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Jul 27, 2008 01:00 PM

Do you need a few more minutes? [moved from General Topics]

Has anyone else developed this pet peeve? You are dining out and the waitstaff appears ready to take you order, but you need a few more they ask "Would you like a few more minutes to decide?" and you respond "Yes"....and then you enter the black hole of nonservice, which can drag out ten minutes...twenty...or even longer. Its as though you've thrown the service schedule off completely until sometimes you literally need to flag a server down - any server - to explain that you are NOW ready to place your order (in fact, you were ready 15 minutes ago).

This happenstance is so frequent that I cringe whenever someone in my dining party asks for "a few more minutes".

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  1. Happens all the time. I hate it too. Wonder why?? Maybe some waitstaff out there can tell us.

    1. The worst is when the server comes over approximately 15 seconds after you arrive and ask if you are ready to order. When you say no, you don't see the server for another 20 minutes.

      2 Replies
      1. re: queencru

        I've never had that happen, but on far too many occasions I've had them try to take drink orders before everyones sat down. Drives me nuts.

        1. re: James Cristinian

          That drives me insane! I like to get seated and take a minute to decide what I want to drink. I usually ask if they can come back after we've had a chance to look.

      2. I've never been a waitress, but I think they just get caught up with other patrons. I also think there's some kind of "time warp" mentality that goes on. I know if I'm hungry and ready to order it seems to take forever for the waitstaff to come back if I've asked for "a few more minutes". I'm sure it's the exact opposite if you are trying to wait on ten tables at once. It's for this reason that I peruse the menu online before I go to most restaurants :)

        2 Replies
        1. re: diablo

          EXACTLY! It's not that we stop paying attention it's just that in the "few more minutes" table 1 wants more water, table 2 wants another round of drinks, table 3 has cold mashed potatoes, and table 4 needs crayons for their impatient child. This all needs to be taken care of before going back to the "few more minutes" table because if tables 1,2,3 and 4 see you spending 5 minutes taking an order while they wait for whatever they wanted then they get mad. You kind of can't win with that scenario. Either way someone's waiting. It especially sucks when a table claims to be ready and then takes what feels like forever to change their minds three times while all of your other tables are waving at you and staring. Again, no win situation.

          1. re: Stillwater Girl

            Stillwater, you would love my fiance, he is obsessed with the "clean order"-succint orders, no questions, no changes. I guess his family had a tendency to dither a bit (a lot) while ordering. I'm pretty sure my ability to make a "clean order" is one of the top 3 things that attracted him to me. Not very romantic, maybe, but I'll take it!

        2. i also think sometimes they don't want to bother you again by asking, so they wait for you to signal your readiness

          18 Replies
          1. re: thew

            I agree, thew. They try to be super efficient, after all that's the hallmark of a good server, right? But sometimes they give you more time to decide then you needed. It's hard to gauge and no one wants to hover over their guests asking, "you ready yet?" "Are you ready now?" "How about now?" It's probably a little bit of this, it may be a busy hour and their may even be some inexperience involved. Either way, most often I don't think it's done intentionally.

            1. re: thew

              ...and my "signal" to them is laying the closed menu on the table.

              1. re: Cathy

                amen, cathy. The closed menu is a big help. sometimes guests will know what they want, but keep menus open and reviewing them. It's hard for the server to know you're ready if you appear to be still considering your choices, especially if he or she has already asked once if you're ready.

                1. re: Cathy

                  I'm glad you do this, and it should be a clear sign, but you would be surprised at the number of people who do NOT do this, nor have any idea that they should, if they want to signal that they're ready. If you waited for every table to close their menus, some people would never order.

                  Twenty minutes seems like a pretty outrageous lapse in time between checkups. It's hard to read some tables, though. I think it's never a bad idea to indicate "Yes, we need just a couple more minutes" if you are a quick menu reader, or "We'd like some time to look at the menu," if you like to thoroughly peruse the options.

                  1. re: Olallieberry

                    It's true, very few people close the menu and place it on the table and as a server I find this very frustrating. Another one I also find annoying isd people who don't put their cutlery together on the plate to signal they've finished eating.
                    If a table of mine needs more time that's fine, but they also need to be aware that they've missed their "window" of my time.
                    Other tables sit down at the same time, and I try to get everyone in order. You may have to wait while I get another table's order, while I deliver drinks or food for the tables before you who have already ordered and sometimes it takes 10 minutes or so for this to happen. I'm one person, we don't have food runners or bussers. I try not to let people wait too long, but sometimes it's hard to get back quickly.

                    1. re: kiwiFRUIT

                      My mom is bad about keeping her menu open while she chats with others at the table even though we are ready to order. Her friends do this, too...then they wonder when someone is going to come by and take our order. I'm like, ok, everyone PLEASE close the menus and put them on the table! Lol!

                      1. re: kiwiFRUIT

                        How funny, I know that a closed menu is a signal, how COULD all dining patrons not know it? But they don't. Once, when out dining with friends, one in the party kept the menu open, while the rest of us talked. And kept it open. And kept it open.

                        Until I finally couldn't take it anymore and mentioned it. The closed menu brought the server over.

                        Twenty minutes is outrageous, though. Whether it's coming back to the table or as a wait between courses.

                        1. re: dolores

                          It really depends on the type of establishment, but I sometimes keep reading the menu once I have decided, especially at new (to me) places or restaurants with exciting or varied menus. I try to remember to close the menu to signal I am ready to order, then order and request to hold onto the menu but sometimes I forget.

                          Overall, I tend to just use eye contact more, assuming I am dining in the types of establishments in which the server tries to maintain some semblance of overview of his/her tables. Doesn't always work, particularly at some ethnic places.

                    2. re: Cathy

                      The closing the menu tip is becoming less relevant these days - most restaurants I eat in (fairly small, non-chain) don't have menus with covers.

                      1. re: Dan G

                        Then put the menu down on the table and look up.

                        Even I would know that is a signal to 'I want service'.

                        Servers DO get trained, do they not?

                        1. re: dolores

                          Servers do, but the public doesn't get any etiquette training anymore and more often than not, they just keep looking at the menu and talking about stuff that's on there long after being ready to order.

                          1. re: rockandroller1

                            I've found that if I do close the menu along with the other people at my table, it seems to have no effect. After a while I thought it must not be etiquette in the US anymore and gave up.

                            1. re: queencru

                              I think it helps to close the menus, stack them and let them protrude slightly over the edge of the table. We usually tell the waitperson ahead of time that that is our signal. Works every time.

                              1. re: SonyBob

                                That doesn't work because often people have a question about something on the menu that they need the menu at ready grasp. The problem is getting those people to feel comfortable to close their menus at least (some people need to keep things open to remember things - short term memory issues).

                            2. re: rockandroller1

                              Wow, rockandroller. Not if they're eating with me, they don't.

                        2. re: Cathy

                          When I was waiting tables, this was pretty much the universal sign that someone was ready to order. Especially after I gave them "a few more minutes". Whoever said that waiters get preoccupied with other things, hit the nail on the head, when I was new to waiting this would happen very easily to me, I got better, then I got out!

                        3. re: thew

                          I think this is exactly right, and as lynnlato below says as well. "ready now? about now?.. not yet?... okay, now? Better to wait until they know you're ready (menu closed) or risk being accused of rushing you. I also do not mind being asked shortly (but not immediately) after being sat if I'd like a drink while I look over the menu, because more often than not, I do want one. Sheesh, so many things to stress about -- asking too soon, too late, etc.

                          1. re: purple bot

                            I agree purple and no matter what the server does, someone is going to be unhappy. Dh is big, big, big into having wine/cocktail from the moment he sits down and immediately tells the waiter "As long as we have wine, we are happy" when we're seated. Other patrons would probably feel rushed.

                            OTOH, my brother is someone who takes a loooonnnggg time to decide what he wants and when we go out with him, I feel for the waiter (and us) as it is not uncommon for them to have to come back twice or more before he is ready. I'm decisive by nature and generally take a brief time to decide on anything (not just dining related) so it's rare for me not to be ready when the waiter arrives.

                        4. I agree with what others have posted, e.g. "are you ready now? how about now?" and wanted to add that if yours was the ONLY table the server had, it would probably be really easy to wait just that exact amount of time til the last person has decided what they want, closed menus or no, and when people put their heads up and start looking around for the server.

                          But because the table wasn't ready when the server first approached, the server usually has a bunch of other things waiting that they have to attempt to get to. They can't just go over to the computer and hang out til you're ready. There is food to be run (for all tables, not just their own), tables who want to be cashed out (and say there are 6 separate checks, now the people are WAITING and WAITING for the server to come back as she is cashing out all 6 forms of payment and making change for everyone/getting CC slips together), meanwhile she walks by to deliver the 6 checks back and another table says, "My steak is overcooked, please send it back" so then you whisk it off to the kitchen for a refire. Before you know it, it's been 10 minutes and the new table is now angry and tapping their feet.

                          It's a tough balancing act and everyone isn't perfect at it 100% of the time. Try to be patient and observant/remember you're not the only table, and give the server a little gesture or catch their eye to when you next see him/her that you are ready and they will come back to you as quickly as humanely possible.

                          There are times when I literally only had 30 seconds free to take an order and when the table wasn't ready, I knew it would be bad because there are 18 tasks of immediate need waiting for me and I just think man, I hope I can get back here relatively soon. You do the best you can but everyone isn't perfect.