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Rushed out of Ten Tables

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Ate dinner at Ten Tables in JP last night and, to my dismay, because the next party to sit at my table was waiting outside, we were asked to leave, mid-coffee...Apparently, reservations are timed pretty close together and if you're enjoying a leisurely meal and catching up with friends, you run the risk of running up against a deadline. Though I understand, given how small this restaurant is, that they don't have a lot of flexibility in terms of seating people somewhere else, it seemed to me like there must be a better way. Is this typical at a small restaurant?

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  1. I'd be curious to know how you were asked to leave. Was it closer to;

    A. "You need to leave soon. We have another group waiting for your table."

    or

    B. "Excuse me folks, as we mentioned when you made your reservation, we're a small restaurant and we usually allow two hours for parties to finish their meals. You have been here two and a half hours and there's another group waiting outside for your table on this nasty night. Would you be so kind as to finish your coffee at the bar so we could seat the next party? We'll be happy to send you a complimentary cocktail for working with us." Or something along those lines. Yes, this is a typical dilema at a lot of small Boston restaurants. It happens all the time, especially on a weekend night at one of the most popular restaurants in the city. It's all in the approach, and the attitude, on both sides of the equation. There are the entitled people ("squatters") who will argue, to the nth degree, that "I am the customer" (and whatever I think or say is beyond reproach), blah, blah, blah, and there are people who totally "get it", and are happy to be a little flexible and work with the servers, owners and managers so that everyone wins. Maybe Ten Tables doesn't have a bar, and I don't know enough detail regarding your situation, but I'm sure there could have been a more gracious way to handle the situation, given the fact that you left disappointed.

    1 Reply
    1. re: PJ Mac BJ

      PJ, I can't tell you the number of times I have had to enact scenario B. You are right, it's all in the delivery. 9 times out of 10 the guests take it well and understand. We are running a business, and must have turn over to make enough money to stay in business. Usually 1.5-2 hours is ok in our place, but factors arise: the party straggles in over the course of a half hour, or the party wants to relax over some drinks before even cracking open the menu, etc. It's awkward, and I hate to do it, but sometimes you have to. Ann, how do you feel it would have been better handled?

    2. Oh boy, my favorite type of place. My deal breaker.

      You're not going back, are you?

      What would they have done if you didn't leave, call the cops?

      >>how do you feel it would have been better handled?

      They could have done two things:

      a. as at another rude restaurant, the hostess informed the person calling for a reservation that they had a two hour limit on their food.

      b. they could have instituted seatings for the evening or hereafter.

      As it was, it's like the item marked a certain price on the supermarket shelves that the checkout wants to charge the patron for. Uh no, you've got to give it to me for the price that was marked.

      annlaw, is it an amazing restaurant? Was the owner remorseful about asking you to leave? If not, stay until you're done, it's their problem.

      10 Replies
      1. re: dolores

        But it's not just their problem. It's the problem of the people who are waiting for your table, too.

        Ten Tables isn't just a clever name- they have ten tables. They're literally too small to enact a two-seating per night kind of schedule and turn a profit.

        I swear, if people just used common courtesy, this wouldn't even be an issue.

        1. re: invinotheresverde

          But the OP didn't say when they were asked to leave.

          If I were asked to leave before two hours, I wouldn't move.

          Common courtesy? Cost of doing business. If you're moving into a space whose turnover rate you hadn't figured out to be equitable to everyone, you shouldn't be in the restaurant business.

          1. re: dolores

            Agreed that more info is needed before making a judgement.

            The cost of doing business and being a conscientious diner have nothing to do with one another. Nothing is fair to EVERYONE, and toes get stepped and feelings get hurt. THAT'S the cost of doing business in the restaurant industry. Not every diner is going to agree with every decision made, but sometimes restaurants have to make these decisions for the good of the business.

            P.S. Ten Tables is mega successful and is always packed! I think they're doing just fine "be(ing) in the restaurant business". Just because they don't do something to your liking doesn't mean they're inept.

            1. re: invinotheresverde

              Agreed. I have to discount the opinion of someone who doesn't even live in the city the restaurant is located in, since the fact that Ten Tables is one of the most generally beloved restaurants in Boston means they must be doing something right. Especially considering that the OP still hasn't answered the entirely reasonable question of "How long had you been there?," I think there are some unwarranted assumptions being made.

              1. re: invinotheresverde

                Good for them. Then if they are planning well and the OP had at least two hours for dinner, no biggie.

                If not, the OP was rushed and has a right to be upset.

                It still has nothing whatever to do with 'common courtesy'. It's not my problem if the scheduling is inept.

                1. re: dolores

                  Scheduling and lingering diners have nothing to do with one another. If you've finished dining in a mobbed restaurant, you leave; especially if the restaurant in question only has ten tables. To not do so is downright rude and displays a HUGE sense of entitlement.

                  Or, upon making your reservation, simply let the restaurant know that you prefer a leisurely dinner and may be there for quite a while, so they can reserve guests accordingly.

                  Also, why is two hours the magic number? What if my magic number is three hours? What makes it okay to ask them to leave after two hours but not 1.5 hours? I don't understand the logic here.

                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                    Yes, the "magic number" depends a lot of factors including the type of restaurant you go to (fine dining or casual), how many courses you order, etc. One of these fast food restaurants (was it White Castle?) even posts a policy that says you need to eat your meal within 1/2 hour. And I've seen them enforce it. Last time I was there, one of the workers announced over the loudspeaker that if this certain party didn't leave, they were going to call the police. If I had a 13 course meal (which I did as stated below), I would expect to be there a bit more than 1 hour. In fact, I believe I left there after 1 hour and 45 minutes. If I was at a fine-dining restaurant, I would expect the "magic number" to be 2 hours. So it all depends on the situation. I haven't been to Ten Tables so I don't know what kind of place it is -- except that it has ten tables. But it doesn't really sound like fine dining to me.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      It's more of a really well-done small neighborhood restaurant than "fine dining." Midrange prices (dinner for two with wine will be usually be somewhere between $125 and $150 unless you're doing one of the tasting menus) but with higher quality and better technique than you might expect. It's actually a really good example of a type of restaurant there aren't enough of in Boston, which has a lot of high-end and a lot of cheap eats but not enough in the middle.

                      For the record, I think all of my meals there have run in the two-hour range, possibly a little over, and I have never felt unduly rushed there. In fact, the reason I'm so surprised about this complaint (and why I wonder how long the OP had been there!) is that the usual knock on Ten Tables is that the servers are a bit too leisurely!

                    2. re: invinotheresverde

                      I believe according to the timeline as laid out by numerous posters, two hours is the approximate time for a leisurely dinner.

                      Any less is rushing. Any more is fine if the place can accomodate it.

                      It's still the restaurant's responsibility to schedule their reservations properly. I'm not leaving until I've enjoyed my leisurely meal. Let them know ahead of time!? Now that is probably the silliest thing I've read in a looooong while.

                      1. re: dolores

                        But what if the OP's (or my, for that matter) idea of a leisurely dinner is three hours? What if I think any less than three is rushing? There is no "right" answer. If I'm with colleagues from the wine industry, we may purchase and sample 10+ bottles of wine to course out. That'll take longer than two hours. Should we get the boot on a $3,000 (or more) check just because we've hit Dolores' two hour mark? Or, what if my husband and I are celebrating an anniversary with a bittle of Krug Clos de Mesnil before we even think to look at our menus? Do you really think the resataurant is going to rush us through a $1,500 bottle of champagne?

                        Which again, brings me to my point. There is no right answer and common courtesy dictates. If you're on your third cup of coffee and the place is mobbed, it's time for you to go, whether you've been there for one hour or six.

                        I always forget that it's impossible to "argue" with people who haven't worked in the industry. You'll always think you're correct, even though you have no idea how restaurants run.

                        "Oh, it's the restaurant's responsibility to schedule their reservations properly". Well, what, may I ask, is properly? Schedule all reservations 2-2.5 hours apart and let the tables from quicker diners sit empty? Or, schedule them according to how most dine (which at a place like Ten Tables, is probably 1.5 hours), and let the campers get huffy? Since you have the magic answer, what is it? I'm just dying to know.

                        Also, as one who frequently complains about being rushed, maybe my suggestion above really isn't, "the silliest thing you've heard in a looooong time". It'll allow you to linger, the server/manangement to know in advance, so they don't try to hurry you, and the reservationist from rebooking your table in their normal fashion. Everybody wins. Silly, huh?

          2. Ten Tables is very overrated. WE have had lousy food there including mushy swordfish and the people who work there are very self impressed. I would say if you are turned off from going back you are saving yourself from more bad experiences. My opinion is far from the specturm of chowhound adoration on the boards for this place. Oh and there is no place like a bar for you to go when you are kicked off your table is there??

            1. There is more information required before a decision can be made.

              How long were you you there? If 90 minutes or less not a good move from the resto. If over 2.5 hours then the resto has the right to change their table. Was the process of the meal at a good clip? Were you late for a reservation?

              Just stating that they asked you to adjourn can go either way.

              1. annlaw, can you elaborate on how long you were seated? I have never been asked to leave, then again when I am with a large group we usually make reservations two hours before closing, so we are never rushed to cram in one more party nor are we making the staff stay late to cater to us. It is the best way to catch up with old friends without being a burden or being kicked to the curb in the middle of catching up with old friends. Plus if we hit it off, we can mosey over to the nearest bar to have a nightcap, and celebrate old things made new again.

                1. I work in a restaurant (Somerville) and had the same problem last night. A two-top that wouldn't leave (they were lingering over water for 45 minutes!). Had a 6 top with reservations waiting. Sometimes, we will just tell them that we have another table waiting & can we offer them a table in the lounge area. Obviously, not a choice that TT has.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: betta

                    Without further details, I agree with others that it's hard to assess the situation.

                    That said, the worst thing I witnessed was at Degustation in NYC, a restaurant that only has 16 seats and takes reservations. I think a place that small shouldn't take reservations. A couple was already sitting and eating their meal when I first arrived. I have no clue how long they have been there. But after they finished eating, they just kept sitting and talking and had no intention of leaving. There was a bottle of wine next to them (couldn't tell if it was empty or not) but they weren't drinking at all. They just sat there talking for about 45 minutes while people who had reservations were lined up to eat. It's one thing to nurse your drink -- but they weren't drinking at all -- not even water! I could see that the owner was really upset and asked the waiters to check in on them. Don't know what really transpired, but the couple just sat there talking. Well, after my 10-course meal (plus an extra few courses thrown in by the chef), we left the place and the two people were still there.

                  2. Ann- I'm refraining from responding further until I hear your response to the issues/questions raised in this post. Please give us more information so we can thoughtfully respond. Thank you-PJ

                    1. I'd think most places would leave a few tables unreserved, for walkups, to allow for flexibilty. But with only 10 tables, maybe it's not an option - a few tables would be 30% of the space. Lots of very small places don't take reservations for that reason, but I'd agree with others here: if they did take reservations, and they didn't advise you beforehand of a timing issue, and you're actually still consuming, it's really poor to get hustled out, I sure wouldn't be rushing back there. If I was lingering over coffee that I'd had for a while (they give free refills around here) I might cut them some slack.

                      1. This is a tough situation. TT should have advised you of a time limit on tables when you made the reservation. I know I'd like the option of not going if I didn't know how long I might be. To me there's nothing worse than feeling you're rushed if you're out for a nice leisurely dinner. I also would like to know how they actually handled it. I'm sure I would not have gone if told that when I made my reservation.
                        Sorry,
                        CocoDan

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: CocoDan

                          If TT advised the OP of a time limit, you'd probably have some people pissed off that there was a time limit as evidenced by this thread:

                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/514499

                          You can never please everybody. Personally, I don't take offense if somebody told me a time limit when I make a reservation.

                          We really have no clue what the OP meant by being rushed. I'm sure there are people out there who would hog up a table for three hours and would get pissed if somebody rushed them. And we don't know if the OP was late to her reservation, which I believe makes a big difference. If I was late 1/2 an hour for my reservation and they still seated me and it was a packed house, I would be mindful that I was late and hurry it up so others won't be kept waiting.

                        2. In a space as tiny as Ten Tables, I never have any particular desire to linger after my meal, simply because as much as I love the food there, it's an uncomfortable room for me. (Doubly so the last time we ate there, because late in our meal, former local radio host Christopher Lydon was seated next to us, marking the first time in my journalistic career that I've had to sit next to someone I have referred to in print as a "long-winded d*****bag" and "past his prime blowhard with poor interviewing skills.") So for me, this wouldn't even come up.

                          But even if I were the type to linger after my meal, I would be conscious of the fact that Ten Tables is a very, very small restaurant with an active guestbook. At this point, I'm not sure how anyone could be eating there and NOT know that. And having been the person on the other side of that equation, having to stand outside on a cool, windy night (at least it had stopped raining by dinnertime!) while someone is lingering over their table inside, I'm sure it would occur to me, in that particular restaurant, to let them turn over the table.

                          JP Lick's is a block away, and their coffee is lovely. Linger there if you feel like a nice chat. Let other people eat.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                            "christopher, i was your prisoner, christopher/ i hope you're happy now chistopher / thank you for everything but i'm not listening anymore nor do i plan to contribute to NPR/ christopher what do you take me for i'm not just any old talk show host groupie...."

                            I had a similar situation with a former employer, thank goodness I was able to get sloshed.

                            Oh, back to topic, much ado about not much, apparently. Ann, I guess the bigger question is, how do you feel now? Would you go back?

                          2. Ann- Obviously you've sparked a spirited discussion with your first foray onto Chowhound!!! I'm actually writing a book that encompasses these types of issues. Never a dull moment when you're dealing with human dynamics. So, here's what we still don't know if you care to share and take this discussion to another level;

                            #1. How did you hear about Ten Tables?
                            #2. Was Saturday night your first time dining there?
                            #3. Was it difficult to secure a reservation?
                            #4. How far in advance did you need to call?
                            #5. Were you aware of the restaurant's popularity?
                            #6. Do you live in the Boston area or were you visiting?
                            #7. Was there any mention about seating time limits when you called?
                            #8. Was there any special mention about the importance of being prompt, or anything unique at all about the phone call that stands out in your mind?
                            #9. What was the size of your party?
                            #10. What time was your reservation for?
                            #11. What time did you arrive?
                            #12. What time were you seated?
                            #13. How was the pace of your meal?
                            #14. How was the service?
                            #15. Did a floor mgr or owner check in with you during your meal?
                            #16. How was the food?
                            #17. How long after you were seated were you asked to leave?
                            #18. How long were you lingering over coffee before you were asked to leave?
                            #19. Were you gently warned at all, or were there any hints dropped that they were going to seat another party after you?
                            #20. How exactly were asked to leave?
                            #21. Who asked you to leave?
                            #22. How was your rapport with the staff up to the point you were asked to leave?
                            #23- Did whoever asked you to leave explain the situation?
                            #24- Did they express regret, ask you graciously and/or offer you anything for the imposition? (Concessions for a return visit?)
                            #25- Were they blunt and brusque with no warning before you were booted?
                            #26- Now that you've had some time to reflect on the situation, how could they have handled the situation better?
                            #27- Anything else we should know that would help us to understand the situation better?

                            A few notes for folks who are not from Boston;

                            - BarneyFP describes Ten Tables very well in the 7:40pm, 5/1 post.
                            - Saturday night was cold, damp and raw in Boston. (We learned to empathize with Seattle residents this weekend.)

                            Obviously there are two sides to every story. It's always interesting to read harsh, rigid comments and assumptions that people make before they know the full story. Comments like "It's not my problem", "...it's their problem" and "You're not going back are you?", without knowing all of the important details amaze me. They exude entitlement and narcissism, and are the reason that many people are longing for a shift away from "me" and onto "we." How about a little empathy, graciousness, compassion and thorough inquiry for the staff and other customers before jumping to conclusions about the restaurant's scheduling policies?

                            What if every party sat at each of the ten tables when the restaurant opened, and lingered over coffee until the restaurant gave last call? Of course common courtesy, common decency and common sense matter here, like they do in all circumstances that involve human beings. We can all learn from these discussions, and we can all be better prepared in the future as a result, including the restaurant's owner. How people react in these circumstances has a lot to do with their previous life experiences and perspective.

                            I'm curious to know how many contributors to this post have worked in the service industries before?

                            I'll start: Dishwasher, cafeteria manager, bartender and restaurant manager. Approximately 14 years total restaurant-related experience off and on. "Being there" has forced me to adopt a very empathetic and flexible outlook when it comes to accommodating other customers and servers. It's really not that hard to help each other out with a little bit of effort and awareness.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: PJ Mac BJ

                              Sorry, gang...it was my first post and I had no idea my inquiry would generate such interest. Briefly, we had a 5:30 reservation and I think we were asked to leave at about 7:30. (My friends arrived about 10 minutes late which, admittedly, didn't help.) In response to the very first question posed - how we were asked - our waiter said something like, "I'm really sorry but the next party is waiting for this table..." That was pretty much it. I didn't make the reservation, our friend did - but based on her shocked expression, I am pretty sure this didn't come up when she made the res. It is obviously rude to let the next party wait outside in the cold...but we had no idea. In response to "how could they have handled it better," by communicating how tightly reservations are timed, we'd have been more conscious...and I wouldn't have gone with the four-course tasting menu. Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful posts -

                              1. re: annlaw

                                Thanks for clarifying things and reporting back. Generally in small restaurants table turnover is pretty crucial to it succeeding unless you're talking really high-end where they only plan on one or two seatings.

                                1. re: annlaw

                                  Thanks for qualifying, annlaw. Since you had the aforementioned two hour dinner that I expect with dinner in a good restaurant, I'd have to say they weren't out of line. If they had tried to rush you out before that, I wouldn't go back.

                                  1. re: annlaw

                                    Perhaps the wording of the request could have been better....but it sounds like that extra 10 minutes would have made a lot of difference in that you'd likely have been at the end of your coffee and it wouldn't have seemed so abrupt.

                                2. I'm glad to see that annlaw responded (clearly you are new if you're surprised at the conversation this has generated or impressed at its length-- this is nothing, you could have returned to a 100+ thread).

                                  What I also like is the way the conversation generated has demonstrated chowhound's ability to withstand the possible drive-by poster rage at a bad experience, seeking to attack a resto on these public boards (I think of annlaw here, but others who have dropped by to complain vehemently and then left). Everyone comes on with a set of questions (although admittedly, there are those who happily jump on the hatewagon) that trouble any impulse to let this become an attack on a restaurant.

                                  1. Was 5:30 your first choice for reservation time? If I called a restaurant looking for, say, a 7pm reservation and was told that only 5:30 was available (and I took it) I'd assume there were other people booked behind me and would NOT be "shocked" that the next party was waiting for my table. If 5:30 WAS the first choice I think it's reasonable that the restaurant would think that you're having an early dinner because you want to make it to a concert or whatever so 2 hours is lots of time.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: hsk

                                      Two hours is usually quite enough time for me and my guests to enjoy a leasurely meal. The exceptions have been when the service itself is slow and/or there is a multi-course meal. For example, my experience with tasting menus have often taken three hours or more. There is often a long time waiting between courses and that is not the diners' fault. The OP says they ordered a 4 course menu. Maybe the restaurant could have paced the courses better. Being asked to leave while finishing a coffee would put me off, but I do see the problem. Being warned up front or given an after dinner drink at the bar would certainly have helped.

                                    2. At a small popular restaurant on a weekend without a place to reasonable hold expectant parties for a little while (20 mins max), I would consider one somewhat lucky to get 2 hours rather than 90 minutes, which not exactly uncommon for such situations. Customers owe each other courtesy not to linger at tables in such situations.

                                      1. As a former waitress, and one who looked for tables to turn in order that I might make some money..as would my employer, I am sensitive to not lounging too long after dinner. I say go to the bar to continue your conversation if you must.