on the head. early rezzie has broken the code and they should have to do something to accomodate late rezzie.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  I think that if something happened outside the control of a bunch of Guest Lates (as the OP mentioned), and the guests call, they will be seated upon arrival. They haven't done anything wrong. The restaurant could've gently told them they could no longer honor their reservation (or reservationS, in this case) when they called, but restaurants are in the business of making money. There is absolutely no way a restaurant would turn away the multiple late arrivals for the later reservations. They'd rather have a couple cranky tables later on than miss out on the first wave.

                                  People who sit for long periods of time after their dinner in a busy restaurant are oblivious and rude. While many diners think a restaurant "should" (there's that word again) ask the dilly-dallying diners to finish up at the bar, in my +/- 15 years in the industry, I've never seen that happen. I would be very surprised if it happens at fine dining restaurants much at all.

                                  1. re: invinotheresverde


                                    Jfood never mentioned turn them away, he mentioned inform them of the time constraint. Never turn away a bird in the hand.

                                    So even if the latecomers for seating 1 call and say they will be late because the dog had a belly-ache (outside their control) they can have the full 2-hour assumed time? And then seating 2 just has to deal with it as crankies?

                                    If that is really true of restos, (not having the same empathy for seating 2), then why should jfood care about seating 2 if he wants to linger over 2-3 cups of decaf? So if jfood is late because of the dog and goes past the reso on seating 2, it's OK but if jfood dillies at the table past the reso for seating 2 it's not? Major brain cramp on a monday morning.

                                    BTW - "gently told them they could no longer honor their reservation" is an oxymoron.

                                    1. re: jfood

                                      I think giving a time guideline is a good idea. People can choose to accept it and dine there, or go someplace else.

                                      I think the sick dog analogy totally doesn't work. If your dog is sick and you're late for your reservation, you've chosen to stay and help the sick dog (which is, of course, the only humane option). You've chosen to be late for your reservation.

                                      Should I have written, "...rudely told them they could no longer honor their reservation"?

                                      1. re: invinotheresverde


                                        Good point on "rudely" versus "gently", jfood guesses no adverb works well in this sentence.

                                        But as a resto person, you will hear as many excuses for lateness as jfood hears from his girls on Fri and Sat nites. How do you draw the line, late is late (jfood is pretty binary). Rare, if ever, that the custo will say anything other than "We're running late" or "traffic is killing us." Always the other guy's fault.

                                        That's why jfood really likes when he makes a reso that the resto tells him what his timeframe is. Jfood predicts it will become more standard in the future. Didn't JG say in his interview in NYC on one of the reasons it was so expensive was that the table was the custo's table for the evening?

                                        1. re: jfood

                                          I'm normally with you on the "late is late", but if there were a number of other tardy parties (as in the OP's case), there was obviously a legit reason, such as a bad accident, road construction, etc.

                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                            Oh absolutely, that's why jfood took the I-95 event out of the equation in his first post and focussed on the other stuff.

                                            Ciao I.

                                2. re: invinotheresverde

                                  I run my own business too invino, you truly can't make all the people happy all the time, no matter how hard you try. Some people are completely unforgiving of the fact that things happen, traffic happens, staff call off at the last minute etc. In the past few years I've also learned that giving away free things doesn't always placate the customer either, it just makes you poorer. Take for example a recent thread where after a couple had both of their dinners comped they still were unhappy and posted as such and several people said to put that restaurant on the do not visit list. In that case the restaurant would have been better keeping the money in their pocket since the outcome ended up with an unhappy do not visit customer anyways.

                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                    No, I have disdain for people who have no idea about the inner workings of a restaurant saying what the restaurant "should" and "shouldn't" do.

                                    As a customer, I couldn't care less about the inner workings of a restaurant. Or the inner workings of an airline. Or a phone company. Or a hotel. Or any other business which is providing me with a service that I am paying for. As a customer, I care whether I am getting what I am paying for. Knowing the inner workings of your business is *your* job.

                            3. re: invinotheresverde

                              'A reservation, while a consideration to guests, isn't a guaruntee of time. Restaurants always try their best to seat diners at their reservation time'. I wasn't going to weigh in on this, but a very similar situation happened to me more than 20 years ago. We were a large party (of 15 or so). I had made reservations, re-confirmed the day of, and, having been warned that ALL of the party had to be there on time before we were seated, I made sure everyone was notified and we were bang on the dot when we arrived at the restaurant. We, too, were informed our table was not ready, and waited MORE THAN AN HOUR, with no apologies and I can't recall whether anything complimentary was offered, which would have been inadequate in any case. I have never returned to that particular restaurant and never plan to again, even if the alternative is starvation.

                              If a reservation is NOT a guarantee of timely seating, what the hell good is it???

                            4. The restaurant was wrong to "hold" reservations for diners who were going to be 45 minutes late. When they do that they are now impacting the following parties such as yours who were able to make it on time. It is one thing when parties way, way, way over stay at a table. In that case at some point the management should choose to speak to them about moving to the bar and buying them coffee and dessert for their "trouble". In the case of parties sitting down at their table and waiting to order until the last person or couple has arrived - that is an issue that has been dealt with by restaurants that will not seat your group until everyone has arrived and is ready to proceed with dinner.

                              The case you present is the flip side of the coin of the restaurant that gave away another posters reserved table 2 minutes after their "reservation" time came.

                              You were rightly aggravated and the fact that the management did nothing for you after you were seated speaks volumes about their lack of sense and sensitivity to issues of good service.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: Servorg

                                Servorg, every restaurant is different and there are no hard and fast "right" and "wrong"s.

                                Management "should" ask a lingering table to move to the bar? What if the bar is full? What if they've already had dessert a/o coffee? What if they flat-out refuse to move? Your "should" leaves a huge margin for error.

                                Also, 99% of restaurants don't require your total party to be present before being seated, so your point is useless.

                                Good service is getting the guest seated as quickly as possible, which the restaurant did. I believe the restaurant should've apologized for the wait, and had plenty of bread (and maybe a couple complimentary appetizers) waiting on the table, as the guests must've been hungry, but other than that, what do you want them to do? Buy your meal? Drinks? I don't really see why.

                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                  A lingering table can be offered an inducement of drinks and dessert on their next visit. If they flat out refuse to move your're stuck, but you can certainly note their proclivity to produce a serious kink in your flow if they continue to follow the same pattern and try to manipulate the times of the follow on parties for their table.

                                  99%? I don't know about that. I see it out here on the West Coast more and more. Again, if you get this as a regular problem for a certain group you may have to take individual action.

                                  1. re: Servorg

                                    Servorg, restaurants don't dangle a "next time" carrot over rude guests' heads. "Hi, could you and your guests please finish your evening at the bar and NEXT TIME we'll get you some coffee and dessert?". How enticing. Also, I'm sure a group involved in a lengthy business deal/meeting would LOVE the interruption...

                                    I may have stretched the 99%, but I've never seen it on the East Coast except in chains. You can't take "individual action", because customers notice everything, and you can't let one incomplete party sit and not another.

                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                      >>Servorg, restaurants don't dangle a "next time" carrot over rude guests' heads. "Hi, could you and your guests please finish your evening at the bar and NEXT TIME we'll get you some coffee and dessert?". How enticing.<<

                                      You had originally brought up the point that the bar area might be full, negating the idea of offering a lingering party an inducement of comped coffee and dessert to move in order to seat the next table.

                                      My proposal was to give them a card to use on their "next" visit for free coffee and dessert after dinner. That way it frees up the table, gets the lingering patrons back for another dinner and makes the waiting party happy not to have to excessively cool their heels while waiting for their reservation to be honored.

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        Okay, typo. Rephrase: "Could you and your guests please get up and leave and next time we'll give you...".

                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                          The "please take dessert in the bar" request came once and jfood said OK. Then no seats in the bar and jfood's 4-top standing there holding their coats. They decided to leave and then the MOD gave them lip.

                                          A couple of days later jfood received a call, fully comped dinner from the owner. Yes jfood went back, food still not worth the zero price.

                                          Jfood never giving up a table for the bar again unless it is absolutely his fault (and not a sick dog).

                                        1. re: filth

                                          Yes, but not as an owner, waiter or manager.

                                2. Jfood hopes this is the restaurant in Philly. If it is the other parties being late is absolutelyunderstandable since I-95 not onlyhad a problem, it was closed


                                  And it appears that the restaurant needed to bend over backwards as guests tried to travel to their reservation in the harshest of circumstances.

                                  So in this case jfood thinks the restaurant has to do everything possible as people arrived when they could figure out how to get around a closed Interstate Highway.

                                  Yes the second seaters were inconvenienced and it does not appear the resti did all it could but this is not a normal sorta thing.

                                  1. sounds like it was a special situation with the roads-- my town's res books were a mess for several weeks after the i35-w bridge fell down, killing all those people. . . everything just slowed waaay down, and maybe it's the niceness of people around here, but everyone was gentle to each other in the aftermath-- touchingly mellow about the little, inevitable delays, traffic snarls, etc. what are you going to do-- it's better to be flexible and congenial with delays of any kind due to transit and weather, they're beyond people's control. gradually everyone just started leaving earlier to get to appointments, and our res books are now caught up unless the guests are out-of-towners with no clue about the local detours. sounds like this was a much smaller-scale, temporary situation. the diner should give the restaurant some slack in a one-off special situation w the roads.

                                    as to the restaurant's handling of everything, sounds *awful*. sure maybe they were dealing with being short-staffed due to their own staffers being unable to get to work etc., all their customers being late for their reses-- but good hospitality imo really needs to shine even when it's difficult for everyone. imagine sitting hungry in traffic for 40 mins and then finally getting to the restaurant, to be turned away. no! these folks must be served, and chances are after the ordeal they're going to order an extra dessert or glass of wine to stave off the long schlep home. the op's party is obviously the one who suffers through no fault of their own. the restaurant needs to step up and show hospitality, taking coats, bringing light refreshments, hopefully providing a comfortable place to wait for a table. it is very important in situations like this to explain the situation to the customers *before* they have to ask-- most people are reasonable and when the situation is understood early, it takes pressure off of the customers to somehow "do something" to get their table. the restaurant should have welcomed the op's party, done their best to make them comfortable, kept them informed, and done their best to get them a table asap. a little effort on the staff's part could easily have saved the evening for the op's party, *even if* they still were inconvenienced by having a 40 minute wait for a table.

                                    the diner and the restaurant should have met midway in this situation. i will wager the restaurant was having terrible problems, and they didn't handle it well. it sounds like a bummer all around.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                      Very well put, a few kind words of explanation can go a long way, and it sounds like none were offered because of too much (understandable) stress inside the restaurant due to the terrible road conditions. Thus leading to a new thread on CH. :) No, it wasn't well handled, but it sounds like there were extenuating circumstances.