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How long do you linger at the table after you finish eating at a restaurant?

I'm sure we've all been there... out with friends you haven't seen awhile, conversation and good times far outlasts your meal - even after you've indulged in dessert, after dinner drinks, coffee, etc. So what do you think is an *acceptable* amount of time to linger at the table, especially when you know the restaurant is hoping to turn it over for another party?

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  1. If it's a quiet night, no one waiting, then hanging around is no big deal. Once you say "the restaurant is hoping to turn it over for another party" for me that changes the equation. If someone has a reservation for that table, and perhaps is even standing there waiting, you really ought to be on your way after the coffee is drunk. If you're not eating or drinking anything, 5 minutes. I kind of compare it to last night at the mini-golf course (we're on vacation). We kind of groaned when we found ourselves behind two men with two little tykes who on the first hole were letting them goofily wack around the ball taking forever. We were behind a young couple behind them. We thought we were doomed. But the guys quickly figured out the situation and moved the kids right along and everything was fine. If there's no one behind you, go ahead and try that trick hole again. If there is, move it.

    1. Once nobody is ordering anything else that adds to the check I think that staying should be limited to the time it takes for people to finish drinking whatever they are drinking. How long that takes can vary, but even for a cup of coffee, how long can it take you to finish it? 15, 20 minutes? If you want to continue the conversation and don't intend to do anything but nurse drinks, find a nearby coffee house or bar. JMO.

      2 Replies
      1. re: rockandroller1

        Completely agree. I think regardless of whether you can actually see people waiting or not, a 15 minute time frame after paying the bill should be more than sufficient. Otherwise, move to the bar if the establishment has one, or another local bar. The staff will either have other people to wait on, or will need to clean up and prep for end-of-night tasks, including setting up for the next day.

        1. re: rockandroller1

          I agree too. I don't like to linger after I've eaten/imbibed everything on the table. I have a few friends who do, but I'll only linger w/them if there's no one waiting for a table.

        2. For me it depends on the style of restaurant, if it's a casual, reasonably priced turn and burn place maybe 10 min, after all the waitperson needs the income and usually tips are modest. If the place is higher-end, then I may hang out up to 30 mins., the waitstaff's rewards are larger and the cost of the evening was also larger, I believe these est. understand this and it's an acceptable practice.

          1. If there are people waiting for tables and we have paid the check and finished our coffee, there is no time limit that is acceptable to linger. If you want to continue your conversation, do so somewhere else. It is just plain rude to those waiting for tables to hog the table at that point.

            1 Reply
            1. re: farmersdaughter

              Agree with farmersdaughter. If people are waiting for the table, there is really no excuse to linger after you've finished your drinks. I'd feel horribly guilty seeing people waiting in the lobby.

            2. Not too long, once I pay the tab, and finish my beer, I am gone.