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TWO HOUR LIMIT? Rise Number 1

  • t

Perhaps I'm not a foodie like I think I am, but is it normal to tell your patrons at time of reservation, that there is a two hour limit? I frequent RiseNumber1, and I made reservations for Mother's Day. The hostess was nice and courteous, but after booking my table, she reminds me there's a "two hour limit" for my meal. And this is a 3-star restaurant. I eat out in DFW quite often and all over Europe. I've never been rushed out before I even sat down. Please enlighten me if I am wrong.

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  1. I've only had this happen once, in London. It was at OXO Tower (a higher-end establishment), and I can only presume they do so in effort to maximize turns and thus profit.
    Also, it was a weeknight, not even a special occasion.

    2 Replies
    1. re: dexters

      Many years ago, in London, at the River Cafe. They only have (or had) two seatings for the evening, and a "curfew" on traffic in the neighborhood. A turnoff initially, but in fact --- the food was worth it. FANTASTIC. Don't know how they are (or even IF they are) these days.

      1. re: BerkshireTsarina

        A lot of restaurants in London have two sittings these days, even at lunchtimes. Personally, I find it incredibly annoying that you can't make a reservation for 8pm a lot of the time, it's either 7 or after 9pm.

        The River Cafe is alive and well, and very expensive! My friend still says it's the best meal she's ever had in a restaurant.

    2. Wow. I mean, wow! I've got to say that is a new one to me. I think if I were told such a thing I would drop my reservation. Not so much for the policy as much as the pressure it would put on me. I would be checking my watch the whole time which would without a doubt put a bummer on my meal.....funny thing is I would likely be done within the 2 hours.

      1. I hear that occasionally when making a reservation - particularly an early one - in Manhattan. I don't mind and will take the reservation as long as the time frame is one in which I think I can enjoy my meal. I'd rather they be honest w/ me and tell me up front that they have the table booked at a later time, etc., than find it out when I get to the place.

        1. My guess is that it may be because of Mothers Day. Tends to be large groups and being family some people may get all chit-chatty and take their time ordering, etc. I think it was wise for them to tell you this ahead of time. Of course when we take my MIL out for any occasion the goal is to make it one hour from the time we pick her up until we drop her off, but back in the day when my Mom was living, we were close and a chit-chatty group and could easily lose track of time.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Janet from Richmond

            Janet, I had a good laugh about the MIL comment. Yes, agree on the Mother's Day or holiday timing. We have been out and people think they can monopolize a table for 1/2 day. At least they told the OP up front, rather than kicking them out after 2 hours. Who can sit longer than that anyway?

          2. As long as they tell you when you're making the reservation, I don't have a problem with it. I've heard of some places that do have time limits and make them known. I have a problem with it if they don't tell you until you get to the restaurant. If they make the policies known, we can choose not to go there. I'd also expect them to be quite quick with getting drink orders and taking food orders such that the meal itself could be relaxed.

            1. Thanks, everyone. I enjoyed reading everyone's comments. That's why I love Chowhound:-)

              1. Well, you are lucky they didn't say 90 minutes. 2 hours is the normal table turning time in most fine US fine dining establishments. I would not be in the least miffed that they made it clear in reservations for a day of restaurant hell like Mother's Day.

                1 Reply
                1. I have experienced that at a prix fixe dinner place. They have a specific two seatings per night. And the kitchen serves up the plates at about the same time for each seating. So they needed to seat patrons at specific times. And if one table lingers beyond the first seating, it messed up the service for the second seating patrons.

                  In your case it's probably a M'Day thing. And that's why I never go to a restaurant on M'Days.

                  No big deal.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: PeterL

                    >>They have a specific two seatings per night.

                    Exactly. That would be the only time I would accept being given a time limit.

                    Mind you, I don't stay more than two hours at a leisurely dinner, but I don't like being TOLD that I have to leave after two hours.

                    Lots of restaurants out there, arrogant ones like this would cause me to move on.

                  2. There's a spot near where I live (East Coast Grill in Cambridge) that does this for their special events. It isn't as if they really boot you out exactly at the 2 hr limit (although I've personally never dawdled that long), but hey - they state it up front ... if you don't like it, don't go there - and if you do go there, respect the time limit.

                    Now, if you showed up and were seated and *then* they tell you "by the way, you have a 2 hour limit", well, that's different altogether.

                    1. Keep in mind that they probably aren't going to kick you out if you keep ordering. Unless someone reserved that specific table or they book their reservations exactly to two hours, I don't think they'd have an issue with you ordering desserts, drinks, etc. but they are probably trying to avoid the campers that tend to happen during special occasions and holidays.

                      1. What's interesting is that jfood would believe the same people that think the 2-hour limit is a bad idea would probably be the same people who get upset when their 830 table is not ready for them when they arrive. Sorta can't have it both ways.

                        Two hours are generally a nice leisurely pace for a app/entree/dessert as long as everyone plays along.

                        - Custo needs to be there on time
                        - The FOH has to get you seated
                        - Server needs to start the process shortly thereafter
                        - kitchen needs to cooperate in both timing and edibility

                        Here is a timeline that represents a very reasonable and pleasant 120 minute 3-course dinner.

                        0-15 - drinks and order
                        15-25 - drink/schmooze
                        25-35 - app served/eaten
                        35-55 - schmooze
                        55-75 - entree served eaten
                        75-85 - dessert ordered/delivered
                        85-95 - dessert eaten
                        95-120 - check received/paid & schmoozing

                        Jfood would prefer honesty at reso time then the rush or the "you will need to take dessert in the bar."

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: jfood

                          You gave some great insight on the dining experience. I happen to grow up in the restaurant business, so you're right in that everything is timed just right. And having people in and out in a timely fashion make the 6pm and 8pm crowds happy. However, it still doesn't settle well, because ultimately, a dining experience is not just about the food. It's about the people you're sharing your meal with.

                          1. re: ttsui

                            Agreed 100% if you have read other of jfood's posts. In the timing above more than half is dedicated to schmoozing and even during the dinner eating time, talking is always a big part.

                            jfood has a totally different timeline when eating alone on business.

                        2. I have been to/heard of places that have two seatings for stuff like Mother's Day meals....but i think if my memory serves me...it was Mother's Day buffet or fixed price type fare.

                          I can see how some people might be unhappy though....a mother may be elderly..and doesn't get out often, hence don't want to rush........or it could be occasions whereby this is the only day of the year when everyone gets together.

                          16 Replies
                          1. re: im_nomad

                            It's relatively common here in Tokyo, in fact my reservations tonight are limited to 2 hours.

                            Had I reserved at 8:30pm instead of 7 however, I could have sat indefinitely. Resto closes at 3am tonight.

                            1. re: im_nomad

                              But isn't that the beauty of telling the customer up front? If you want to make a 3 (or 4 or 6) hour event of your dinner, more power to you. But most places count on turning the table at least twice during dinner on Mother's Day. Finish up accordingly, find an accommodation with the restaurant, or choose to dine elsewhere. At least there aren't any misunderstandings.

                              Most evenings a lingering party is a minor logistical problem. On amateur nights like Mother's Day, those minor problems affect each other exponentially, and can blossom into a complete catastrophe for the restarant and the patrons who had planned to eat at 8.

                              Yes, it's a little crass to inform the customers that the restaurant plans to hold them to reasonably well-established norms. But it's just as crass for customers to expect that a 6:00 reservation buys a table until the place closes.

                              Rules are rarely implemented to prohibit conduct that hasn't been a problem in the past. So you have to assume that at the restaurant in question, at least one Mother's Day has been disrupted by one or more extended families claiming tables for the evening while those with later reservations steamed in the bar or went home.

                              It would be so much easier if everybody would just observe basic rules of courtesy. But that seems to be a fading notion...

                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                >>It would be so much easier if everybody would just observe basic rules of courtesy.

                                True, and that applies to a hostess that thinks she/he can tell me I have a two hour limit on my dinner. Manners work both ways.

                                No biggie, lots of restaurants out there.

                                1. re: dolores

                                  If they're telling you at the time of the reservation, that's not any lack of courtesy. If anything, it *is* being courteous to avoid any bad situations later.

                                  If they're telling you up front and you don't like it, don't go there. There's no malice in what they're doing, it is no different than any other stipulation that a place wants to put on their business.

                                  It is a lot different situation than if they came up to you halfway through your meal and told you to get lost, but here they're being polite and telling you upfront the rules of their particular road. People who think there's something wrong with this are being hypersensitive.

                                  1. re: jgg13

                                    >>People who think there's something wrong with this are being hypersensitive.

                                    Nope, not true at all. I find it obnoxious. If it's not a restaurant that adheres to 'seatings', as you noted, I'll go elsewhere.

                                    1. re: dolores

                                      And that's why they tell you ahead of time. Its no different than saying something like, "no children", having a dress code, etc. Its their place and their rules - nothing obnoxious about it. If one doesn't like the rules, as you said, you can choose to go elsewhere.

                                      1. re: jgg13

                                        >> Its their place and their rules - nothing obnoxious about it. If one doesn't like the rules, as you said, you can choose to go elsewhere.

                                        It's my view that they are limiting the amount of time I get to eat and linger over a meal or dessert or an after dinner drink. It's my view and my opinion that it's obnoxious.

                                        Yup, you're quite right, I would go elsewhere.

                                      2. re: dolores

                                        D, you think this is a problem even on days like Mother's Day, etc? These "holidays" are a real pita for restaurants' seating charts. Most diners are there obligatorally, and are in and out. But every few tables will be one who camps, throwing the schedule for other diners off. The diners waiting could be you and your family. Should your mom, and perhaps elderly grandmother, have to stand in the entrance an extra 45 minutes because table 85 wanted to shoot the proverbial?

                                        As far as a hostess being rude because your table has a two hour time limit- are you serious? She's somehow displaying poor manners because she's adhering to the restaurant's policy and doing what her boss told her to do? Give me a break.

                                        We all know you hate being rushed. Everyone's read your story regarding your "nemesis". But doesn't practicality and what's best for the restaurant sometimes have to over-rule what one customer wants?

                                        I know one likes being told what to do, but on days like the dreaded Dia de la Madre, doesn't it just make sense. By keeping a time limit, the resataurant may ruffle a few feathers, but far fewer diners will have to wait angrily. I think the choice (on the restaurant's part) is obvious.

                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                          No, I don't think it's a problem invino, but I'd prefer (semantics, I know) that 'we are having two seatings', or 'three seatings'. Same thing, different wording.

                                          I think we got off into a restaurant having the right to tell me there's a time limit on days other than a holiday, but on a holiday, okay I'll give them that. But at the same time, a restaurant can have the sense to change the setup to a 'seating' time frame.

                                          By the way, I've been to restaurants on holidays and they had seatings and we've always chosen the latest seating and never been rushed out beyond the two hour timeframe. Ever.

                                          1. re: dolores

                                            By the way, I've been to restaurants on holidays and they had seatings and we've always chosen the latest seating and never been rushed out beyond the two hour timeframe. Ever.
                                            This isn't logical at all. By choosing the last seating, you've ensured that you won't be rushed out - because you're the "last seating". Unless the restaurant is closing up, and you're still lingering there, there is no reason to rush you out. No one else is expected after you.

                                    2. re: dolores

                                      How can it possibly be discourteous for the restaurant to inform you of its expectations with regard to how long your dinner will take? They have other customers who deserve to be seated at or around the time of their reservations, and every right to expect that you will not monopolize a table for an unreasonable amount of time.

                                      These things should go without saying, but apparently they don't. It's fair to assume that the reservationist is only specificying a time frame for a meal because overstaying customers have disrupted the restaurant's schedule in the past.

                                      IMHO, identifying the time limit on a meal is like implementing a dress code. It really shouldn't be necessary, because customers should have the good sense and common courtesy to dress appropriately and to vacate the table after a reasonable period. But if there have been persistent problems with cutoffs and flipflops, or with 6:00 tables keeping people with 8:00 reservations waiting in the bar for an hour, then the restaurant has the right (and one might even say the obligation) to clearly state what behavior is expected.

                                      1. re: alanbarnes

                                        See above. If we're talking about a holiday, they should word the time limit in terms of 'seatings'.

                                        If we're talking about a non-holiday restriction on my time, yeah, right.

                                        1. re: dolores

                                          Restaurants with uniform seatings means a much more limited menu (because each course for each table will have to be prepped and fired together). A restaurant that has a 2 hr limit on table turning on a high restaurant hell holyday like Mother's Day is offering more options.

                                          You are entitled to your opinion, of course, but I think it will be a distinctly minority viewpoint in this context. And the restaurants will not lack for substitute patrons.

                                          1. re: Karl S

                                            >>but I think it will be a distinctly minority viewpoint in this context. And the restaurants will not lack for substitute patrons.

                                            You're right on both points.

                                          2. re: dolores

                                            We apparently have different understandings of the "seating" system. The restaurants I know that use it limit the times you can make a reservation. For example, if you want to have dinner at Chez Panisse, you can't make a 7:00 reservation; it has to be between 6:00 and 6:30 (first seating) or 8:30 and 9:15 (second seating).

                                            But restaurants with open reservation policies, which allow tables to come in throughout the course of the evening, still plan to turn those tables at least once. Telling customers that there are two "seatings" is neither honest nor helpful. Telling them that you plan to seat a party with a 9:00 reservation at their table is both.

                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                              But if Chez Panisse told me up front that my 6:30 reservation required me to vacate the table, then I'd go elsewhere. If they helpfully volunteered that I could linger with an 8:30 reservation (sounds like seatings at 6:30 and 8:30 to me), then I'd make a reservation. If they didn't ask for a credit card to hold it, that is.

                                              I make 7:00 or 6:30 reservations at restaurants all the time. I have never, ever, ever been told that I have to vacate my table in two hours or that they needed my table in two hours or that they planned to seat another party at my table in two hours or any other variation thereof.

                                              If they did .... I would go elsewhere.

                                              Lots of restaurants out there.

                                  2. I work in a restaurant that is really busy and recommends 2 hour time limits. When I take a reservation this is how I phrase it:

                                    "Just so you're aware, we're extremely busy this coming Saturday and the table that I have available for you is booked again at 8:30. Will 2 hours be sufficient for you to enjoy your meal?"

                                    This way I've let the guest know that there is a time limit but not actually said that I'm going to be booting them out when their 2 hours is up. It also gives them the option of rescheduling if they want to linger. Also, if the guest lets me know that they're planning a long evening of catching up with old friends I can often arrange for them to have the table for the evening.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: kimmer1850

                                      Thank you for your reply. That was most helpful. I think if the hostess had told me the way you worded it, instead of "and don't forget about the two hour limit," it would've sat well with me and I wouldn't have created this thread. lol.

                                    2. Actually, in Toronto, this is fairly standard practice at many "all you can eat" spots. We've been to some places that actually tell you you only have 90 minutes, but that's usually on the weekends, when they are serving crab legs, and lobster. But since these are all buffets, you can be eating five minutes after you sit down, and generally, we are all stuffed long before the time is up. Of course, it helps that I can only eat two plates now, instead of the four I used to put away.

                                      1. I work in a restaurant, but not up at the host stand. I've heard them say this to people when booking reservations, but only for days we know we'll be packed (normally just holidays, and this is typically only mentioned to people who make reservations for large groups). There's no real way to enforce it, but I think it's just a way to remind people prior to their meal that others have also made reservations. The point is not to "rush" a meal ( and, if you ask me, two hours is quite reasonable), but simply to ensure that people who have made later reservations will be able to be seated upon their arrivals and not kept waiting because a party has decided to stay and monopolize a large section of the restaurant.

                                        1. Ok. So I went there on saturday night with my family. I get a call at 9am in the morning to remind me of the reservation at 6:30pm. When I confirmed it, the hostess reminds me AGAIN of the 2 hour limit. Not nicely put at all. I couldn't help it and asked her when they started that and if they've had any complaints about it. She was speechless for a second and replied that they started the practice a month ago and that no one's complained yet. The food was great, but the service needs improvement. The waitress was nice, but I do feel slight snooty-ness from the staff (wait for her to WRITE down drink orders, ask for bread three times, etc). I almost printed off this blog to show the owner but didn't want any difficulties over dinner. I doubt I will return. Thanks everyone for your replies. It's nice to hear what goes on in the rest of the world.

                                          1. I wouldn't have an issue w/ that if told up-front. I would either take the reservation or not, depending on how much I wanted it and what my plans were. two hours is usually fine but if I planned on an extensive dinner with aperitif, several courses, desserts, etc. I would want my time.

                                            We have only experienced this a few times, when we wanted to go to a busy place last-minute. I have no problem hearing "We can get you in at 5, but you would have to be done by 7 to accomodate another party." Much better that than "sorry, we have nothing available."

                                            1. This has happened to me during holidays when there are so many customers, and that's fine with me since I'm all about communication. I can then decide whether to go or not.

                                              1. Mrs dd992emo had this issue just last Friday night. She took three friends to one of our local favorites. I was out of town and she called me at 6:45 just to let me know where they were. Then she called me at 8:30 and said the manager had come to their table and asked when they planned to leave. This restaurant has become very popular in our tourist heavy area and it appears they plan to maximize seat turns at every opportunity. I was surprised and doubt we will return to that restaurant. No mention was made of time limits beforehand and they don't take reservations.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: dd992emo

                                                  Just curious- had they finished dining, lingering over coffee? Or were they still actively eating/spending?

                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                    She said when they finished their main course they were offered a check, but asked to see a dessert menu. Waitress said they didn't have one, which is a change from previous visits. Mrs dd asked if they had any desserts and waitress recited the selections. After the dessert dishes were cleared the waitress brought a check and immediately the manager was there asking when they planned to leave. From the timeline of her phone calls they couldn't have been seated for more than an hour and forty five minutes.

                                                2. I understand that restaurants play a nightly balancing act vis-a-vis timing and reservations. I would never sit and chat endlessly at a table in a crowded restaurant.

                                                  On the other hand, as a customer, I would prefer not to have to hear about management issues unless absolutely necessary. It is the job of the restaurant staff to coordinate tables and timing, and my job is to show up and relax.
                                                  If the restaurant has penciled me in for 2 hours, and my party takes 2:20 at the table, I don't expect anyone to mention it or give me looks. I've waited 20 (and much longer!) minutes for my table in the past, and I think most diners (though I could be mistaken) would consider this a lesser offense than being told outright that they'll be ushered out at a pre-determined time.

                                                  If I show up significantly late (say, 15 minutes), for my reservation, then I think it would be appropriate for a host or manager to inform me that my table is reserved for another party at such-and-such time. But not on the phone when I make my reservation and definitely not when I show up. It just feels inhospitable, impersonal and turns me off.
                                                  Fixed seatings are another story.