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What do you do if you get a bad table?

Last night, my husband and I went out to a nice restaurant to celebrate a special occasion. We had reservations to sit outside on their patio. The hostess led us to a tiny plastic table that was basically right off of the kitchen, it was barely even on the patio. Because of the noise, smell, and traffic from the kitchen, plus the less than nice view, I asked to move. The only other open table on the paatio was a four top, the hostess tried to dissuade us from moving our table with the logic they wanted to keep it open if a table of four came in. I persisted - in a very nice and not rude at all way. She did move us, but I did overhear her complaining to one of the waiters about it. Anyway, my husband seemed mortified. Was I wrong?

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  1. You had a reservation. The four who "might" show up had not extended that courtesy to the restaurant. They may share the small plastic table near the kitchen. Your husband is fortunate to have you to stand up for your family.

    1. No, I don't think you were wrong. I am sure the restaurant knows it is not the most desirable table in the place.(Maybe you should have told the mgr). My husband acts the same way when I ask to move. I am always looking around the resto as we are being seated and if I see a better spot, I ask right away before we even sit (as DH rolls his eyes, but he is usually glad after the fact). That waitress was rude to let you hear her remark. Doesn't she know that is reflected in her tip? Had she been gracious and moved you without fail, then her tip should reflect that as well IMHO.

      1. It's one thing to get an awful table as a walk-in, but if you've made a reservation, there's no reason you should be getting a table that's clearly inferior. If they didn't have any acceptable 2-tops on the patio when you made the reservation, they should have offered you another time or an inside table.

        1. Were you wrong? Not at all. However if their policy was to have only 4 people sit at a 4-top, you could have been moved indoors, even though your reservation was for outdoors on the patio. They're certainly within their right to keep a 4-top for 3 or 4 people, IMO. But she didn't say that, AND you had made a reservation. Sounds like whoever manages the reservations and walk-in seating didn't do too well.

          I once went to a restaurant in Andover, MA with a girlfriend - we were early, and had no reservations (it was a Tuesday). When I asked for a table for two, they asked "in the dining room?" (they also had seating at the bar, but we wanted a quiet place to catch up with each other). So into the dining room we went - where there was (at that early hour) no one. They brought us to the very back of the room next to the kitchen door. My friend knew instantly I wasn't going to agree to sit there, and she was right. I said "Any way we could be seated closer to the front window instead of back here?" She said "those tables are reserved" or "those tables are for 4 or more people", but then she said "I have this table here" (just one up from where we were.)

          I declined and said we'd sit in the bar, where we got absolutely phenomenal service. I was peeved at automatically being brought to a table near the kitchen, and midway through our meal, I quietly asked the bartender about it. She apologized and said that the owner had recently decided that it was better to have mostly large tables all at the front near the window to make it seem like the restaurant was busier - but it was also the fact that we were two women. I looked at her in astonishment at that last statement and she said "I know, I know - please don't hold it against us!" I didn't, as we had superb service, and she got tipped accordingly - not as "two women" would have tipped, in the owner's mind.

          Oh - and those tables that were "reserved"? Didn't have anyone sitting there when we left a few hours later. Nor did they midway through our meal when my friend went to the ladies room.

          1. I feel that you were entirely right asking for a better table.
            Because we always make reservations I have absolutely no compunction at all asking for a different table when, being led to our table I spy an unoccupied one in a better location. DH doesn't roll his eyes, nor does the Host or Hostess ever question it. They may not like it, but we are seated at the second table politely. If the dinner is for a special occasion I usually tell the person taking the reservation. Although I don't expect any special treatment, it seems to make the dinner go more smoothly.

            1. This may be slightly off-topic, so please bear with me.

              Why is the table you sit at such a big deal (this q isn't just for the OP)? I mean, I can understand wanting to be in a quiet area, or not right next to the kitchen/bathroom, or being at a table the right size for your party, but I mean otherwise.

              At my restaurant, it seems like many people (99% of the time women) aren't content unless they switch tables, sometimes two or three times. Being a woman myself, I just don't get it. Do you think it's simply a case of people not being happy unless they're not happy?

              T.I.A. everyone.

              Edited to include: heating/ventilation issues, sun, etc. I was more wondering why people move if there's nothing "obviously" wrong.

              42 Replies
              1. re: invinotheresverde

                I am not normally that picky, but I can see other times where I'd want to switch. If it's cold and I'm near the door, or if the sun is setting and blazing into the window (this gives me migraines), I will probably ask to switch. Otherwise, aside from the issues you just mentioned, I am not going to complain about the table.

                1. re: queencru

                  Quite right. 99.5% of the time I accept what we are led to without question. But just sometimes, if there's a table with a better view, or not in the sun, I'll ask to change if it looks feasable...... have never done that after we have been seated, however. JS

                  1. re: Gio

                    If there's nothing obviously wrong while walking up to or being seated at the table for a minute or so (sometimes the bright light or A/C issue can be resolved with switching with a tablemate), I accept the table I've been given.

                    I've never known anyone who switches two or three times before finally accepting the table!

                    As for invinotheresverde's comment about not being happy unless they're not happy - I suppose for some women, it's a control issue. Do you see this happen with mixed couples, or just groups of women only? And I'm curious - if there's nothing obviously wrong, what reasons do those women/people give you or your staff for wanting to move?

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      "Do you see this happen with mixed couples, or just groups of women only?"

                      Linda I'm going on the assumption your were addressing this question to "queencru", but as for me, I would have to say that I would only request another table if I were with my family, not with another couple or two or three.....

                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        AmblerGirl, no you were not wrong. When you go out to a restaurant, you are spending hard earned money on 'entertainment'. You could eat at home, and choose where to sit, but you are not.

                        Since you are spending your hard earned money, it is your prerogative to request whatever table you like.

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          Women give different reasons than men? Interesting.

                          Not liking tables in the middle of the room is a 'women' thing?

                          Actually, a friend must sit with his back to the wall due to his military experience, so I doubt there are 'women' reasons for wanting a different table.

                          1. re: dolores

                            I'm curious about this "back to the wall" thing. I was in the military for many years and never heard of anything like it.

                            Also, what does he do if there is no wall seat (booth, etc)? Color me intrigued.

                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                              I don't think it's really a military thing, but I've noticed this in people who have been trained in fighting, including myself. When one's back is not against a wall, there is a sense of vulnerability -- you can't see potential danger.

                              When there is no wall as in a booth or a table in the middle of the room, it's preferable that they sit where they can view the entrance the best.

                              I'm not militant about it. My preference is for the wall. If I don't get it, I won't sweat it. But I definitely feel more comfortable against a wall. I used to date somebody who insisted that he ALWAYS get the wall seat. As he was a fighter and somebody who saw his father get murdered as a kid, I understood his rationale and gave it to him.

                              This wall thing is also a principle of classical feng shui. It's always advantageous to be sitting that way. So there may be some feng shui freaks who insist on sitting that way as well.

                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                Good point, Miss Needle. When I say I would have a bad meal if I were forced to sit at a bad table, which I would never allow, it could very well be feng shui. I hadn't thought of that.

                                I often remark on those who sit in the middle of a room or at a tiny table, when they could have simply requested to switch and possibly gotten a nicer table, as I usually do, or been told no, we have nothing available, as sometimes happens to me.

                                Oh well.

                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                  a friend of mine who is a cop always has to sit with his back to the wall, and facing the room. Doubly true if he is in uniform (I used to work near his beat and would sometimes meet him for lunch during our workdays).

                                  Unfortunately, I also prefer the wall, but he'd insist, saying he needed to be able to avoid any surprises and to be able to respond to any problems in the room....

                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                    I have friends who served in the Israeli military who refuse to sit anywhere where they have their backs to the door. Restaurants in NYC have been surprisingly accommodating about that.

                                    1. re: cimui

                                      Ok- we call this the "Godfather" seat and we usually ask for this location if it's available because my husband will not sit with his back to the door, the middle of the room, or anyplace that he can be snuck up on. I really don't know the exact reason, but we have endured long periods of hunger-ness waiting for your military friends to be done eating so we can finally sit down (I'm teasing) - anyway we are a good pair because I won't sit in the middle of the room but I will sit with my back to the room so he can get the godfather seat and feel at ease...

                                      1. re: Boccone Dolce

                                        hah. i have to wonder what the competition for inside seats facing away from the door is like in israel.

                                        i don't mind having my back to the room, either. i figure if anything happens, my dining companion will be far more likely to notice than me, and get me out of the way: i'm going to be completely engrossed in the food. if not, i'd rather not see what happened.

                                        1. re: Boccone Dolce

                                          >>my husband will not sit with his back to the door, the middle of the room, or anyplace that he can be snuck up on.

                                          How funny, Boccone Dolce. I can relate.

                                          I think it's a hoot to find so many others with the same opinon about getting the seat they want. Period. It has made me happy.

                                          Comically seriously, though, what 'is' the influence on keeping an eye on the door in a restaurant??? I know I wasn't in the military....

                                          1. re: Boccone Dolce

                                            I thought the back-to-the-wall phenomenon was universally known as the Power Seat. But Godfather Seat is a good one too. :)

                                            1. re: marmite

                                              There's a 15th century European royal dining table in a local museum. It's quite long but only about 20 inches wide - because in court back then, EVERYONE insisted on sitting with their backs to the wall!

                                        2. re: Miss Needle

                                          I like to face the door... as if I could prevent some guy coming in with a machine gun?! My husband who is not picky at all about most anything... doesn't like tables in the middle of the dining room. Generally, I don't care and am extremely accommodating to the whole "that table is for 4" type of thing even though I don't necessary think it's my problem.

                                      2. re: dolores

                                        Not liking tables in the middle of the room is a 'women' thing?

                                        I doubt there are 'women' reasons for wanting a different table.
                                        I *never* said it was a "woman" thing. I was just repeating what invinotheresverde said in the post that was pulled. She owns a restaurant; she said that it's mostly women who request a different table. As she has now posted in response - most without any reason. I was curious if they actually GAVE a reason. They don't. End of story.

                                        1. re: dolores

                                          In addition to all the other reasons already mentioned:

                                          I prefer to be seated in a position in which the staff is not passing by with food trays over my head (fter having a food server drop a large bowl of green beans with bacon (and bacon grease) on my head and silk dress) or at least where I can see the food and wine servers approaching.

                                          If I'm in a dim sum restaurant with cart service, I prefer a table closer the beginning of the route through the dining area so the selection is better.

                                        2. re: LindaWhit

                                          Truth be told, they don't usually give reasons for their desire to switch tables. We often laugh when they move from what is considered one of our best tables to one of our worst! It helps us out in the long run, though, because those "bad" tables are often hard to seat.

                                          Sometimes we hear reasons like Dolores gave above: they just don't LIKE the table. No real reason, other than not liking it. That's what gets me. I mean, it's a freakin' table. I don't get the big deal at all (no offense to you, D.). I'm there for the company and the food. I literally could not care less about the table I receive (except for sun, loud music, drafty, etc).

                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                            So then they are just control freaks - wanting to move just because they can.

                                            Most bizarre.

                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                              My money, my choice of seating.

                                              Not sure on the seating of the military guy, he just likes to see who is approaching him.

                                            2. re: invinotheresverde

                                              Just because you may consider a table good or bad does not mean that everyone else must; different people may use different criteria to judge the fitness of a table. Also, just because they don't lay out chapter and verse for you the reason's they wish to move doesn't mean they do not have specific reasons, just that they do feel they owe you an explanation; and they are correct, they don't.

                                              My mother is one who often asks to be moved (and I admit to sometimes rolling my eyes). She has suffered from significant hearing loss most of her adult life and while tremendous strides have been made in the technology of hearing aids in the past several decades they still do not compare to the natural ability of the human ear to 'filter out' background noise. If a table is in an even moderately noisy area of a restaurant she will be unable to participate in the conversation. She has learned over the years to be able to quickly evaluate a location, before even sitting down and if it will be a problem she asks for another table. Sometimes she may explain the reason to the hostess, sometimes she may not.

                                              To you it may be just "a freakin' table" but don't be so quick to judge other people who you really do not know.

                                              P.S. The "back to the wall" thing may very well be due to hearing issues. One of the biggest problems for people with hearing problems is sorting out sound when it is coming from multiple directions. By sitting with your back to the wall you have eliminated a big part of that problem. Or maybe he just remembers what happened to Wild Bill Hickock.

                                              1. re: kmcarr

                                                Kim, you're proving my point. There are many VALID reasons to switch tables. I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about people who appear to switch for no reason (ie. moving from one quiet, nondrafty, not near kitchen/bathroom table, etc. to a different, exactly the same table).

                                                Also, I never said my opinion on a "good" table was the end all be all. I said what is "considered" to be a good table.

                                                I'm not judging anyone. It simply bewilders me.

                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                  It's not for 'no reason', it's for my comfort and well being.

                                                  It costs a good deal of money to eat out in a restaurant. If I have to sit at a table I hate, I would have a bad meal. Just as I would have a bad meal if the service were bad or the food was bad.

                                                  Oh well.

                                                  1. re: dolores

                                                    Voila! I think we've gotten to the crux of the argument here.

                                                    "If I have to sit at a table I hate, I would have a bad meal."

                                                    It's 100% inconceivable to me that anyone could have such strong feelings about a table. This seems to be where our differences are. I could never, ever imagine a regular old table evoking such strong feelings of disdain, especially not enough to ruin my whole dinner. Seems you disagree.

                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                      I could never, ever imagine a regular old table evoking such strong feelings of disdain, especially not enough to ruin my whole dinner.
                                                      You and I are in 100% agreement there, invino. If there's nothing physically wrong with the table or its location as it relates to heat/cold/kitchen door/bathroom area, I can't understand it either.

                                                      1. re: dolores

                                                        I find this quite interesting. Out of curiosity, do you make these same demands if the restaurant is completely full? Or only when multiple tables are open?

                                                        1. re: pollymerase

                                                          Where would they put me if the restaurant were completely full?

                                                          I don't do communal dining.

                                                          1. re: dolores

                                                            Obviously. I was wondering if you were given a table you didn't like in a full restaurant if you would wait for another table to open up.

                                                      2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                        IV, my point was that even though the reason may not be apparent to YOU, it is still a VALID reason. A table which you find perfectly fine and not noisy at all may actually be in a very poor location, acoustically speaking, for a person with a hearing problem. Since you don't understand this you would attribute their wanting to switch tables as being for "no reason". Nothing is 100% inconceivable if you take the time to see through other people's eyes, or hear through their ears.

                                                        1. re: kmcarr

                                                          I plain old disagree. We're still talking apples and oranges. When you've been in this industry as long as I have, you just have to accept that some people need to go out of their way to get what they want, and feel no shame in doing so.

                                                          You can mention hearing problems til you're blue in the face, but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about those who need to control everything for no reason, not those who have special physical requirements.

                                                          PS How do you know I don't have a hearing issue myself?

                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                            Not apples and oranges at all. Since there will be diners who want a pleasurable experience in a restaurant, and a disagreeable table will detract from the pleasureable experience, the restaurant should do everything in its power to please the customer. That includes service and food and noise level and seating and timing and price and all sorts of other lovely intangibles that it is the responsibility of the restaurant to provide in order to make for the perfect dining experience for its customer.

                                                            If they can't provide all of the above, some other restaurant will be happy to do so.

                                                            Simple, really.

                                                            1. re: dolores

                                                              ...and all sorts of other lovely intangibles that it is the responsibility of the restaurant ...
                                                              The very definition of "intangible" is "Incapable of being realized or defined". So how is any restaurant supposed to be responsible for that?

                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                By me deciding when I dine there.

                                                                It's my dining experience and my decision. If they meet my standards, they have done their job. If not, I move on.

                                                                Simple, really.

                                                                1. re: dolores

                                                                  Not if you're expecting them to be able to do something they are incapable of doing, i.e. those "lovely intangibles" - despite your thinking they should do it for you because you expect it.

                                                                  There's a reasonable understanding of an implied contract between restaurant and patron who chooses to dine there. However - it's obvious you think they are there to satisfy your every need, even those they cannot. Your "simple really" is not often "simple really" for the restaurant, no matter what you think.

                                                                  So we'll have to agree to disagree, yet again.

                                                    2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                      I don't get the whole picky table thing either. I'm just ready to sit, eat, and enjoy my company. I see some people being walked to a table by the host/hostess, and they are steadily looking around trying to find THE table that they HAVE to have. They totally disregard the hostess. Ummmm, there wasn't a seat yourself sign at the entrance. And no, i'm not saying that there is anything wrong with requesting another table, but i just get annoyed at the people who are never happy with the table they get. I do think some people have a control issue.

                                            3. re: invinotheresverde

                                              My reasons for wanting to move could include any one of the following: too close to a speaker with loud music, husband is sitting under an A/C duct, not enough light. (I am generally not thrilled to be seated next to a couple with one of those monster-SUV strollers, but have never asked to be moved when this happens.) Of course, in general, I am eating at hole-in-the-walls, and can tolerate any of those three for the half hour it takes to enjoy a great gordita.

                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                Sometime where one sits can have a significant impact on the quality of the food or the type of food one gets.

                                                Other than the examples mentioned, in sushi places, being able to sit at the bar means being interact directly with the sushi chef and being able to scrutinise the fish. Also, there are places with multiple sushi chefs and who you sat in front of made your sushi, so it was important to suss out the best guys and get a seat in front of them. iirc, there was a sushi place in SF (Kabuto) where folks seated at tables had sushi made b the apprentice, whereas those at the bar had sushi made by the master chef.

                                                At dim sum houses with carts, it can be crucial to be at the table right next to the kitchen door -- the stuff is fresher, and the time a dumpling spends in a hot cart (even a few minutes) can dramatically change the texture of the skin.

                                                1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                  I'm not overly picky about my table, however if several tables are available when I am being seated and one is "more desireable"; i.e. a booth or quieter area in a loud restaraunt, a table farther away from the kitchen or a door that opens to the outside on a cold or very hot day, I will ask the person seating us if we can have 'that table' (motioning to the one I prefer) instead, before we are seated...but I've never switched tables more than once-- that sounds kinda' manic!

                                                  1. re: ideabaker

                                                    I don't think I've ever asked to change a table after being seated, although like ideabaker, I may make a request before we are seated. The only time I've come close to changing a table after being seated was when a couple with several small children were seated in the booth behind me, and the parents seemed to be oblivious to their precious darlings standing in the booth seat and hanging over onto ours and dropping their toys over on my head.
                                                    That said, in general I prefer a booth if it is available, and my bf also prefers to have his back to the wall with the door in his line of vision (ex-cop). If it is a restaurant that I go to regularly and have a favorite waitress, I will ask for her section if it is available.

                                                2. Not wrong. If I don't like the table for some reason I will ask if there is any problem moving. (not near screamers, not by the potty if it's so close you can hear flushing, not where people are going to trip over/slam into or otherwise have to squeeze to pass by me,etc.) however I DO have a reason, it's not a power trip for me. I have had steak coagulate under an aggressive A/C vent at a cute, local indie steak place that sadly closed, I'd never think a thing like that would happen, but it did!
                                                  I have had sustainted maniac laughter totally overpower attempts at conversation. (After a while you stop laughing at the laughing, trust me)
                                                  So there really are legit reasons to ask to move, just as there are reasons there are "bad" tables to begin with. (room placement-wise)

                                                  Also, it was no accident you "overheard" her complaining.

                                                  1. Everyone has a preference, whether it is considered a better table or not to others, management or the host(ess). And jfood would bet that 99% of the time that someone says that a particular table is reserved they are lying. Jfood has tested this theory several times and has never been proven wrong.

                                                    There could be many reasons that people want a different table than the original. In jfood's case, he has a hearing issue and it is important for him to sit where he can engage in the conversation by answering the question that is posed versus some random answer. Others may like two-per side versus a squre with one per side. In one restaurant in town jfood prefers a table in the back near the bar instead of the window because the ambient noise is better back there for some reason.

                                                    Were you wrong? Asking for a table that better serves your requirements is never wrong. BUT, if the restaurant were to say that the 4-tops need 3-4 people because of business then sorry but you cant expect that, even trumpng a walk-in. (But it depends if the resto squeezed in a small 2-top table near the kitchen, bathroom or server station, then it does qualify as a table at all.) That is completely within the jurisdiction of the restaurant.

                                                    This last friday night the jfoods were meeting another couple at a restaurant that has an great deck overlooking water. Deck seating is first come first served, even with a reso. The jfoods arrived and were happy to have a choice of 2 different 4-tops, one center, one on the edge. They chose one and sat and waited. Other couple had wrong town and 30 minutes after the jfoods arrived they discussed a plan B. They would stay but if the MD asked them to move to a 2-top they would. And they were already seated. Friends arrived 5 minutes later. Consideration goes both ways.

                                                    But if the jfoods have a reservation for four, there are plenty of 4-tops available and the host(ess) is doing his/her job correctly then the response to "Is it OK if we take this table?" should be nothing other than "Of course Mrs Jfood." Going to the Hamptons this week where this theory will definitely be tested.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                      You were absolutely in the right, Ambler Girl. Your money, your choice, if available.

                                                      I don't like tables in the middle of the room. There is no particular reason, I just don't like them. So I always request a table against the wall, or in one of my favorite restaurants, I request the table by number.

                                                      If I forget or I'm a walk in, I request another table if I don't like the one I'm given. Usually, there is no problem. Sometimes, I'm told there is a reservation at the table I requested.

                                                      A bad table leads to a bad dinner.

                                                    2. Not to long ago we were with a party of 3 couples and had a reservation. This place only takes reservations, but the table that was available was near the door. The owner was wonderful enough to give us a choice either to wait for a better table or if we took it-dessert and coffee was on the house. We took the table which really was not so bad after all. To me that is a class act.

                                                      1. AmblerGirl - I used to be a "mortified husband" when my wife asked to change tables. That changed a number of years ago. I have a couple of brothers who've been very successful restaurant owners/chefs who told me that there are "no bad requests". Doesn't matter if the only table is a booth for six. If it's available and no one's waiting for it, it's yours! Doesn't matter if the item is on the menu, or not. If the ingredients are available and the kitchen knows how to prepare it, anything can be made on request. Doesn't matter if he/she is the best server. If you're having a problem with the waitstaff, asking for someone else is your prerogative. So, you were absolutely within your rights to take the four top, and the hostess was absolutely wrong to complain about it within your hearing. And, your husband needs to get over your seeking the best for both of you. I'm sure he appreciated not being seated near the kitchen traffic and noise, even if he didn't feel comfortable with it when you asked.

                                                        1. The only table location I have an issue with is near the bathrooms. If they try to seat me near the bathrooms, I request another table. I do not mind being near the kitchen, or bar, and I have never to run into the table with the a/c blowing too hard but It wouldnt bother me if it was.

                                                          1. in the op's case, with a res, i would expect a nicer table. i think that the op's deciding to move was justified.

                                                            in general though, i think that deuces shouldn't move to a 4-top if they don't like the table, they should respect that these tables are to accommodate larger parties, families, etc. and choose another available 2-top, unless there are really unusual circumstances or the restaurant is *empty.*

                                                            i think that many people that are in-ex military/law enforcement, folks that come from rough backgrounds, & sometimes men generally, don't like being seated with their back to the door, and the closer to the door the table is, the more uncomfortable it is for these diners. both dh and i hate sitting with our back to the door but if it is unavoidable, i will sit across from him with my back to the door. many women otoh are oblivious to this issue, but would like to sit near the windows & away from the kitchen, bar, & bathroom. i don't mind sitting near the kitchen or bar, as i always like to watch the action around there & it's more interesting than watching other diners, to me, while most people are the opposite. also most people like to sit on the patio, but it's 100 degrees in the kitchen where i work, so i'd usually prefer to sit in the a/c and suck down ice water like an elephant. ime the "best table in the house" is the one that 80% of customers would tend to seat themselves at if they had the chance, but the other 20% have individual reasons for preferring their own particular spot.

                                                            i think that Dolores' post has a great pointer for chowhounds wrt: folks' favorite restaurants. in restaurants, every table has its own number, that's how the staff keeps track of where the food & bev orders are going. if you have a favorite table, find out what its number is, and then you can request it by number when you make your reservation, and significantly up your chances of getting *the* table you want, or one very close/similar to it. often the table # is somewhere on your tab at the end of the evening (near the top), or ask any member of staff. at places where there is a competent maitre d', s/he will often have incredible recall about which customers prefer which tables (and also which servers), and will attempt to get everyone seated in their more preferred places. it's another reason to tip a maitre d' if you are a regular customer, as s/he is invisibly finessing the seating arrangements and server assignments.

                                                            i do expect a nice table when i have a reservation. if i'm a walk in i tend to take what i'm given and suck it up, particularly if i'm still wearing my oh-so glamorous work clothes (ha!).

                                                            1. One should quickly evaluate a designated table as to view, excessive sunlight, too-nearness to restrooms or swinging doors, etc., or other personal criteria, before one sits at and "accepts" the table. Once you're seated in the chairs, you lose 80% of your negotiating leverage for a table change.
                                                              I especially enjoy limster's observation that a table near the kitchen door in a dim sum house is like a box seat, whereas in many other situations it is a simple nuisance.

                                                              1. I think you were right and that standing up for your reservation the way you did was handled beautifully. SWMBO is much more restrictive in where she will and will not be seated and has long-ago learned that it's simply not my hot-button (although I do back her regardless.) If she sees that they are herding her back to the kitchen or by the bathroom, she immediately speaks up.

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                                                                1. To answer your question, I don’t think there’s anything at all wrong with asking. I also don’t think it would have been inappropriate if the restaurant refused to move you from a two-top to their only available patio four-top, as in my mind a reservation gets you a particular table at a particular time. It’s nice that they were able to accommodate you.

                                                                  As to the general comments from people on seating concerns, neither my husband nor I have much concern about where we are seated, even if it is near the kitchen or bathroom. He is tall so a couple of times we have asked for a table over a booth when the booth turned out to feel tight to him, but that’s it. If I was uncomfortable for some reason I wouldn’t mind asking, but it doesn’t seem to be a big factor in our enjoyment, so I wouldn’t ask just to get a “better” table.

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                                                                  1. re: meg944

                                                                    I'm not averse myself to the near the kitchen or bathroom if it is the only table available, I just object if there are better tables open and they try to stick me there. Makes you wonder if they really want your business. I do ask for other tables on a regular basis, usually because of noise levels. I'm not suffeering from any hearing problems, but I do like to hold dinner conversations without shouting.

                                                                  2. I think you were abolutely right to request a better table!
                                                                    We have very few table preferences ourselves, in restos where there is still a smoking section, I ask not to be seated at a table adjacent to that section (b/c I have asthma). DH prefers a booth when available, and we will ask if we're passing empty booths on the way to a table. We've never had a problem- except in one resto where the non-smoking section was 3 steps ABOVE the smoking section, and surronded by it on 3 sides! sheesh. :)

                                                                    1. For me it’s very simple. If I’m not going to be comfortable where I’m sitting I will not fully enjoy the meal. I have never declined a table for “no reason”. There are several reasons I might not want a table. It may be that I don’t want to be facing the wall (What am I, in time out?) especially since for me part of the fun of being out is often people-watching or soaking up the atmosphere. Only once in my life have I asked to be moved after being seated, and that happened when the physical discomfort (patio heater wasn’t working, among other things) was not evident until we had been there for a few minutes. But we did ask for the change before we ordered.

                                                                      I also don’t want to be seated where the staff is constantly walking by me with food that can spill or where people are brushing by me with purses or elbows as they pass my awkwardly-placed table. I usually can easily see if there’s a table that would be more comfortable for me, and I would simply gesture toward a section of the room and ask “Do you have anything over there?”. Whether people who work there consider it the “best” or “worst” table matters not to me.

                                                                      Whatever the reason one doesn’t want a table, physical limitations, Feng-Shui, prior military (maybe more like combat) experience, or anything else, the diner is, in my opinion, not obligated to give an elaborate or revealing explanation before requesting another table. I have never asked to switch tables more than once. If my request is not accommodated, I will then offer to 1. wait for something else to open up, 2. to sit at the bar if there is one and our party is small enough, or 3. come back another time. And by the way, if I’m sitting a the bar I know that my back may be to most of the room, but I am usually turned to the side in order to talk with my companion(s) and I’m not really up against a wall.

                                                                      Many of us spend a lot of time, money and energy trying to make our dining room or dining area at home comfortable for our guests. For me that painstaking effort extends to my patio and deck. If restaurants charge us money to sit at their tables for our meals, I want to expect similar efforts.

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                                                                      1. re: Betty Boop

                                                                        Excellently said, Betty Boop. Just excellent.

                                                                        Exactly what I do, only I won't elaborate so very well on the rationale, as you just did.

                                                                        1. re: Betty Boop

                                                                          I guess it all boils down to difference of opinion. To me, even thinking about things like this seems borderline insane, but to you they're obviously important. C'est la vie.

                                                                        2. I'd say requesting a move to an open table with better view is acceptable when it's a "special occasion" and a reservation has been made, but just walking in and making a seating change because it's not the best table in the house is wrong. If the restaurant wants the customers to pick which table they'd prefer, they'd just put up a "seat yourself" sign and fire the host/hostess.
                                                                          And regarding the "back to the wall" seat - my wife always wants the seat facing the door and with her back to the wall, but I've kind of figured out that it keeps me from checking out other women when they walk in. Maybe I'm just paranoid.

                                                                          1. Asked to be reseated if your table prevents you from having a positive experience is perfectly reasonable and wherever possible, certainly the restaurant should try to accommodate you.

                                                                            But recognize that often where you have been seated is as much a function of balancing the workload of the servers as anything; an astute host will ensure that servers' sections are not all seated at the same time. Otherwise, it's easy to see why service at your table will suffer: all the parties in that server's section will be ordering at the same time, having their meals come off the line at the same time, need to be cleared at the same time...all of which makes it hard for your server to do the best job possible.

                                                                            If you are unhappy with your table, certainly ask to be reseated but understand that a particular table you have your eye on may be problematic from a service perspective. The best option might be to say something to the effect of: "We would really like to be seated in a section which is quieter/further from the restrooms/warmer/cooler. Are there any tables open in another section that we can move to?" and let the host try to accommodate you AND keep the dining room balanced.

                                                                            1. Don't mean to hijack the thread, but I've always wonder, why do they seat everyone all close together? Like if they have 5 booths against one wall, why do they have to seat one right after another? Why don't think spread them out a little? At least for 5-10 minutes, I feel like I'll have some privacy. I guess I need to speak up more and say, "can I have the booth next to it?"

                                                                              I can understand if it's an unused section due to lack of workers, more walking for servers.

                                                                              1. I actually moved seats for the first time this week. It was patio seating, and we were given a table that was in full sun. As I was turning red, another table opened in the same section. The server agreed to let us move, since the table was still in her section. Of course, it meant that I was no longer sitting right next to Ben Affleck, but that was okay with me. I can't be sitting in mid-day sun and the shaded table was beckoning.

                                                                                1. I probably wouldnt have the balls to say something but I would have been pissed about the bad table.

                                                                                  1. We had an instance, yesterday, where we were sitting in a booth, waiting for our breakfast to be served, when two women were seated in the booth behind me and the overwhelming scent of perfume enveloped out table. We gave it a minute and then I went to find our waitress and requested another table, explaining the situation to her. We were moved to a table on the opposite side of the room. This doesn't quite fit the "bad table" topic, but it sure caused us to look to be moved!