Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >
Apr 2, 2008 01:21 PM

Solution to get food then take a seat vrs reverse order

In shops without a posted policy and limited seating whats the best.
What would be the fairest rules to post for a restautant

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Depends. Do you have a jacket or a purse?

    Put either down on the seat and get your food.

    If you have neither, pay your nickel and take your choice.

    14 Replies
    1. re: dolores

      dolores, maybe I'm reading wew wrong, but it seems like they are asking about the propriety of folks coming in, claiming a table and then going to get food. Those that line up for food then end up finding tables with no one eating at them, but that have belongings left there to stake a claim.

      1. re: Servorg

        The marker system works best if people agree with it. At lots of places I go someone will sit at a marked table presenting the marker leaver with a nasty surprise. I have watched this happen when one of a party of two is seated as the marker. Yes, nyc

        1. re: wew

          Yes, exactly, it is fine to leave one's belongings at a table if one is planning to go back to that table to eat.

          Why not? Finders keepers, and all that jazz. People here do it all the time.

          >>someone will sit at a marked table presenting the marker leaver with a nasty surprise

          How rude. Same as holding seats in a movie theater. It's done all the time.

          Heck, I've been in grocery lines where someone is holding a space with no items, waiting for someone to come to the place being held with 13 items in a 10 only line.

          It's a tough world.

          1. re: dolores

            I can't imagine "marking" a table with my jacket then going to get food, whether in a cafeteria dining area or a movie theatre. Chairs are for sitting in, coat racks are for coats.

            People leave 10% tips for great service all the time. Does that make it acceptable?

            I would never have the balls to move someone's "mark," though. I would be too afraid it would be someone with a mobility disability.

            1. re: miss_bennet

              Acceptable, yup. Done all the time here. A person gets there early, marks the chair, gets the food, and eats the food at the marked chair and leaves in a timely manner.

              Only the strong survive in this town.

              Not comparable to a 10% tip.

              1. re: dolores

                Note: "marking" your seat is acceptable in New York. It's rude in BC.

                So I guess it depends where you are.

                1. re: miss_bennet

                  I guess it does. Here, you snooze, you lose.

                  1. re: miss_bennet

                    "Note: "marking" your seat is acceptable in New York. It's rude in BC."

                    I would hazard to guess that it's acceptable in most of the US. Here in Phoenix, you will never get in to see a movie and also be able to buy snacks if you don't mark your seat. We also mark tables at places where you get the food yourself. Very common. Never thought of it as rude; just planning ahead.

                    1. re: Jen76

                      I don't know if it's a commonly held opinion or not but I get really annoyed when one lone person leaves a marker at an optimal table in my favourite coffee shop THEN gets in line WELL BEHIND ME tho order his drink. Movie theaters are another matter. It's normal and acceptable to me to mark your seats then get snacks. If a PERSON is the marker at the coffee shop, I have no qualms. I also live in Vancouver, BC, where the line-up is often religiously respected.

                    2. re: miss_bennet

                      Just attended a workshop where the presenter said, here in California you'd ask people, "how can I help you?" In NYC where I am from, we ask, "What do you want?"

                      Yep different cities or regions, different rules.

                2. re: dolores

                  Fist fight on checkout 4 the day I see that. Tough world indeed. The grocery store thing I mean.

                  1. re: elgordoboy

                    I know. The one or two times I've announced to the line or to the checkout person the exact number the offending person had -- I was ignored.

                    So I don't bother anymore.

              2. re: Servorg

                one of my favorite restaurants, 800 degrees, has a policy of not permitting customers to bogart a table until they have their food.

                it works for me.
                when the customers were allowed to stake out tables before they had their food in hand there was a chronic shortage of tables.

              3. re: dolores

                The *last* thing I'd leave at a table as a marker is a purse. :-/

              4. At a small crepe shop here they have sign posted, do not sit down until you've ordered. On the weekends there's always a line but it actually works out well. The seem to time the crepe making process just right so you're never left standing waiting for a seat after you've ordered. Thankfully when people choose to ignore the sign the owner comes out and informs people of the policy.

                1. I have put a lot of thought into this ... mostly while waiting in line at the
                  popular SF bakery/cafe Tartine.

                  I think this is pretty situational ... I dunno if you can come up with a
                  answer in theory, or even a framework. Sometimes the line at tartine is 5
                  people and there are plenty of seats but it would be nice to get a table
                  instead of a spot at the communal table, or linger by the Coffee Personalization
                  Space [there is a "runner" at elbow high] ... anyway in that case, i think
                  the jacket/backpack reservation policy isnt that unreasonable. sort of a
                  fortune favors the bold eagle eye thing.

                  in the extreme case where 100% of the seats are taken and there is a 20min line,
                  this is obviously absurd and totally indefensible. i suspect not too many people
                  would hold a table by force of luggage or clothing alone, but you actually need to
                  do a division of labor ... one person standing in line and one person
                  hovering to sweep in on a table. i think having one of your group
                  sit at a table to hold it 15min before you get your food is pretty leem
                  but i am not sure what you do about that ... what do you do when you
                  are looking for parking in a difficult to park area and a parking spot has
                  somebody standing there "holding" the parking spot for his friend
                  with a car 1-2min away? ideally the establishment polices this kind
                  of preemptive squatting but that's begging the question.

                  in the middle case where there is a little bit of a wait ... i dunno ...
                  again i think situational factors dominate. certainly many. many times
                  i've been the chump when i waited in line with no landing spot, get my
                  food and stand to one side keeping an eye open, but miss out a newly
                  opening spot to the designated table hunter for a still-waiting-in-line party,
                  since they are unemcumbered with a backpack, newspaper, laptop, lattle
                  and croissant and thus have greater mobility.

                  i think the existence of other options affects how you think about this ...
                  are there comunal tables, standing room at a bar? outside tables?
                  other places to walk sit and eat down the block?].

                  BTW, the one slightly related thing that drives me insane is
                  when people auto-bus their stuff at a very crowded cafe where
                  somebody is clearly going to sit down at your table the second
                  you leave. you dont have to wipe the table of all your crumbs
                  but you could at least throw away your damned used napkins
                  and bus your used cups, saucers and silverware. i elide the
                  rest of my rant on "tartine and the failure of of the communism".

                  ok tnx.

                  1. I find claiming a table before you've ordered to be incredibly selfish; it would be like going to the grocery store and claiming a set of plastic bags in the checkout as "yours" even though there's still people in front of you in line. While you may be satisfied with yourself, it gums up the works for everyone else. If nobody tries to claim a table before they've ordered, then the average table turnover time drops, and people will be able to get a seat shortly after they've ordered instead of having to glare menacingly at the people who swoop in. I've been at places before where I've received my food and had nowhere to sit because there were five tables full of people who haven't even ordered yet. It's just the same as when the line is out the door at a quick-service place and people linger. If you aren't actually *using* the table, get out of the way so that people who need the table right now can use it.

                    Is this really common in New York? I just noticed that the only two people in the thread who condone such a thing are regulars on NYC boards. Remind me not to visit if such rudeness is commonplace.

                    17 Replies
                    1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                      is it any different than 'marking' your table by having someone sit at it? That is typically what I will do if not alone: we find a table, we sit down, one person goes and orders....

                      otherwise, I am having to stand during the ordering and preparation process. If it really takes 15 minutes to make the food, it isn't acceptable for me to stand for that much time. Moreover, if it only takes a minute or two to order, will it really make that much difference if I sit? or are you suggesting that I stand around until the food actually arrives? And what happens if they give me a drink right away and a number to be placed on my table for the food to be brought to? Is it THEN rude to sit at a table? So, how long should ordering take, anyway? Does it matter if I am disabled? (and the problem there, of course, is that you can't always tell by looking at me whether or not I am disabled: should I need to wear a sign saying, "I am not trying to be rude, but I really need to sit down and not stand"?)

                      I think that claiming a table before you order can make just as much sense as the alernative. If everyone claimed a table before ordering there wouldn't be the stress of wondering if a table will become available before the food.

                      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                        Rude? It's just life. This is NY and that's the way it is.

                        1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                          I "mark" my seat all the time...and I am NOT from New York...If I'm with a group, I'll do what Susan describes .assign someone to grab a table. In fact, that's my usual m.o. at Vik's in Berkeley.....where tables are always at a premium. But there you order your food, and they call your name when it makes sense to sit down in the meantime..ESPECIALLY since not all the food comes out at once, as it is prepared fresh. In fact, that's a VERY GOOD argument for marking your seat...what if your food isn't all ready at might as well be seated and enjoy what you can when you can....

                          1. re: janetofreno

                            I find it strange how so many people are worried that a table will never open up again when they go to a busy quick-service place. As I'd said before, if people *stopped* marking tables, then the average table turnover time goes down and as a result, tables would be open up sooner than if people create a bottleneck by sitting and waiting at a table before the order has been placed.

                            1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                              I agree with the logic that the turnover time will be shorter if people *don't* mark tables....but when others are already doing it, you're doing yourself a disfavor if you don't follow along. I think human markers are much more "acceptable" though. The place I see this done in my experience is at ski resort lunch places on the mountain, which are often extremely crowded at lunch. The first year we didn't "mark" and ended up eating our lunch sitting on the floor in our ski boots. Never again. Now we use a human marker (me) and everyone else gets the food. I admit I'd feel kind of guilty using hats and gloves to mark instead of a human. I think at the ski places some people even mark the table with their lunch cooler *in the morning*. Now that takes nerve!

                            2. re: janetofreno

                              Funny, I have no problem getting in to see the movie... I get there earlier, casually wait in the queue for refreshments, and then stroll into the nearly empty theatre and relax. Where are you going where they overbook the theatre so you can't get into the movie if you wait in line to get refreshments?

                              It may be strategic, but it is quite selfish. Let someone who needs the table sooner than you do have it first. It's good karma.

                            3. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                              Hah I'm from NYC and I would never leave anything I valued unattended!

                              1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                                That's one of the reasons I'm so surprised how many people seem to do this!

                                1. re: miss_bennet

                                  I want to clarify my earlier post. I have never marked a seat at a theater or at a restaurant with only my belongings. I would not leave my things unattended. But often, someone (often myself) will sit at the table or hold the seats at the theater while others get the food/drinks/etc. I don't particularly have an opinion about whether marking is rude or not. I guess I don't eat at that many restaurants like that and when I do, I go at off times.

                                  And to JK Grence, we only go to see the movies that we deem worth spending $10.50 per on tickets - usually the special FX blockbusters which we go see with groups of friends. Otherwise, we wait for the DVD and watch at home on the big screen sans seat kickers. Honestly, I can't remember the last time I saw an empty theater. Many times, they are sold out or down to front row seats only. I have sat in those and it's not fun.

                                  1. re: Jen76

                                    We also only go to big FX movies in theatre, but always wait until after opening weekend. That way we aren't dealing with overcrowded theatres.

                                2. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                                  Me too. And I really don't see too many people marking their tables with inanimate objects. They only do it with people.

                                  1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                                    SomeRandomIdiot, it's done in Westchester all the time. It makes perfect sense.

                                    1. re: dolores

                                      I guess I'm used to everything and anything being stolen everywhere.

                                      1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                                        SomeRandomIdiot, even a jacket on the back of a chair? That's the recognizable symbol in pizza places and such that a seat is being held.

                                        1. re: dolores

                                          Back in college, at the library, people used to hang their jacket on the back of the chair, take one of those long metal cable locks and run it through the sleeves, looping it around the seatback and chair legs. The inventive ones got their backpacks thoroughly secured in those loops too.

                                          I don't think people see it as a marker, it's just something you've made easy for them to steal.

                                          1. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                                            Realllly? Wow. I've never seen that happen here, and have never had it happen to me.

                                            Granted, I wouldn't leave my purse as a marker, but I have no trepidation in leaving my jacket.

                                        2. re: SomeRandomIdiot

                                          i would never steal someones stuff but i have been tempted to "accidentally" spill something on an unattended coat/bag. ive never done it, but ive been tempted,....

                                  2. jfood thinks you need to separate the movie theatre and resto discussions, since they are totally different.

                                    Easy one first - marking a seat at the movies does not effect the starting time or finish time for others since the movie will start at 7 and end at 9 and everyone leaves at nine irrespective of their seat, whether they went to the popcorn stand first or whether someone marked 4 seats first. So noone suffers if the first comer takes "possession" of a group of seats and then gets popcorn. Hey they were there first, their call.

                                    Resto - Yes, just like the Visa commercial, the flow will be better if the people go in line, buy their food and then go to the table. And from a queuing theory point of view not marking a table allows the people with the food to sit and eat while the "in line people" are still ordering and creates a better flow. But another theory, supply and demand, comes into play as well in this setting. There are just so many seats and so many eaters. When the eaters outnumber the seats, then there is the issue of markers being viewed as unfair, since there is a table with someone sitting holding a couple of coats with no food, while the person with the food is standing and staring.

                                    For jfood, there are so many other failures in the queuing theory approach that he believes the supply and demand takes precedent. In jfood's experience the marking of tables is almost SOP for everywhere he has eaten and it honestly took him the reading of several posts on this thread for him to understand that this take and wait was not in all 50 states.