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Apr 18, 2008 11:59 AM

Dovetail Walk-Out

We made a reservation a week ahead for 9:15 and received a call asking if we could push it back to 9:30. We arrived at 9:30 and the host asked us to wait on the side, stating our table would be ready shortly. He then told us to move to the bar (very narrow, tiny 4 seat bar) and order a drink while the table is being set. Not ready for a drink, we stepped over to the side of the restaurant, he gave us a look. Around 15 minutes later, he told us that our table was ready. He brought us down to the basement (where there are 4 tables) and sat us in a round 8-top. The waiter came over and snidely said, "isn't it great to have room to spread out in New York City for once!" We were disgusted, who seats a small party at the biggest table in the restaurant. There was no warning of the table, or was there, "this is the only table that is ready for now..would you like to wait for another one." We then all got up and walked out of the restaurant as one person in our party spoke with the host. I heard about rude New York service, but this pushed the limit! We walked over to Eighty-One and told the host our story and were treated to AMAZING SERVICE. Not normally a ranter, but this was over the top!

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  1. maybe its just me, but that doesnt sound terrible, especially not walk-out worthy. I guess it's one of the you had to be there situations.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ginsbera

      Yeah, I am not normally a walk-out type of guy. But we just sensed this rude tone and we weren't ready to spend money at a place that made us feel uncomfortable.

      1. re: chadradchad

        In what world is that NOT walk out worthy?

        Just to clarify, you made a reservation and the restaurant actually called you to push back the reservation?

        1. re: MomoMed

          the whole calling to push back the reservation is not a good thing, but at least they called. It could have been found out upon arrival. My whole thing was, the poor seating at a very large table didn't seem walk out worthy, but then again I wasn't there and can't get the tone of voice from the servers through an internet the same time, we pay for a service and expect a certain level when prices are high, as they are at Dovetail. With that said, they should have handled the situation better and the manager should have done something to remedy the problem.

    2. I hate it when you have a reservation, you arrive on time, and then you are rewarded by being shown the bar in order to pay for expensive drinks you never asked for in the first place. If I wanted to go to a bar, then I wouldn't be at your restaurant because I would be at a bar.

      1 Reply
      1. re: andymadrid

        Many restaurants comp drinks for the diners in situations like these. Don't know if the OP had that happen to him though.

      2. Call me a claustrophobic hayseed, but I actually find it kind of nice when the table ends up being bigger than the party. As long as you don't feel like you have to shout to get heard at the other end of the table, I'd rather to feel like I was free to spread out a little at the table without infringing on others' space.

        1. From the view of a Host:

          You never mentioned how many people your reservation was for, it makes a difference if you were like a party of 5 on a round 6-8top or a party of 4 on a round 6-8top as opposed to a square table. Most NYC restaurants don't have tables sized for 5-6 people and then tables sized for 7-8 people. The round tables in NYC restaurants are all the same size for parties of 5-8 people.

          1 Reply
          1. re: eyesofahost

            a lot of restaurants use big tables in an extra room to support walkins or accidental overbook resy's. This sounds like your resy might have accidentally taken or they had trouble turning tables throughout the evening. Also eyesofahost is correct they don't really make big enough or small enough tables to handle 5-6 people, so this may have been the size of your table no matter where you were sat.

          2. the phone call asking to nudge your reservation was unusual, but my impression is that the restaurant was overbooked and trying to juggle parties. it also prevented what could have been a 30-minute wait. you waited only 15 minutes to sit, which isn't outrageous in my book. table-turns don't always run like a swiss watch.

            i also don't understand why the restaurant should apologize for seating you at a large table. when pressed, i will put 4's on 8-tops and never once has anybody complained. it certainly seems preferable to being squished on a table too small. would it have been impossible for you to say, "gee, we'd prefer something more intimate. how long would the wait be for a smaller table?"

            it never ceases to amaze me what people perceive as personal affronts.

            10 Replies
            1. re: hotoynoodle

              There was indeed shouting between me and the other parties. I would say there was a good 5 foot distance between two diners. They made it feel like it was a privilege to be in their restaurant. I have been to many fine dining establishments and have never heard this tone being used. It made me not want to return to Dovetail.

              NB: The reservation was for four.

              1. re: chadradchad

                so you were seated at a 20-foot table? wow.


                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  Could have been circumferential distance. 20 ft circumference = <6.5 ft diameter.

              2. re: hotoynoodle

                I have to say, while I don't take it as a personal affront, I really do dislike being seated at a table that is far too large for the party. It often takes away from the ability to converse in a normal, unforced fashion, and does completely change the dynamic, IMHO. Actually, the more I think about it, the more strongly I recall how unpleasant it can be. I'll try to pinpoint more why ... but, as a diner, I, at this point in my life, unless I was really terribly keen to try the food at a place, would refuse the table. And, I'm generally not at all a picky restaurant diner.

                1. re: MMRuth

                  and as a paying guest, you have every right to refuse a table, provided you are willing to cool your heels and wait for another. the op was seated within an acceptable amount of time relative to the reservation, and because they didn't like the table, walked. not much of an opportunity for dovetail to make any sort of gesture.

                  recently, we had a very busy night booked. reservations were all counted and the floor plan mapped. tables set with menus, wine lists and appropriate number of settings. between 5:45 and 6:15, i had 4 empty tables for walk-ins. an older couple walked in. i showed them to a nice 4-top. they wanted a booth, but i had reserved requests for the few booths. i showed them to another 4-top, explaining how busy we were, and i'm giving them a very nice table. the man very loudly called me a b***h, right in the middle of the dining room. they stormed off, saying they would never return. honestly, i'm fine that. what a jackass, ok?

                  other seated diners were shocked by the man's behavior and praised my composure.

                  in my estimate i had done the best i could to accommodate that couple. in their mind, i was unreasonable. two sides to every story, i guess, huh?

                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    That does sound like a nasty customer! And I really was just commenting on my view generally of being seated at a table being intended for a much larger group than my party, rather than referring to what the OP did etc.

                    If I have a reservation for four, and "fulfill" my side of the bargain by showing up on time, confirming the reservation if needed etc., being shown to a table that seats 8 really would not, from my perspective, be the restaurant fulfilling its end of the bargain, and I think a restaurant should realize that. I know that yes, they are giving a table that can seat 4 people, but it would honestly affect my enjoyment of the evening for the reasons I stated above.

                    In my home, I adjust the table size depending on the size of the party and the ambiance I want to create, and the table size does contribute to the ambiance. It would surprise me if restauranteurs didn't realize that as well. Of course, I do understand that sometimes restaurants get squeezed for space etc., but I would certainly expect an apology or a "we're terribly sorry, but the only table we have is for a larger party, do you mind?" if seated at a table for 8 with a party for four. One thing I see a lot in New York is tables for 4 (square) that can be converted to larger tables by putting larger rounds on top to accomodate larger parties.

                    Edit - I wrote this quickly and it's not meant to sound confrontational etc. - just thought it might be useful for you, since you're in the business, to know that there are some customers who really don't like it when this happens - I'm actually amazed that you've never had anyone say anything about it.

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      To the OP: When the host asked you to wait at the bar you chose to wait somewhere else, probably in a traffic lane which inconvenienced other diners (no one asks guests to wait where they will be in the way, but guests often choose those spots specifically to be a problem and get seated quicker--sort of like threatening to hold your breath until you pass out). This spells difficult customer and they seated you asap at the first table available and away from the majority of guests because they expected trouble. You fullfilled their expectations.

                      And once seated, why not move your chairs closer together?

                      In all my years in the restaurant industry, I have never had guests complain about a table being too large. Too small, yes...but never too large.

                      1. re: Le Den

                        I agree with Chad. 4 people at and 8 top is wack! I would have demanded to be seated at the very narrow 4 seat bar!!

                        1. re: jp62

                          There wasn't a bit of room at the bar! It was a four top! We were on the side away...

                        2. re: Le Den

                          My issue with this is that, while it's fine at a long rectangular table, where you can seat two people across from two people and just ignore the rest of the empty table, at a round table, even moving the chairs closer to one another, you still end up with the awkward situation where it is difficult for the two people sitting at either end to, respectively, converse with one another, or for that matter, the person two people down from them. It is interesting to me that those in the industry have never had complaints about this.