Policy of not seating parties until all guests have arrived [split from Ontario board]
Here's my review of MilDREAD's Temple Kitchen:
Much like a vast and airy temple on a cold and windy day, the aptly named, Mildred’s ”Temple” Kitchen is a cold place. In atmosphere (cafeteria-like with concrete floors, hard plastic chairs, raggedy coir-esque mats, drafty) but especially in service.
I have no patience for bad service. No matter how good the food may be, if customers are not treated with respect, I will simply not dine there.
So, although we were really excited to have brunch at Mildred’s and had heard so much about the buttermilk pancakes, we did not dine there and I will tell you why:
a) Mildred’s Temple Kitchen (henceforth referred to as MTK) does NOT take reservations for groups less than 12 (we were a group of 7, how unfortunate for us).
b) MTK does NOT pick up their telephone at any time during Sunday brunch (even though there are 3 hostesses idly minding the front desk. This is, of course, when they are NOT helping to open the front door which gets stuck in the blustery wind tunnel where the Temple is hidden on Hanna avenue). The result is a struggle with the big glass door while 3 lazy assed hostesses stare down their noses at you from inside.
c) It’s apparently okay at MTK to completely brush someone off when asked about parking costs in the underground (you will note if you visit their site that the simple Flash page has little to no information on it. Something about Mildred minding her peas ’cause…you know, that IS useful, but no information about the cost of parking). I finally learn after having to vie for attention that it’s Green P parking and the prices are ”whatever is listed there”. I then learn from my friends who end up parking there that it’s $5.
d) MTK will NOT seat you unless all of your party has arrived. This does not matter even if:
more than 50% of your party has arrived (there were 5 out of 7 of us waiting)
the waiting party has been waiting for 2 hours! (you have to remember that this is BRUNCH we’re talking about, so many of us had not eaten breakfast!)
e) There were several attempts to speak to the manager about our situation (because by this time everyone who had either arrived before or AFTER us had already been seated) and our situation was this :
Granted, we were a group of seven, with five of us waiting, but we already knew by the time we got there that two of our friends would be late; neither of them had cellphones but had managed to contact us through pay phones. And correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it true that usually what happens is that whoever gets there first gets a table while everyone else joins in whenever they arrive? I mean, really, correct me if I am wrong. So in my friends’ defense, they were totally unassuming of our predicament. When I realized that there wouldn’t seat us until everyone got there I had to reason with the manager telling her that we had absolutely no idea when the other two would get there, so why couldn’t the five of us be seated and then simply add a couple of chairs later?
Alas, it was not to be. The manager was ridiculously stringent over MTK’s seating policy. Her logic was as follows:
“We can’t seat five of you and then add two chairs later when your friends come, because if five of you finish eating and then the other two arrive and sit down to eat, there will be 5 spots that we’re missing out on filling with other patrons.”
So, I had to ask:
“How is this different than if all seven of us were to arrive on time, sit down for brunch and all finish eating but decide to hang out for 3 hours?”
I was told that this was very different because some of their patrons dine for 10 minutes and others for longer, but they only seat all of the party once everyone has arrived.
Even when our sixth person arrived, the manager refused to budge declaring that she didn’t have a table for our group at that time, anyway! This was when one of my friends began filling out a ‘comment card’. This was also when we decided to head over to Butler’s Pantry, instead. I called Butler’s and was told they would have a table ready for ALL seven of us by the time we got there! Ah….service. So that’s what it feels like. (Please take note Donna Dooher & Kevin Gallagher).
At MTK, not only can’t you make reservations to ensure you get a table for brunch, you can’t even be seated when everyone HAS arrived.
When our seventh person arrived, I took the opportunity to obtain a second ‘comment card’ from the manager. This is when she asked if all seven of us were there to which I said,
“Yes, but we’re leaving.”
As expected, her response was, “Fine, I’ll cancel your table.”
On our way out as we gave her our comment cards she said she would pass them on to the owners, but didn’t bother saying anything along the lines of, hmm…I don’t know, an apology?
I expect if Donna Dooher and Kevin Gallagher keep up with this ridiculous seating policy and continue to hire such rude and incompetent staff, this is one “temple” pancake worshippers will NOT flock to.
So you wanted a table for 7 and only five of you were there and the other two did not arrive till over TWO hours later??? honestly that is the reason that those seating rules are in place.. if you would have sat there taking up a table drinking coffee for two hours waiting for two more people when they could have had that table turned over with another group they would be loosing money on you.. now they should have handled the situation better but their concept was sound.. they should have say you at the bar or pointed you to a coffee shop to wait..
5 of us eating and being done is the same exact thing as all 7 of us eating and hanging out for 3 hours. They would then be loosing out on 7 chairs for business.
This is what I had a problem with. It wouldn't have mattered had we been 5 or 7 people - we would have SPENT MONEY and given them BUSINESS.
I totally agree with you ondago. Tying up a table for 7 for hours and hours (you didn't even know when they were getting there?) is NOT something I would expect a restaurant to do, especially one that is clearly looking for high turnover. You are reducing their margin in what I consider to be an unfair way, and restaurants simply can't afford that. And do you really think they get many patrons who 'hang around' for 3 hours. I would clear the plates, give them a check and ask them nicely to pay and vacate the table.
Because you probably would have also lingered endlessly. That is how I would have read your group. Unfortunately, brunch is not a relaxed meal in Toronto. It is all about table turn over. If you want to meet a large group and have some flexibility, ie different arrival times, and even different ordering times - go to a pub which is not busy for brunch. They will be able to accomodate you. No the food will not be as good. The great brunch places are doing just fine with these policies, there are line-ups and you will be rushed out the door. Hell even a lot of crappy brunch places can get away with it.
Your experience is unfortunate. However, knowing how busy their brunches are (hence the no reso policy), it is not unreasonable for all other people waiting for a table to be seated before all of your party arrives. I'm not sure that your negative review is warranted because you had to wait and didn't agree with their seating policy. I doesn't really sound like bad service just busy, rushed given the demand and perhaps not in keeping with your personal expectations. But then we all have differenct expectations. I dined there 2 weeks ago on a Friday night and found the food to be excellent and varied, the design of the room very pleasing and comfortable, and service to be precise, attentive and thankfully not overly intrusive - I hate chattiness. My experience was overall in keeping with the majority of positive reviews. MTK is consistent; a rare thing in the TO dining scene.
TP, this - "We'll seat you when your entire party is here reasonably close to your reservation time." - policy is an increasingly observed American restaurant practice, particularly in busy urban settings. Managers reason it's a service quality matter plus one of maximizing customer throughput. In a full dining room the servers can be so stretched that if the sequence of service at just one table is interrupted, service in that whole section of the restaurant deteriorates. Also, in a high overhead facility empty seats at peak times can be margin breakers. Moreover, managers usually feel they have to support policies with their front line employees or they can't maintain standards.
Maybe this is why wise old Ritz-Carleton Hotels recently won the Malcome Baldridge Award for the best service quality in America. They tell their people to do what ever it takes to give every guest a problem free and delightful experience. Isn't that what we all want? It often comes down to the strategic choice of maximizing profits or striving to have customers for life. Too bad most restaurant managers don't realize the latter achieves the former. I guess we know MTK's choice.
However, any restaurant that values customer satisfaction should make the policy known at the time of reservation so there is no misunderstanding. MTK is clearly missing out in some areas of customer care.
It sounds like their policy isn't really having a negative effect on their business if you waited for 2 hours for a table. In NYC, many brunch places have similar policies to the ones in the OP and you wait until your party is complete to be seated. It's the norm here. If I knew my friends were going to be 2 HOURS LATE I would go ahead and eat and reschedule with the missing friends for another time.
I've had the same response at Buddakhan in Philadelphia. Our 'fourth' was running late, so we finally told the hostess our 4th had cancelled, so we could be seated (we did not have a reservation, but they were not full). We figured (correctly) that they would have to seat the three of us at a table for four, and our late party could just join us when she arrived (and she did, about 20 minutes after our agreed upon time). But I felt sneaky and pretty bad about it. Knowing the policy, I won't walk in without my whole group next time.
Policy is there to make for a comfortable dining experience and to maximize earning potential of the resto. Taken to the extreme, it is bad business to anger a party of 7, or 5 of seven. It is also bad manners to ask for a table of 7 and not be able to fill it, there is some responsiblity of the party asking to be seated. The poster who said they wouldn't arive without their party intact gets this, especially since they felt guilty about changing the number. However, holding empty seats does not bring in money and does not thrill the party of seven that is waiting for the large table to open up. All things taken, life is about give and take and when eating out, those paying shouldn't feel that they have given more than those receiving the payment. Why wait for 2 hours for any two to come, eat without them and enjoy dinner later to catch up. Neither the resto or the people waiting to be seated are innocent here....