I should probably put this on the "anything but food" section, but I live in westchester and have been inundated by the poor restaurant reviews that praise the food and harp on the wait time.
I am pretty relaxed when it comes to dining out. I don't go out to fancy places often, but even when it's something more casual that requires a reservation, I follow a strict routine. I'm not trying to be a know-it-all, but if people just followed this plan, they'd be much happier and CH wouldn't be filled with all these "great food, horrible wait" comments. Remember, if you are waiting and the place is packed, chances are, it's good food!
If you have a 7:00 reservation, realize you, like everyone else has the most popular time slot, so...don't reserve at 7:00. Make it 6:30 or 8:00. Don't want to eat that late, fine, go at 7:00. But if you do, expect an extra 10 minutes. When I have a reservation, I call ahead to confirm about 30-45 minutes beforehand. Sometimes you'll actually get a little heads up on how busy the place is, and what you should expect. I usually like to get to the place a good 20 mnutes before and let the host/hostess know that our entire party is present and we're going to wait at the bar. You'd be surprised how often you get seated early this way. If not, you're enjoying a cocktail, having a nice conversation with your friends or family, and relaxing. By the time your cocktails are done, you're usually seated, if not, I'll always have another cocktail, or if you feel that this is the evil plan of said restaurant, have a glass of water, it's free. If you feel you're being ignored, it's fine to have one person walk back over to the hostess and remind them that you are all there and ready to be seated, although this rarely happens.
Now if you're on your second drink and it's 7:30 and you're still waiting, then it's time to complain. Don't complain to the host or hostess, because that isn't going to help, being you've told them twice you're waiting. You then ask to see a manager/owner and politely mention you've been there for 45 minutes and you're still waiting. Chances are you'll either be seated immediately, or you'll have something paid for. Looking for a handout, no, but you should be treated with some respect and courtesy. Anything over an hour, you politely leave and realize that your business will be appreciated elsewhere. Don't leave it at that, Call the place the following day, before dinner time and ask to speak to the manager and explain what happened. If you feel they are genuine in their apology, try it again. If not, there are hundreds, if not thousands of other restaurants around.
Also, why is it that people don't seem to realize that a party of 5 or more is not going to get the same quick seating treatment that a party of 2 or 4 will get? It baffles me when people write that their table for 5 had to wait, especially in smaller mom and pop places. You're basically taking two tables. Should most places be able to handle this, yes, but remember, you're not only waiting for a table for four to open up, but you're also waiting for a table for two to open up, and then they have to put the tables together. Sounds like nothing, but it changes how the staff works.
If all this seems like a sermon, I apologize, but I've only been reading and posting for a brief time on CH and I love reading about the food, and yes the helpful info about reservations, staff, specials, etc, but it seems lately that 90% of the posts are about service and time waiting for tables. I want to hear about the food, the sides, the desserts, the wine list, the other choices that people passed on, but saw on someone else's table. This is a what a true foodie notices. If you're in a rush or you want to be seated quickly, go to a fast food joint. There is a price to pay for great food, and if 15 minutes of your life is wasted waiting for it, make the most of those 15 minutes.
This might be a good thought, however, if a restaurant has been in business for a while, it should know how long it takes to turn over tables, and there is no excuse for a 30 or 45 minute wait time. I am not sure where you are from, but prime time on Long Island on a Friday or Saturday night is 8:00. I agree with your idea of making an earlier reservation than prime time to try to get seating closer to your reservation time. We have done that, and it does help. I also like to come a bit early so that they know that we are there, and hopefully we will be seated ahead of those who come on time for the same reservation time. In my mind, there is no excuse for a restaurant to keep you waiting 45 minutes or 1 hour for your reservation. They should know their business well enough not to book such short times for earlier reservations.
The problem is often not that the restaurant doesn't know how long most of their tables stay. The problem is that table 6 is having a reunion and has been lingering over coffee for almost an hour since finishing their desserts, or that table 18 ordered a cheese plate after their dessert course and no one expected it, or that table 10 had one person who was really, really, really late and they just ordered. Restaurant customers are human beings and as such are unpredictable. On average, tables might take 2 hours to turn. But every single table isn't going to take 2 hours to turn.
Thanks for this very refreshing post! This is a very sane attitude.
Our culture does like to rush around. We are ruled by the clock. And we get frustrated when things don't happen on time, to our detriment. If we could all relax and go with the flow, and not get upset over little details, we'd all be happier and healthier.
Working on my Type B side, and smiling because I know out there somewhere, there are kind, understanding, reasonable people like you!
for the most part, your post is a breath of fresh air. restaurants are never trying to screw people and want badly both to honor your reservation and turn the table. it's nice to see somebody not getting all bent out of shape. however:
I usually like to get to the place a good 20 minutes before
You then ask to see a manager/owner and politely mention you've been there for 45 minutes and you're still waiting.
if you arrive before your reservation, that is your choice, but please do not use those extra minutes of wait time when telling me how overdue your table is. i know how late we are running, and your 20 minutes pre-arrival is not part of my math. sorry.
but the rest? please print flyers and pass them out everywhere!
I actually reread my post and realized that I didn't specify that once you've finished the drink. As you can see I posted at 2:30AM and probably didn't finish one though before stating another. Thanks for picking up on that, I meant 45 minutes after the actual reservation.
I for one applaud your sense of reason. I find most of the negative responses lack any common sense or flexibility to the specific situation being discussed. I find when expectations are high, most are disappointed in the end. I for one do not look for miscues, but in my experiences many happen. Does that detract from a great dining experience? When it comes to reservations.....the simple answer is no. This is the reason why I only go to full service restaurants and not BYOBs. Enjoying a cocktail in the bar for me sets the tone.......but if the delay is more than an hour, I would be disappointed.
BTW....I never want to eat in any restaurant during Prime Time or busy hours. That's when most miscues occur.