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Jul 20, 2009 08:15 AM

Tasca - is it common not to seat incomplete parties? [moved from Boston board]

We had a reservation here on Friday at 8pm for a party of 10. When we arrived at 7:50 only 8 of us were there and the hostess (very rudely) told us that we had to wait for everyone to arrive. At 8:15 we were still waiting outside because the bar was too crowded and we were ready to sit down and order some sangria and a few plates to start. We spoke with the manager who would still not let us sit and informed us (again very rudely) that we could not sit without the whole party and if they weren't there in five minutes our table would be given away. Our entire party finally arrived at 8:25 and when we went to check in the manager said it was too bad she had already sat our table (with a walk-in party) and we would have to wait for the next 2 tables of 5 because she wouldn't be able to seat 10 again that night. Is this common? I was completely shocked at this ( I understand if there were only 4 of us here) and after being in the industry for the past 4 years would never refuse to seat an incomplete party if they had a reservation. The customer service was completely appalling and, even though I really like the food and the price, I will have a hard time going back there. We were out of options and ended up at Golden Temple who took us immediately and we had a great dinner with awesome service.

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  1. That's total and complete BS as far as I am concerned. It's a tapas place for heaven's sake! What the heck difference does it make whether 8 or 10 people are there? It's all small plates! The last time I was at Tasca, I thought the food was very average and the sangria pretty horrid. Good to hear my intuition to stay away can be upheld, unfortunately due to your experience.

    1. As a former restaurant GM, I think your post tells the whole story - you had a reservation on one of the busiest nights of the week for 10 people at a prime time. The restaurant HAS to plan to turn the table at least once in order to be financially viable. So, they either need to plan on seating the table at 6 or at 10pm (assuming a 2 hr turn).

      Since big parties tend to take longer, and your party was 25 minutes late, the restaurant has to utilize the tables as best they can - they have a limited number of seats, and need to keep as many of them as filled as possible as long as possible in order to maximize their what happened was that after waiting 15 minutes to seat you, the restaurant decided to take the tables they had held open for your reservation, re-seat them, and move on to plan B once your party was complete.

      Your anger is misplaced - your party was late for a reservation - Doctors, Therapists, Dentists all charge if you miss an appointment...the restaurant did its best to accomodate your party's inability to fulfill its committment - this is the reason so many places don't take reservations.

      I have to wonder what your role in the industry might have been if you sat many incomplete parties during prime time...every time I made an exception to this rule I got burned badly...

      3 Replies
      1. re: roejimmy

        Don't know who you GM'ed for but I never heard of a place that wouldn't seat 8 people from a reservation of 10 -in these days when restaurants need to compete for business, this behavior is particularly strange. Even if two didn't show up, the party of 8 was going to generate considerable revenue. Not smart business at all.

        1. re: roejimmy

          This doesn't make economic sense. They had 8 people who they could have seated and started - and sold drinks to. The other customers who walked in would have had to wait but would have been seated. That means they lost 8-10 covers plus drinks, which is a pile of cash.

          The issue is not that 2 people were late. Who knows? Maybe they were in a traffic jam or were coming from a hospital room visiting a near dead relative. The point is that 8 people were there and they were treated very rudely. Doctors don't charge if you're 25 minutes late. These people didn't miss an appointment. The restaurant did the wrong thing and there's no way to gloss that over.

          1. re: lergnom

            I agree lergnom, they could have been making $$$$ immediately from the 8 top. even if the 2 never showed up, the 8 would have kept eating and spending. stupid place, never liked it. and to the gm, your place probably closed

        2. Not that I don't feel for you, but perhaps you should turn your attention to the rude members of your party who were late?

          1. I side with the host on this one: seating only of complete parties is an ironclad rule that patrons have to respect. There's far too much room for customer abuse there otherwise. You might expect some latitude on a slower night, but at prime time on Friday? Did anyone call ahead to warn they were arriving almost half an hour late?

            Big, late parties screw up the whole system (as do clusters of smaller late parties). It starts a chain reaction that adversely affects the entire evening. There have been many times when this system has worked in your favor, when your reservation was honored promptly instead of you being forced to wait because some tardy party was allowed to gum up the works. It has to work the same way when the shoe is on the other foot.

            The stakes for restaurants and servers are even higher now that fewer patrons are dining out on weeknights, and much of a restaurant's revenue gets concentrated into Friday and Saturday nights. Perhaps they could have handled it more tactfully, but I'd defend their right to do this pretty much every time.


            27 Replies
            1. re: MC Slim JB

              I see your point, MC. But since you've argued passionately for people to dine out on non-weekend nights to support their favorite establishments, such behavior on the part of the staff would discourage me from coming back during the week.

              I agree with the previous posters that this is a tapas place. And the 8 out of 10 for a reservation (not a non-reservation establishment that is first come first served) there ready to sit down and drink and most likely snack (again on small plates, not waiting to order entrees for the last two individuals) seems likely not to "gum up the works" too much. I've eaten at many restaurants in town that will seat incomplete parties--especially if they have a reservation.

              In fact, I was at board favorite Hungry Mother last week (on a Wednesday, if that makes you a bit happier...) and overheard one of the staff getting ready to seat some customers. They asked whether they wanted to wait at the bar for the rest of their party or wait at their table...

              Such consideration might be a part of why Hungry Mother is so well liked.

              I haven't been to Tasca in months, but I used to live in that neighborhood during better economic times and it wasn't like they were turning away people then during the week. Their behavior on weekends is likely to come back and adversely affect them in the future.

              1. re: Canadian Tuxedo

                And one more question, why is seating complete parties an "ironclad" rule when reservations are involved? I can understand at a first come, first serve place that does not take reservations.

                I'll even concede the iron-ness of the rule if the restaurant should follow an equally ironclad rule that they sit reservations under a half-hour past the time they are made...on a Friday...for a group of 10....yes, I'm guessing there is some chuckling going on out there.

                Many of us have had to wait for more than one half hour for a reservation for two, and perhaps got a free drink at that point (if we were lucky). A party of 10? I'm guessing they wouldn't get a round of free drinks if they had to wait 35 minutes for their table at 8pm on a Friday night.

                I have sympathy for the restaurant, but as a consumer and not someone in the industry, I guess I have more sympathy for the customer. It is a service industry and business can always be taken elsewhere.

                1. re: Canadian Tuxedo

                  "I'll even concede the iron-ness of the rule if the restaurant should follow an equally ironclad rule that they sit reservations under a half-hour past the time they are made...on a Friday...for a group of 10...."

                  A half an hour is a long time in the restaurant business. Guests arriving half an hour late cause the table coming in after them to be seated a half an hour later. Tasca obviously tries their best to seat their guests at their reservation time. How can you not appreciate that?

                  "It is a service industry..."

                  If I hear this as an excuse for bad customer behavior one more time I'll be sick. Just because restaurants are "service industries" doesn't mean they're there to be taken advantage of and to bend at the whim of every almighty customer.

                  The OP's party is the PERFECT example of why this rule is in place. The last guests were 25 minutes late. Yes, I agree things happen, but really, is it THAT hard to be punctual? I allow myself extra time when I'm dining with friends to ensure that I won't be late. It's completely inconsiderate to everyone else because Lisa and Bob are never on time.

                  The OP should be angry with her guests, not the restaurant.

                  1. re: invinotheresverde

                    "How can you not appreciate that?"

                    After you recover from feeling sick, you missed my point about complete parties waiting more than half an hour for their reservation when they are on time. I was not talking in particular about the OP, but about that 2 people in their party were delayed because of the T so maybe the restaurant could have cut them some slack. The same way that customers cut restaurants slack when they are on time but are made to wait.

                    1. re: Canadian Tuxedo

                      I almost forgot: "If I hear this as an excuse for bad customer behavior one more time I'll be sick. Just because restaurants are "service industries" doesn't mean they're there to be taken advantage of and to bend at the whim of every almighty customer."

                      Taken advantage of? I'm sure you haven't experienced this, but before it became environmentally appropriate to drink local tap water instead of bottled it wasn't often even a choice that was offered without asking. It was usually "still or sparkling." Ask for tap and wait for the dismissive look.

                      Obviously not everywhere with everyone. But I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who has experienced this or other attempts at up-selling wine or the check "whenever you are ready" but before you are done with your entree routine so that they put the pressure on you to turn the table over.

                      Not to smear the entire industry, but let's not pretend they are not there to make a profit. It is a competition between profit maximization and customer comfort. Sometimes it is handled so well the conflict goes unnoticed. Other times one pushes the limits of the other. Sometimes it is the "almighty customer" and sometimes it is the almighty restaurant/host/chef etc.

                      1. re: Canadian Tuxedo

                        "Ask for tap and wait for the dismissive look."

                        Huh, I ask for tap water all the time-- unless in a place with piss poor water (goodness, I wish bottled water had been more of an option back in the day in Cambridge Ma). Anyway, I ask for tap water every time I'm in a restaurant, and maybe I'm obtuse, but I've never seen that dismissive look. You might want to relax the defensive posture as it impedes good digestion.

                        1. re: Lizard

                          Exactly when did you live in Cambridge, MA? I drink the water every day at home and at work and there is nothing wrong with it.

                          My digestion is fine, but thanks for the suggestion. Not defensive, just honest. Might want to ask around or read a few things. Not like I made that water issue up. In fact, either the New York Times, Washington Post, or Wall Street Journal had a piece on the trend toward only offering bottled water for environmental reasons and explicitly mentioned the tradition of up-selling on the bottled stuff. Though I suppose the food critics who get jobs at those little papers have nothing on the experience of the posters on this board...

                          1. re: Canadian Tuxedo

                            What exactly are you arguing with this and the following post with all the links that presume I have time to dig for your argument?

                            I have never doubted that restaurants upsell, I have simply said that I have never once encountered a dismissive look when ordering tap water, which is just about everywhere. And yes, unfortunately, in the 1970s, I remember water quality in many places not being quite the best. How 'back in the day' has come to equal your everyday present is baffling to me-- but perhaps it suggests you are looking for outrage? Why not put your dukes down? Seriously, it is deeply unpleasant and makes me think there might be another reason for that server's expression.

                          2. re: Lizard

                            If you have a bit of time on your hands, and it won't disturb your digestion, some reading material for you since you thought I was making stuff up (though I suppose these reporters could be my friends and this could be a big conspiracy...that might really screw with your digestion...):




                          3. re: Canadian Tuxedo

                            A waiter has never made me feel small. If they want to try to upsell me, fine. I'm confident enough to order what I want. I'm a big girl. However, this has little to do with an incomplete party being seated when they weren't all there.

                            I'm glad the restaurant stood their ground. To reiterate, this situation is exactly (!) why this rule is in place at many restaurants. Maybe it'll teach those late arrivals a bit of personal responsibility.

                          4. re: Canadian Tuxedo

                            Usually, those waiting parties are made to do so because earlier parties were themselves late. Vicious cycle.

                            Also, don't you think there's ALWAYS a reason people are late? It's not just because Cindy and Larry like to make an entrance, but because there was traffic, no place to park, had to stop for gas, etc. The reason is inconsequential.

                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                              Though chronically late people do have ulterior reasons having nothing to do with the proximate excuse at hand.

                            2. re: Canadian Tuxedo

                              Many people have lives outside of the restaurant meal and will not sit around for 30 minutes or an hour waiting for their so-called reserved table to be ready. It's up to the party to decide whether it will wait, just like it's up to the restaurant to decide whether it's worth waiting for customers to arrive after 15-20 minutes have passed. I don't think this is at all unreasonable. The rest of the world shouldn't be made to suffer because some people can't be on time. In other service industries, if you're late for your reservation, you'll lose it.

                      2. re: MC Slim JB

                        I agree - I 100% support the complete party rule. I have found that, in almost all cases, if you call while on your way and mention "we may be 20 minutes late" it goes much farther than showing up late/incomplete and fighting with the host. Even places with a "10 minute rule" will generally seat you no matter how late you arrive if you have the forethought to call and warn them. This is why I always put the restaurant's # in my phone before I leave, in case of traffic/accident/late girlfriend/hobo parade etc

                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          I think the restaurant made a big mistake by not seating 8 of a party of 10. The 8 would have been ordering apps and drinks while they waited for the party to be complete. Unless the restaurant is SO busy that they can immediately fill that table of 10 with 10 other patrons, it just doesn't make economic sense to not seat the party.

                          1. re: DanaB

                            This was a Friday night at a prime time, so I imagine that they had more than enough walk ins to fill the tables immediately. Plus, even if they did wait 15 minutes, chances are the table was broken up into 2-3 smaller groups who would be in and out faster than the party of ten.

                            1. re: DanaB

                              Not every party begins ordering while waiting for tardy guests. In fact, many don't (especially if it's the person in charge or guest of honor they're waiting for).

                              There is no way to know if the table will begin ordering anything at all until their guests arrive or not.

                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                >>Not every party begins ordering while waiting for tardy guests<<

                                I was going by what the original poster said, to wit "we were ready to sit down and order some sangria and a few plates to start." I assume the OP communicated that to the management when they asked to be seated with 8 of 10 present.

                                While I understand the general policy to not seat parties until they are complete, I think any rational restaurant manager would understand that there are times when that rule may not be beneficial to a given situation, such as this one, where the decision to adhere to the policy pissed off not one small party but 10 people, 8 of whom were present at the reservation time, and ready and willing to start ordering upon being seated (especially since the restaurant in question was a tapas place, where the table was likely to order in several waves of dishes in any event).

                                1. re: DanaB

                                  I think you're missing what I'm saying. Just because the OP's party may have began ordering right away doesn't mean other parties do, hence the rule. Sure, the manager could've broken that rule, but that sets the restaurant up for "they did it for me last time"s.

                                  Large parties don't have any more "rights" than smaller parties. If a table of four, or six, has to wait to be seated until their entire group is there, why wouldn't a table of ten?

                                  I agree they had a right to be pissed: at their friends. Get there on time and everyone's happy.

                                  I also agree there was no excuse for the manager's rudeness.

                                2. re: invinotheresverde

                                  It's a tapas place and they had no idea when the tardy guests would arrive. Surely they would have ordered some $5-$10 tapas plates to tide them over and if not then at least alcoholic drinks.

                                  Messing up the timing at a tapas place? Come on, people order a few tapas plates then order more later all the time.

                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                      Read the OP's comment below:

                                      "we were ready to sit down and order some sangria and a few plates to start. We spoke with the manager who would still not let us sit ..."

                                      It seems this was communicated the manager. Oh I get it, you think they were trying to trick the mgr into letting them sit down and then they would only order water and wait on their guests for an undetermined amount of time. Yes, that sounds exactly like what would have happened.

                                      1. re: Dax

                                        Yes, that's exactly what I was saying. They obviously wanted to trick the manager.

                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                          The point was they wanted to eat ... while I agree not everyone will order while waiting for the rest of their party, in this particular instance, they wanted to order while waiting.

                                          I fail to see how letting 8 people out of 10 sit down and start ordering at a tapas place (yes, MC I get they have entrees here but still people go - or used to go - to Tasca to just order a bunch of tapas) would upset the natural flow at Tasca.

                                          1. re: Dax

                                            The resto has no way of knowing how a particular party is going to behave, so it has to assume the worst case scenario which is that the total time the party would be at the table is the normal time PLUS any time they had to wait for the 2 late comers to show up and maybe a little extra because they have to flag the waiter down when the 2 late comers roll in and want to order. Whether or not the 8 have tapas and sangria while they wait, the resto is still thrown off because a turn that should have been 1.5-2hrs now takes 2.5-3hr which messes up their other reservations, etc. Plus, to the extent that a resto staggers seating in any server's section (so that one server doesn't have 20 people all seated at the same time who want to order at the same time), that has been potentially blown because instead of the 10 top being seated at their reserved time (8pm), part of their party is seated at 8 and another part of their party is seated some time later (and the resto has no idea or control over when the remaining diners will show up). So if the resto staggered two big tables in the server's section - this 10 top at 8 and another one at 9, but this 10 top finally wants to order at 9 when the 2 late comers roll in, then all of a sudden the server (and kitchen) is slammed with both 10 tops wanting to order all at the same time.

                                            It's not exactly rocket science.

                              2. re: MC Slim JB

                                Never having been to this particular restaurant ( and chances are I wouldn't want to , it seems like the management wants to run their restaurant like a slaughter house. People go to restaurants for a pleasant dining experience, they do not want to be herded into chutes like cattle about to die. Surely when the number crunchers set the place up there must have been some leeway set aside for slight deviations in cash/traffic flow. If I wanted to be herded, there must be an automat that would be more pleasant than this establishment. If I want iron willed discipline, I would invite my mother to dinner at my place!

                                1. re: Danybear

                                  I know this place and while it's far from my favorite restaurant foodwise, the management has always been pleasant. You're being a bit harsh implying that "the number crunchers" set the rules, it's more likely that having been in the business before, the owners decided to set this not-at-all-uncommon policy in hopes of keeping things moving smoothly.

                              3. I don't understand any restaurant having an iron clad rule of seating incomplete parties, especially when 8 out of 10 are there and willing to spend money. What even worse than standing outside was the extreme rudeness of the GM who insisted on calling me "honey" every 3 words and was extremely condescending. The restaurant did nothing at all to accommodate us - no apologies, no willingness to work with us - I also don't see the part about being "late" we were there early and 2 members were late. The two who were late did call us to say they were stuck on the t and we did relay it to the manager who was still unwilling to make any accommodations. Since another table for ten will most likely not open up again, the table should not be sat with someone else if there is a reservation to be honored.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: thegirlwholovestoeat

                                  I come down firmly in the middle on this. Rude service, inexcusable. Even in giving away your table, a maitre'd can be polite and apologetic about it.

                                  The "if your party ain't here, we won't seat you"... I respect (though don't love it) a restaurant's right to have this rule. Friday night tables for 10 are a precious commodity and worth serious cash money to the house. By your party showing up 25 minutes late you are costing the house money.

                                  Your complete party was 25 minutes late for a reservation, period. Perfectly reasonable for them to give your table away.

                                  What I wold have done myself is ask the maitre d to knock the table down to 8 and seat the eight of us. The two late folks can fend for themselves. When the other two finally show up you could steal a few chairs here and there and jam them in.

                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                    I was thinking the exact same thing. I would have just said make it for 8. If you are lucky, it might still be 3 4-tops pushed together and the late folks can jump in. If not, well they can try to squeeze or wait until another table becomes available to be pushed over. Some people may feel bad for their guests, but I'm one of those people who leave early to avoid unforeseen delays and don't feel so bad for my late dining companions.

                                    1. re: Ali G

                                      I've started to take that tactic. In my mind, if you're on time, you're late. Plan on being everywhere enough early such that potential issues will at worst make you on time.

                                      I've started doing things like you suggest when people are more than 5-10 mins late, and ya know what? My friends who were always late to things started showing up on time.

                                      1. re: jgg13

                                        I was brought up with the maxim--'If you're not twenty minutes early you're late'

                                        In 55 years, the only time I was late to an appointment was when I was stuck in an elevayor during a power failure. I was two hours late, the other party never showed.

                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                          I agree, I'm always a bit early myself.

                                    2. re: StriperGuy

                                      I agree with you StriperGuy-- always clarify w/the host that you are losing your reservation for the entire party because of your late friends and then just go somewhere else. It sounded like the GM was trying to work with you, but there's not much you can do--especially on a busy night.

                                      House rules: you gotta follow them.