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Policy of not seating parties until all guests have arrived [split from Ontario board]

  • t

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.


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  1. 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..

    6 Replies
    1. re: OnDaGo

      If I knew 2 of my party was going to be 2 hours late!! I would have called it a party of 5 and gotten a table.... Or, in consideration of my friends, I would have planned a later meal.

      1. re: janetms383

        Much harder situation when you're in it, though. We were just asking for a break in their policy for our situation.

      2. re: OnDaGo


        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.

        1. re: OnDaGo

          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.

          1. re: bnemes3343

            Actually, the manager told us that they have customers who stay and have just a coffee and others who stay for longer and they don't rush their customers once the full party has arrived, which was why I didn't get her logic in not seating us.

            1. re: tp24

              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.

        2. 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.

          5 Replies
          1. re: tuttebene

            Definitely busy and rushed service. I just feel that they could have dealt with it better but it just didn't seem that they cared much for customers and this is BECAUSE they're so busy. I tell you, when business starts booming, the customer service inevitably does down the hole.

            1. re: tp24

              Well, there is no excuse for not being polite and treating your customers with respect and kindness.

              1. re: tp24

                They dealt with it perfectly.

                Could you please explain how your group was different than every other incomplete group and why they should've broken the rules for you? Maybe that'll help others understand your point of view.

                1. re: invinotheresverde

                  good way to put it! we all feel entitled when it comes to us :)


                2. re: tp24

                  Really, I think just the opposite, the better the service, the busier the resto. People want good food and good service..,...

              2. 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.

                2 Replies
                1. re: iamafoodie

                  They don't take reservations for brunch, and don't indicate their policy on their website and don't pick up the phone when you call. Dismissive communication when you talk to them in person, as well. Overall a nasty experience, and I will not go back.

                  1. re: tp24

                    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.

                2. 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.

                  1. 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....

                    1. As much as I don't like this policy when I'm the one waiting on late-to-the-party friends, I do understand it. It's not just about the restaurant's bottom line, but also about the tip/gratuity involved for the server. Diners spending twice as much time than usual at a table seldom take that add'l time into account when determining the tip, not to mention the unused seats which, if occupied, would have increased the check, which has a direct bearing on the tip. So, the loss becomes exponential simply because the party was seated prior to all members' arrival. Truly, as stated, I'm not happy about the policy, but it's really a no-brainer - get your party together before arriving.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: CocoaNut

                        I don't know if that's true. I have reason to argue otherwise, only because I see it as the same amount of money (if not more) being spent.

                        A table of 10 who all arrive together can have people who only have coffee, and sit there for hours. Right? Would this not be considered wasting seats/lowering the tip etc etc what have you?

                        We were a hungry group of 5-7 who were going to murder that menu regardless of whether we had all arrived at the same time or not. 5 of us would have eaten quite happily and would have ordered more later with the other two.

                        I just think MTK took charge of the situation badly.

                        1. re: tp24

                          The difference is that the restaurant has no control over what guests order or how long they stay for. They DO have control over when tables are seated.

                          "I don't know if that's true. I have reason to argue otherwise, only because I see it as the same amount of money (if not more) being spent."

                          Table for seven-
                          Situation 1: five people arrive and eat, two more show up two hours later and eat
                          5+2=7 in about three hours, plus/minus
                          Situation 2: seven people arrive, eat and leave; seven more people sit and eat
                          7+7=14 in about three hours, plus/minus
                          I have a hard time believing seven people will spend more money than 14 in approximately the same time.

                          Perhaps the restaurant could've been more polite (although I don't really see what they did wrong), but so could you, OP. You were told the rules, but they didn't apply to you because your situation was "special". I assure you, it wasn't. Groups like yours are the EXACT reason policies like this are in place. I mean, your other guests weren't arriving for two more hours!

                          And to come on Chowhound and trash the place because they didn't give you your way? Talk about a sense of entitlement. I can understand being frustrated...at the two late people.

                      2. I haven't read all the responses. But as a pain in the butt that policy may seem, it makes total sense in the eyes of the restaurant, especially if they are so busy during a brunch service. Most places I've been to have that policy, and we just wait until every member arrives. I remember once meeting about 10 people, and only 3 showed up at the time of our reservation! They refused to seat us, and the people didn't show up until after .5 hour to 1.5 hour after our reservation time. Once I did manage to talk my way through having the waitstaff seat us (4 out of 6) as we had tickets to a basketball game and were in a bit of a rush. Luckily, the people were only 20 minutes late, and we ordered lots of drinks and appetizers.

                        1. having owned a restaurant i will give you my answer. At quiet times we had no problem seating incomplete parties and happily serve them drinks and apps. Even so it was extra work for the server but ok.

                          At busy times, here's the scenario. Half a table arrives on a busy night and you seat the 4 of 8 that are here. That means 2 x 4 tops are moved together. Server arrives gets drinks for the 4, a 5th arrives 15 mins later, server returns and gets drinks for the 5th. Reads out the specials, brings bread and maybe apps if the 5 order them. A 6th and 7th arrive 20 or 30 mins later and server (on a busy shift) has to go back to the table and do drinks orders again, bring another app or 2, more bread. Table does not know whether to order entrees or wait for 8th person. 8th person not answering cell. Table eats more bread, then finally orders entrees. 8th person shows up an hour late, eats every body else's entrees and left overs and doesn't order anything. Then everyone asks for separate checks. Meanwhile the table has been used up for 2+ hours. Change times of arrivals and variations on a theme of how people order - sometimes early comers eat so much bread and apps they don't order any entrees at all.

                          Other diners see this and do it to you next time too saying they had seen it done before. Total chaos in the restaurant for ever more.

                          1. Whether the no reso policy is right or wrong, the fact that so many CHers see nothing wrong with showing up late or a having a group stagger in at differing times AND expect to get the best dining experience leaves a restaurant in a no-win situation. Quit the whining folks and take some ownership for the consequences of your (rude) behaviour/etiquette. And I'm not one to usually come to the defense of restos in this town...

                            1 Reply
                            1. jfood agrees that it is not pleasant being the recipient of this scenario but the idea that a restaurant changes the policy for one party leads to a slippery slope to all. And let's face it, 2 of the 8 were TWO HOURS late. The people you should be upset with are your friends who showed total lack of consideration.

                              You can give all the scenarios you want to justify your position up to and including and "I saw a full table of 8 wait 2 hours talking until they finally ordered".

                              Bottom line is that you arrived, were told the rules and it is not the restaurant's responsibility to bend the rules on a busy Sunday. And if your friends had cell phones you probably would have told them to meet you elsewhere at a different time. Can't make a reservation or they do not answer the phone, then do not go. Your choice.

                              You are asking waaaaay too much because your friends were completely inconsiderate.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: jfood

                                I can't see blaming the restaurant either. I am not the most patient with people who are severely late and would not be waiting around for a person who called me 2-3 hours prior to say he'd be late and gave me no status updates after that. I would certainly not expect a person to wait for me for two hours either. If I knew I would be that late, I would just tell my friend to eat without me and I'd find a way to call when I got nearby so we could find a more appropriate place to meet.

                                I just think it's a hard sell to a restaurant manager to say "Hey I've been waiting 2 hours for these 2 friends to arrive. They have no cell phones and I haven't been able to talk to them since we got here, so I can't tell you for sure if and when they might arrive." If anything, that would discourage me MORE from breaking the policy. It's one thing if you know for sure the missing person has just pulled into the parking lot and will be there in 2 minutes and another thing entirely to have no ETA whatsoever.

                              2. So it would seem that you are not receiving the support from 'hounds that you expected, huh? Sorry, I have to agree with others your scenario did not present a case for loosening their policy, no matter how many excuses you can come up with. They did the right thing. Your party was not complete until TWO HOURS after you arrived? Come on. People treat brunch like a casual meal at a friend's -- "just show up whenever!" It's a restaurant, for Pete's sake. A business. Imagine this: you arrive with your party of eight, all of you present, and you want a table. There are none open, but you see a table clearly set for 8 with only 4 people sitting. It seems they are waiting for the other 4. An hour goes by, that party still hasn't ordered because they're waiting for their friends. Meanwhile, you and your friends are all ready to eat. You may wonder: why would the restaurant seat a party that is not ready to order, that is just sitting there waiting, while your complete party is ready now? I don't imagine you'd like that. In fact, I'm sure we'd be hearing all about it here. You're never going back? I'm sure the restaurant is heartbroken.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: purple bot

                                  Purple_bot, sympathy and support is not what I expected; I wanted to state my experience and I did so. Everyone has an opinion and it's fantastic. I love that there is some discussion and debate on the situation! Granted my friends were late, but I have never been in a situation where it's been a problem.

                                  1. re: tp24

                                    Is there debate, though? Not one other poster agrees with you.

                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                      That really surprises me, I have seen more and more resto's looking to seat parties when all arrive, myself, I find I am sitting at the bar waiting more often than not, even for one or two and for 10-15 minutes.

                                2. Regardless of whether the policy is right or wrong, or how good or bad their service is, having 1/3 of your party arrive 2 HOURS after the time you planned to dine is rude. Two hours? For real?

                                  1. The “Yes, but we’re leaving," comment on your part kind of sounds kind of like f**k you !

                                    Sounds like the people at the front desk were coridal and you never mentioned they were rude to you, they were only sticking by their policy. From what you described it sounds like they treated you with respect.

                                    Restaurants have to maximize their assets and they happen to be those tables whether or not they turn them as quickly as they want once they're seated. Kind of like airlines overbooking, its a perishable commodity. The policy of not seating incomplete parties is a more common than you think.

                                    6 Replies
                                    1. re: monku

                                      However, it has been my experience that the practice of seating partial parties with reservations has taken place so often, almost automatically, that is has become an expectation. Now that we have restaurants enforcing reasonable business policies, customers shouldn't be surprised.

                                      1. re: monku

                                        If I may clarify the following points:

                                        The people at the front desk were never cordial; quite the opposite. May not have come across that way in my post.

                                        Also, even while we, all 7 of us, as a WHOLE party were there, arrived and waiting (this is INTO the 2 hours), they still didn't have a table for us, which was why in total we had waited 2 hours, this is not to say my friends were two hours late!

                                        MTK made us wait 2 hours before even considering giving us a table.

                                        All of us have an opinion so thanks for all the feedback!

                                        1. re: tp24

                                          The resto probably had opportunities to seat you within the time you waited had your party been there, they did not make you wait, your partial party caused your wait to be that long.....again, sorry you were not pleased but take a little responsibility for the incomplete party as well. The clock, according to your post and the resto's rules, started when your full party arrived, sounds like that may have been a half hour or less. No excuse for or acceptance of rudeness on the part of anyone who interacts with customers.

                                          1. re: tp24

                                            I don't think anyone sympathizes with your situation except the people you were with.

                                            With the lengthy detail you went into I'm surprised you never said they were rude to you. If I were the host/hostess and you were giving me the reasons I should seat you as you did, I'd definitely make sure I wouldn't cut you any slack, there was not one good reason to seat you. The no seating of incomplete parties rules can be bent under certain circumstances. Your's is the #1 reason they have the policy.....the rest of your party is so late and you've tipped your hand.... that you might hang out for a couple hours.

                                            How could you expect them to immediately have a table when your 7th person arrived. Two hours late or not, it was never their fault. Once the party is complete then the clock starts, not from the minute you arrived as an incomplete party.

                                            You're the type of customer that needs to spend some time working in a restaurant or open your eyes to what goes on. I worked in the restaurant business for a number of years and I'm sympathetic about certain things. If I'm at a busy restaurant and done eating and the check has been paid and I see people waiting I'll tell my party lets leave and we can talk somewhere else. If no one's waiting and it isn't busy, then no harm to sit for a while, but I'm watching if they need the table or ask the server. I know the server wants to turn the table and that's their livelihood not a place to hang out. If I arrive and my party is incomplete I'll let the host/hostess know (whether or not they have a "no seating of incomplete party" policy). I won't ask to be seated unless they offer. In a Chinese restaurant I know I can get away with saying I want to be seated and look at the menu, and if I'm sure the rest of the party is going to be there within 15-30 minutes I tell them I'll order and its the "late arrivers" that will suffer, not the server. For most restaurants tables for 6 or more aren't as plentiful as tables for 4 or 2 and usually require putting 2 or more tables together. I'm also aware the server isn't my servant and if I need something I always say "when you have time" can I have? Friend of mine drives me crazy sending the server back and forth for things rather than making their life easier with fewer trips, they have other customers to wait on too.

                                            Save your customer comment cards for something more positive or negative than you think their seating policy is wrong. It isn't, you don't understand.

                                            1. re: tp24

                                              >>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.” <<

                                              According to OP you mentioned that before your 7th arrives you fill out a comment card and as you state above when the 7th does arrive you took the opportunity to grab a second card and told her you were leaving.

                                              Now the 7th arrived and then you waited for a prolonged time.

                                              Sorry the hole being dug just keeps getting deeper.

                                              1. re: tp24

                                                You've "corrected" every other time someone disagreed with you, why didn't you "correct" the very first person to respond to your post who pointed out part of your party was two hours late? Your arguing isn't going to win over anyone here. There was no reason for them to break policy for you, no matter how you want to spin it.

                                            2. It's parties just like the OP's that have made restaurants implement and enforce these types of policies. Ordering, eating and then sitting there waiting 2 hours for people to arrive who then order and eat while everyone else sits there taking up space and not ordering anything further is rude and not very financially productive for the server, who could have turned those tables 3 times if not more while you are hanging out there forever.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: rockandroller1

                                                I completely agree. And while the OP seems further incensed by the fact that the restaurant WOULD allow a fully seated party to lounge and drink coffee for as long as they wanted, the reality is that most people aren't going to just hang around for a couple hours after their meal ended. Most tables get turned far quicker if the entire party can be seated and served at once, as opposed to seating several and waiting for more to arrive, who may or may not even make it or even order anything once they arrive. It just seems absurd that the OP got so angry over this rule (which, by the way, is a pretty common rule at the 3 restaurants in which I've worked, and in most cities in which I've lived...)

                                                1. re: RosemaryHoney

                                                  Actually Rosemary, the OP would have sat and had coffee while waiting for their party or the remainder of their party to arrive, they would have looked to a party waiting as rude patrons passing time while others were waiting for a large table to clear out. If this resto did not have this rule, this could have gone another way. People waiting for a table would have watched a party seated in waves and watched some of the party sip coffee and visit while other ate or seen people come and go, some finishing and leaving, other arriving and starting. I think this solved more problems for others than letting people sit in shifts would have caused to a group waiting....

                                              2. As most other posters have said, you were in the wrong and the restaurant's policy and standards were appropriate. Common courtesy, as well as business sense, prevents holding seats for people who are late while other customers are present and waiting to be seated.

                                                1. we all forgot to mention that the OP and his incomplete party were probably extremely annoying to the management and hostesses by continually asking for a table, arguing over the policy and getting in the way (where did they stand/sit/wait?) on a busy Sunday. They were probably muttering or making a scene of some kind in front of other customers.

                                                  1. I see this problem more and more where I'm from (Wash DC), and I think it's the diners who need to adapt, NOT the restaurants. It's a fair, albeit annoying, policy, and in your case you were clearly told about it upfront. Now whenever I organize a dinner for six or more I let it be known that the restuarant won't seat us unless everyone is there (sometimes I call and check, but with my regular restaurants I just know). So everyone in the group is on notice that if they're later, they're hurting the rest of us. If they are more than 20 minutes late I tell the hostess we are now a party of say 6 instead of 8, and politely ask to be seated accordingly. When/if the late people show up, they have to fend for themselves, maybe with a 2 top in the same restaurant, maybe just stay home. And maybe next time they won't be so late.

                                                    1. tp24, since you asked for it in your post, you are wrong....