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May 11, 2009 04:04 PM

Should Single Diners Be Forced to Share a Table?

A few years ago I experienced this for the 1st time in NYC. I went to my favorite South Indian buffet (Chennai Garden) which granted is literally a hole in the wall. Also, due to the cheap prices and lunch rush it was very crowded. I was by myself. I have no problem waiting for a table. I was given a seat and began to dig in when 10 minutes later another single diner was plopped down at my table (I was not asked). I didn't want to be rude to this diner because he was already laden down with food and there quite frankly was nowhere else for him to go. However I was extremely perturbed and felt that my delicious lunch was ruined.

I realize that this is mainly a personal/cultural issue. Some people have no problem with a lack of personal space. I also know that many cultures (especially in Asia) are okay with it; sometimes even prefer it. However, this restaurant was in NYC where our culture generally feels the opposite (for better or for worse). If it's a restaurant's policy I wish they would let you know upfront or at least ask you. For ex, this weekend I was at a vietnamese place in Chinatown. It was very busy. I was asked several times if I wanted to share; each time I said politely "no thank you. I do not mind waiting". While they were nice about it I was still a bit paranoid and made sure to put my coat on the other seat!

How do you feel about being forced (or even asked) to share a table?

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  1. You might meet someone nice!!!

    1 Reply
    1. re: duck833

      Or a serial killer,

      I once was forced to share a table, and went along with it begrudgingly because it was a small mom and pop Korean place with 8 tables and it was packed. The guy who they sat down on my table (without asking me) started giving me weird pervert guy looks.. I was so freaked out.I scarfed down my meal in less than 5 minutes, He also made weird noises (like grunting snorts)

      I realize many people do not mind eating with strangers, but I do. (unless I invite them)

    2. During March Madness at a busy bar and grill a two-top very generously shared their large table with out party of four. It was a lovely gesture, and was greatly appreciated. In the appropriate context, I think it can be a good thing. The key in my experience though was that the couple offered. They were not forced. At the very least, the host/hostess/server should check with the diner. Because you were asked numerous times, I wonder if there was a miscommunication...Hopefully the food was good.

      1. I'm extremely shy, so i don't think i would be too comfortable with this.

        1. I think it partly has to do with the type of restaurant. Like you said, you were in a hole in the wall in an asian culture restaurant. I would definitely expect them to offer the other chair to someone, and knowing the tight budget they probably operate on, I would not be offended. If I were at an american restaurant, any level above hole in the wall, I would be surprised if they even asked me to share. If it was an american hole in the wall, i would still expect to be asked unless it was obvious that sharing was the norm (ie: one or two long tables, or a sign.)

          1. Cultural issues were definitely at play here. At any American or European restaurant in the US, it would be highly unacceptable to simply place another person at a currently occupied table. Hell, it would even be unacceptable to even ask the occupant of the table if they would like to share. Having said that, a few years ago, I was on a solo trip across the US and stopped in at a well regarded restaurant in Savannah for lunch. I put my name on the huge waiting list and a bit later the host approached me asking if I would mind sharing my table with a couple of other ladies. Apparently, threes and fours could get seated much quicker than twos and ones. We all readily agreed and had a delightful lunch with interesting conversation.

            2 Replies
            1. re: hilltowner

              I had a similar experience in New Orleans pre-Katrina. We were at a hole-in-the-wall seafood place (that is sadly no longer there), needed a table for 2. The restaurant was strictly first-come, first-served in terms of tables. The line was out the door and around the block, when it was out turn to order at the counter we invited the guy behind us in line to join the table rather than make him wait 10-15 minutes for the next table to open up.

              On a somewhat related note, my parents met when my mom was looking for a table for lunch at a diner near their college campus. There weren't any free tables, but she saw a cute boy sitting at a booth alone and asked if she could sit with him. 6 months later they were married, and 11 years after that they had me!

              Edit: after a quick googling I realize the restaurant I thought was closed is still open. Yay! One more thing I have to look forward to when I'm done there in August.

              Edit to my edit: Google lied. The restaurant is closed. Sigh.

              1. re: mpjmph

                New Orleans story: very nice!

                Mom and Dad story: really sweet,

                The restaurant being closed: bummer.