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Asking guests to leave, for incoming reservations

Etiquette questions for Chowhounders. If you are waiting foryour reservation in a small place and the tables are running late, do you expect the restaurant to ask the prior party to leave to make room for you? After how much time would you expect this? if you were the party seated at the table, how would you feel if you were asked to leave?

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  1. I always think a well managed restaurant tells the first incoming party that there is a later reservation and that they need that table back at a certain time. The group can then decide if they want to be under pressure to leave at a particular time before they sit.

    I also think that reservations should be honored within 15 minutes of the booked time and don't really think it's fair to make reservations wait.

    1. One of my first fine dining memories: The Bell Inn near Bury St. Edmonds in England, 40 years ago. My parents and two of their friends graciously included me in their dinner plans. Lovely, elegant meal. We were having such a delightful time that we lingered quite awhile at our table. The maitre d' approached and asked my father if we'd like a coffee in the lounge. Dad said, "sure," and soon we were ensconced in a cozy room, fire blazing, with other post-prandial guests. We soon struck up interesting conversations with our fellows. A very pleasant experience, and the restaurant got their table back. Class act.

      1 Reply
      1. re: pikawicca

        That is the ideal thing to say to the guest, but not all restaurants (especially a small one) have a lounge or a bar area with comfortable seating for many

      2. It's a restaruant not a campground, eat up ant get out! I'm sure the types that want to sit and tie up the table would be the first to bitch like hell if they had made a reservation and had to wait. Golden Rule folks!

        6 Replies
        1. re: mrbigshotno.1

          "Eat up and get out"? Really? It's not a feeding trough. I am there to enjoy a meal. If someone made a reservation and had to wait, it's the restaurant's fault, not mine. If the restaurant told me ahead of time that the table is only available until a certain time, then fine, I can make the decision to stay or go. Otherwise I am there to enjoy a meal, not just to fill my stomach.

          1. re: PeterL

            Don't you think there might be something in between "eat up and get out" and "if someone made a reservation and had to wait, it's the restaurant's fault"? If I make a reservation for eight, and you've been at your table since five, seems pretty clear the delay is on you. I wouldn't expect a restaurant to anticipate customers enjoying a three hour meal (excluding very high end dining), so wouldn't have expected them to warn you at your five o'clock seating that the table would be needed at eight. That's on you ("you" being my imaginary example, not you you).

            1. re: mjhals

              I would disagree. Sure reservation is an art. Restaurants that are well managed learn to anticipate these issues. If someone is having a 3 hr meal and a reservation is waiting, the restaurant should be able to find other accommodations or other means to open up the table or another table. If the specific table is reserved for a specific time, I expect to be informed of that no matter what time I start my meal.

              1. re: PeterL

                I think there's a big difference between "enjoying a meal" and "overstaying your welcome". If you had the 8pm reservation and I sat at your table from 5-9, would you find that OK? I think it's stretching the point to put it on the restaurant to let you know ahead of time that someone's coming after you. If it's obvious that the tables are emptying then, by all means, stay until closing - I have. But, if it equally obvious that tables are being re-set and reservations are being seated as soon as a table empties, I think you need to respect that and move to the bar or another location.

                1. re: RAGHOUND

                  I have no problem respecting that, on two conditions: 1. Informed ahead of time, or 2. Asked politely.

                  1. re: PeterL

                    you, good sir, are what makes an otherwise enjoyable job in the hospitality industry a complete nightmare.

        2. I suppose much depends on the cultural norm wherever you are.

          Where I am, if a place expects to turn the tables during the evening then it handles this at the time of reserving the table. It might, therefore, only offer a table at 7pm and 9.15pm and advise the earlier diner that they must vacate by 9pm. Other than that, I expect to be left alone until I've finished and am ready to leave - and I would be damned annoyed if I was asked to move until I was ready (and wouldnt be returning to dine with them again). It is not my problem if the restaurant has over-stretched itself - but I'm more than happy to be "invited" to take coffee in the bar area rather than at the table

          4 Replies
          1. re: Harters

            I agree with Harters. If there is a booking following yours you should be told at the time of booking. Or if you are following somone else (and are the second to reserve) then you wait until the table frees up. Being asked to have coffee or a drink (on the house usually) at the bar is never a problem.

            However, at my local, I have seen people hog tables even though they accepted the departure time before they sat down. the people in "possession" of the table get stroppy when asked to vacate, and take it out on the staff. To me that is bad manners.

            But what about the poor restaurant that allows enough time and the party just lingers, the lunch party still there at 5:00pm or the those that make a coffee last an hour. surely there must be a reasonable expectation that you don't own the table unless paying for the real estate i.e. you won't be kicked out if your still demolishing the wine list.

            1. re: PhilD

              I take the point about lingerers - although, on more than one occasion, I've had lunch in Spain and then sat with a coffee reading a book for an hour or so, without problem. Different cultures make different "rules", I guess.

              1. re: Harters

                In my time in Italy, it seemed like they only planned to have one seating a night in the restaurants I was in. So lingering was almost encouraged. Indeed, they wouldn't come take your order for the next course until you signaled you were ready.

                It's a different setup, but it's quite nice. And relaxing.

                1. re: Indirect Heat

                  It's very much how we often do it in Europe. No hassle - and enjoy the evening

          2. Pacing service, managing reservations and artfully moving lingerers along is the restauranteur's responsibility. When I make a reservation I expect the restaurant to have my table ready within 10-20 minutes of the established time. I don't care how they go about it and if there is a delay I attribute that to a management problem without regard for which table has lingered too long. Were I asked directly to leave my table, I would be disappointed in my servers lack of grace and skill.

            10 Replies
            1. re: Kater

              " I don't care how they go about it ....Were I asked directly to leave my table, I would be disappointed in my servers lack of grace and skill."

              This is a bit incongruous, no? You apparently DO care how they go about it, if you are the diner already seated, but you don't care, if you are waiting to be seated? You can't have it both ways.

              I think there was a longer topic about this on CH awhile back and nobody could come to any agreement because so many people feel like you. THEY don't want to wait when it's time for their reservation, but they also would bristle at being asked to vacate (no matter how it's done) because someone else reserved the table. Lose-lose situation when customers feel this way, I think.

              1. re: rockandroller1

                Correct. I do not want to wait when I have made a reservation and I do not want to be asked to vacate my table. That's the whole point. The restauranteur is mean to manage the business so that I suffer neither of these undesirable fates.

                1. re: Kater

                  Must be nice to live on Planet Me.

                  1. re: carolinadawg

                    Seriously. How would the restaurateur "manage" the business with customers like Kater? Impossible. Thank God most customers are not that selfish.

                      1. re: rockandroller1

                        How would they manage it? I dunno - but they consistently seem to succeed in the places I go to.

                        Reserved tables are almost invariably ready when I arrive (they knew I was coming, of course) and even on the odd occasion that it isnt, I've never had to wait for more than a few minutes (usually occupied by being invited to see the menu in the bar and make the order there) And I have never been required to vacate the table - although I recall occasions when I've been asked if I want to take coffee in the bar/lounge. I've never even considered that I was being "hurried out" but, rather, that the restaurant thought I might be more comfortable.

                        Perhaps I've just been fortunate in always going to well run places that can properly manage the reservation book and pace service, etc as Kater suggests.

                        1. re: Harters

                          I agree with Harters and therefore, with Katers as well. I do not recall ever being asked to vacate a table, nor do I recall a time where I have had to wait longer than 15 minutes for my reserved table ( I suppose it may have happened a time or two in my life, but I can't think of any). So, I guess most restaurants do manage this pretty well. Since it is a rarity to me, If I were to encounter either of the undesirable fates Kater mentions, I would assume it is the result of poor reservation/seating management.

                          That is just based on my own experience.

                          1. re: Justpaula

                            Speaking for myself, I don't disagree that one of the proper functions of restaurant management is to properly manage reservations. What I find over the top is the sense of entitlement and self-centeredness expressed in some of these posts relative to the possibility of a hiccup in the management of the reservation process.

                        2. re: rockandroller1

                          I've never actually encountered a restauranteur who had any problem doing it, most likely because if they couldn't manage the flow of tables and reservations they probably don't stay open for long. When I make a reservation, I go in and my table is ready. When we dine we stay until we've ready to go and then we leave. I've never been asked to leave or even felt rushed though I am fully aware that managers, servers, expediters and chefs are utilizing their considerable skills to keep their business running profitably and their tables turning at the rate the matches their business plan.

                  2. re: Kater

                    I just think it's a no win situation. Someone's going to have to lose no matter which option is chosen. A restaurant that holds reservations for only 15 minutes will have angry customers who are aghast that they were turned away after arriving 17 minutes late. A restaurant that won't seat a party until everyone's arrived will have patrons whining that they couldn't believe a restaurant wouldn't seat them just because 2 out of 6 people wouldn't arrive for an hour. The list goes on. A restaurant has every right to take certain precautions to ensure that the night runs smoothly. Typically blocking out a table for 2-3x the amount of time normally needed in order to accommodate late-arriving lingerers is not a feasible option.

                  3. If the tables are sitting, done eating, and just chatting, there's nothing wrong with the waiter approaching the table. We were finished with dessert, lingering, and the waiter came to the table and asked if we'd like to order anything else- more dessert or coffee. When we said no, we're done, he mentioned that he would bring the check over. When we paid, he said he was sorry that he had to rush us out, but he would take care of us with comped desserts next time we dined there.

                    I thought that was the most tactful way to approach the situation.

                    1. Jfood is not getting into this one except to give an example of how NOT to handle it at the time and HOW to handle post event, which is a true story.

                      Arrived for a 7PM reservation at a local place (4 people). Ordered apps and entrees at a normal pace. Finished entrees at 825. Server comes over and tells us he needs the table (under 90 minutes) and would if we could take dessert and coffee in the bar he would comp. Since there is a nice bar, we agreed, packed our belongings (winter in CT) and moseyed to the bar. There were no seats. We thought the MOD would come over and make room for us somewhere, but no. He shows up with four desserts which we did not choose and we stood there coats over our forearms staring at him. We asked where we should sit and he told us that was up to us, but remember no tables. We left. Now that's a DNR lister.

                      Two days later owner tracked the jfoods down and apologized and offered dinner for the four of them comped. Victory from the jaws of defeat.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: jfood

                        Another example of how NOT to handle the situation. Our party of 6 arrives on time for 8pm reservation. We wait for 25 minutes for our table, the only one open/large enough, where a mother sits talking to her two small children. No food/drink/check in front of them. She is facing us (no waiting area) and can see us. They are not interfered with. We wait and say nothing. At 9:40 hostess approaches and whispers that she needs our table and points to another party behind me. We are all eating dessert! My party is stunned. I look at her and whisper back: "We waited for this table and now they will wait for it." 15 minutes later, we leave. We have gone back, but only because it's the only resto of its type in our area.

                        1. re: jfood

                          One more?............ 8:30PM reservations, party of four, on Mother's day ("Mom" was flying in that evening and the resto was near the airport). Resto's posted hours are 11AM to 10PM. At 9:30 the valet brings our keys to our table and says they're shutting down valet for the evening. A bit odd, but we tipped him and continued with dinner. At 9:55, we had just been served dessert, and there were still several tables we could see occupied.

                          Ready?....................... A suited gentleman comes to our table and tells us that they are closing and we'll need to leave. Yup! No "I'm sorry, but......" No attempt at any explanation whatsoever. I say "I beg your pardon." He repeats the same command. I ask for the manager; he says HE is the manager. I tell him I've dined in lots of major cities, lots of fine restaurants and never had ANYTHING even remotely close to this happen. He walks away with no comment.

                          Dinner is pretty much now ruined, but we finish our desserts, receive a nice apology from the server, and leave. Next day I dial up the Corporate office (this was a 'better' chain) and ask for the CEO. Some secretary or assistant takes the call and I explain what happened, saying I just thought the guy in charge should know how his business is being run at this location.

                          Over the next 3 days I receive 3 calls from 3 different senior managers in the company, all apologizing profusely. The local regional manager told me the offending location manager was being "re-trained". I get an immediate vision of something in the Russian Gulag....... I can dream, can't I? They send me $250 in gift certificates. Never used a penny of them and haven't been back to any location of the chain since. Probably foolish, but made me feel better.

                          1. re: Midlife

                            That's a pretty amazing thing to happen in an upscale chain! What you did in calling the corporate office is exactly the right thing. I've done the same thing with big box stores, food manufacturers, car manufacturers, hotels, etc. It doesn't matter if you get to speak to the "top" person. As long as you get to their assistant or some high-level management person you get the kind of response that you got. Nice work!

                        2. Sushi Yasuda is the only place I was informed, before the fact, that we needed to vacate the bar (in front of Yasuda) after 90 minutes. Turns out that 90 minutes is pretty flexible. I can't imagine a CT restaurant enforcing a time limit.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: steve h.

                            Where I formerly worked, we blocked out two hours for reservations. Generally, couples would take less time and the larger the party, the more time they spent. If we "allowed", that is, planned for longer reservations we would have had to turn people away on a regular basis. The only problems that ever occured were on Friday or Saturday night (or a holiday) when people lingered (after paying the check) for what seemed to most people an unreasonable amount of time. The two hour time came about by averaging the actual times that we observed most parties staying. We did plan on larger parties staying longer. So when a 4-top would linger for three hours, we wouldn't have other seating to offer the next reservation in that table. To me, it's an issue of good manners and concern for others. If you decide that table is your property for an inordinate amount of time on a busy evening, you are denying your server the opportunity to have turnover and are probably also creating a problem for the next customers. And the smaller the restaurant, the larger the problem.

                            1. re: soxlover

                              "If you decide that table is your property for an inordinate amount of time on a busy evening, you are denying your server the opportunity to have turnover..."

                              I was ok with Sushi Yasuda's reservation person telling me their 90-minute policy before the fact. I thought they were up-front and crystal clear. Turns out Yasuda is a gym rat and liked chatting with us.

                              Now, to your point: I spend money at a restaurant. Chefs cook, customers eat/pay and people serve. I don't feel I have a moral responsibility to make the server happy-happy. I'm considerate and tip well but your point needs further amplification.

                              1. re: steve h.

                                The key word is "inordinate". Yes, that is subject to interpretation. I once saw three business men at a different restaurant that I worked at stay from 11:30 until 5:00. They did eat lunch, but they occupied the table about 6 times longer than the average seating. It wasn't a problem because we weren't busy and had plenty of tables. It would be a problem if we had a line of people (that restaurant didn't take reservations) waiting for a table.

                                There is a point where"I paid for a meal and I'll stay as long as I like" clashes with the reality that you have not reserved a private dining room where you pay higher prices and , in effect, own that real estate for a prescribed time. And even in that situation (a wedding or bar mitzvah for instance) you would have to relinquish the room for the next function. Again, it's about common sense and courtesy.

                                1. re: soxlover

                                  Deb and I spent a little over two hours over lunch today at Casa Bleve in Rome. It was time well spent. Would I spend five hours over a meal there? Probably not.

                                  1. re: steve h.

                                    Arrived at the restaurant at 7.30pm last night. Left at midnight. No-one was at all fussed (not least as we were eating until about 11.00)

                                    1. re: Harters

                                      How would you know they were not "fussed"? A gracious host would not show their true feelings until after you left, at which time they may or may not have cused your name, lol.

                                      Btw, this was in response to Harters.

                                      1. re: soxlover

                                        That word was "cursed" in above post...

                                        1. re: soxlover

                                          You're absolutely right. I've no way of knowing and the staff may have been really pleased to have seen the back of us within a minute or so of finishing eating, so they could get an early night.

                                          As it was, they served coffee, offered more and then, when we'd finished, asked if we wanted a chat with the chef. We said we'd say hello if he had a minute, so he came out and gossiped for 30 minutes.

                          2. Went to a busy pizza/grill restaurant last night. We put our name on the waiting list and waited in the bar for our table for about 20 minutes. My friend paid the bar tab while I followed the waitress to our table. I was feeling like eating something light so we ordered a medium pizza for the two of us and a small salad for me. In the course of our meal, my friend ordered a couple beers and I ordered another cocktail.

                            When there were 4 slices of pizza left, our server asked us if there was anything else we needed and since my cocktail was still 3/4 full, we said, 'not for the moment'. About 5 minutes later another server came by and asked us if we needed anything else and we again said, 'not for the moment', and then proceeded to tell us that he would box up the rest of our pizza for us and be right back with the check. Huh? There were also 2 other empty tables in our area.

                            Our original server came back asking us again if there was anything else we needed and I said, 'I'm sorry, did you really need this table?' She looked a little embarassed and said, 'oh, not at all...' I downed my drink and we left about 5 minutes later.

                            When we left, we looked at the time and realized we had been less than an hour - including the 20 minutes we spent waiting for our table! Ergh.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: soypower

                              Wow, that's a bit much for a Saturday dinner. It seems more like a take-out restaurant with tables for while you wait for the pizza instead of a sit-down place. It's fine to expect to have an hour turnover time, but 30 minutes at a time outside of the business lunch rush? Strange.

                              1. re: queencru

                                It's a fairly new restaurant staffed by a lot of younger people, so I would expect it's just the eagerness or inexperience of the servers that resulted in this odd situation. I'd be willing to go back to the bar, but doubt I'll be back to dine...

                            2. It is the epitome of rudeness and lack of etiquette for any restaurant to ask a party to vacate a table. In fact, it's tacky to inform diners of a need for the table at any time. Of course, if a diner comes in without a reservation and is accommodated, then it's the customer whose rudeness (no reservation) trumps the need to inform the customer of a later reservation for the table.

                              It is exceedingly rude, however, of a customer to linger so long that he or she forces the restaurant to endure a hardship because they'll not give up their table. I say "endure a hardship" because a professional restaurant would never, ever ask patrons to depart. After a 7:00 reservation has lingered 3 hours or so, it's too late to give that table away to anyone except the latest of diners, so it's just self-destructive for the restaurant to do anything at all to move "camping" diners. Hey, professional greeters, captains and servers all have long memories for the type who camp out for 3-4 hours talking and expecting coffee re-fills. Customers who're myopic to the throngs building around them, or worse, just so entitled that they don't care, will pay for their behavior. Those people will wait and wait and wait when they return to a restaurant they've imposed themselves on.

                              I'm lucky because our restaurant is so large we can handle virtually every rush day with aplomb. It irks me to ask customers to wait any longer than it takes them to get their coats into the coat-room. I guarantee you that if they're going to be in the bar for more than five minutes they'll get a glass of wine or a drink -- on the house -- for their patience. Now, when we're extremely busy, we'll seat them and get a round of drinks for the table, but then occasionally we'll inform a table that they, and a few other tables, arrived at exactly the same time despite the fact that we staggered their reservations. We beg their patience and then get to them as quickly as possible. Some customers have complained about waiting (a max of 20 minutes) between cocktail time and their hors d'oeuvres arriving, but most can deal with this on the few nights a year that it happens.

                              I'll always remember the table of folks who were just wonderful -- they'd arrived right on time but in the middle of a push of people who were all either early or late for their reservations. This table ordered cocktals, and then, upon seeing how busy we were, ordered a bottle of wine (and insisted that they wanted to take the evening slowly, even though I knew they were hungry). They ate and drank well, and we comped them two appetizers, soup and some by-the-glass wines to taste. Well, they'd been at the table for about 2 1/2 hours and they all got up... they hadn't even asked for their check! The host of the table insisted that everything was alright and he said they'd be back another time; but I could tell that something was going on.

                              Later on that evening, I went into the bar and there was my table of four! They'd found a table in the bar and were having a chat with my bartender. I begged them to tell me why they left their table, thinking that they'd vacated the table as a courtesy to the diners who were waiting by the lounge. The host told me that they'd felt so extremely comfortable they'd have stayed at their table enjoying drinks much longer -- they knew I could seat the waiting parties quickly enough. They finally confessed to me that there was a really shrill, rude person at the next booth who was making them feel extremely uncomfortable. Instead of complaining to me and allowing me to move them and keep them feeling comfortable, these people thought it rude to impel me to do so; so they moved themselves!

                              Needless to say people like this deserve every bit of the V.I.P. treatment we afford them.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: shaogo

                                "It is the epitome of rudeness and lack of etiquette for any restaurant to ask a party to vacate a table. In fact, it's tacky to inform diners of a need for the table at any time."

                                Shaogo, I would say this depends on the type and style of restaurant. Obviously that is what you do in yours but restaurants cover all sorts of styles i.e. they can be like Chez l'Ami Jean in Paris that turns tables four times a night and the hustle and bustle is all part of the character (they move patrons to the bar to free up tables). Or they can be restaurants that only book each table once a night and limit their covers so that every diner has there table for the night. Your place sounds like it falls between the two, balancing turning tables to maximise margin per seat against delivering a quality experience

                                1. re: PhilD

                                  Surely, patrons of a Paris brasserie are going to be alert to the restaurant's need to turn the tables. I'm sure there are still idiots who over-stay their welcome there.

                                  Indeed, we do strike a balance. And sadly, there are those infrequent diners who stay long past any reasonable time and are completely oblivious to anyone's needs but their own. Flexibility on the part of the restaurant is key when dealing with these situations.

                                  Perhaps I wasn't clear, just because I think it's tacky to tell customers "you have to be out by [insert time]" doesn't mean I'm unaware that plenty of restaurants do this. Just not any place I'll be associated with.

                                  1. re: shaogo

                                    I meant that the punters going to a restaurant generaly know what sort of restaurant it will be thus they amend their expectations accordingly. So I disagree with the blanket statement "It is the epitome of rudeness and lack of etiquette for any restaurant to ask a party to vacate a table. In fact, it's tacky to inform diners of a need for the table at any time."

                                    Problems occur when a restaurant acts out of type, or when punters don't "accept" the restaurants style and try and buck the accepted system. I wouldn't want every restaurant to be the same: variety is the spice of life.

                                    1. re: shaogo

                                      Shaogo, Chez l'Ami Jean is not a brasserie but a restaurant. These are different things. The presence in Paris does not make a brasserie more formal. Indeed, the American desire to claim excessive formality in a brasserie is kind of strange.

                                2. In the US, one does not have a reasonable expectation of occupying a table beyond say 2 and a quarter hours during peak dining hours - 2 hours is the typical budgeted turnover time - unless the restaurant does seatings. If the restaurant is late in seating you, the restaurant should be considering its options in the subsequent seatings but not rushing you until you've had at least a reasonable time.

                                  But anyone who thinks they ought to be seated promptly but can likewise linger forever and still not be considered rude is delusionally self-centered.

                                  1. I always think that if seats are reserved, the restuarant should properly reserve the sit for its customers. They should have to forsight to see and time the arrival of reservations. I mean, if the reservation is at 11am, the reservation sign should be placed on the table by around 10.30 to 10.40am. No matter the situation, it is rude to ask customers to leave. If the managers can even plan for this, I don't know how they do their job.

                                    1. not exactly on topic, but
                                      once had a business breakfast at 7am Pacific Dining Car, an up-scale chop house that is open 24/7.
                                      the meeting went on and on.
                                      they asked us to move to the bar when the party that had reserved the table for lunch arrived.

                                      1. Our wedding rehearsal dinner many moons ago, was almost ruined by the restaurant because they refused to sit us for almost 2 hours past our reservation time due to another party lingering. They said that it was the only space that could hold our party of 16 and they couldn't ask the first party to leave if they wanted to linger. Even though this place is pretty big. To exacerbate the situation, they refused to allow us to order some appetizers at the bar or lounge area. Our east coast guests were starving. There are many other gory details in how they kept making one outrageous mistake after the other. So bad that I've vowed to crusade against them whenever I see their name pop up. They never responded to any of my complaints after we returned from our honeymoon.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Jase

                                          Anything short of fire-bombing would seem like an appropriate response to that nightmare. :o)

                                        2. I'm a server and we also eat out a lot, so i feel like I can see both side of the issue. I've been asked to vacate and i've had to ask people, neither of which is ever fun.
                                          If I am told when I'm being seated that they have a table available for a set amount of time, I'm fine with it, and if we're lingering and they politely mention that they have reservations waiting, I'm usually cool with that too, especially if they hook us up with some free drinks :)
                                          at a local BYO we frequent we know that servers pretty well and they often tell us of the nightly gossip knowing I'm a server and can relate, and I know they have a huge problem with people thinking it is fine to come and eat and then stay for over an hour after they have finished, including opening bottles of wine AFTER dessert, which is just plain rude.
                                          As a server, when I have had to get people to move along I first try asking if they need anything else, then I give them a few minutes, then i re-approach and take their paid check from the table (this is the universal sign that you server needs the table back!) and when I finally had no choice I simply and politely say that we have reservations waiting and surprisingly I have never had anyone get mad at me.
                                          At our restaurant the management would never ask us to ask a table to leave unless they have been sitting for over 20-30 minutes after they have paid their check, they have no wine or drinks left, and they have been at the table for over 2 hours, which i think is fair.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: winemedineme

                                            I'm okay with "table time limits" if I know up front (when I make resos, not when I arrive) but they always make me a bit anxious. Canteen in San Francisco has three seatings a night, very well publicized and reminded at time of booking and when they call to confirm the day before. I would never willingly miss a chance to dine here but I do keep an eye on the clock more than I would elsewhere. In Vancouver, my favourite Italian place La Buca is very small and has a tiny kitchen, so they tell you when you reserve how long you have the table for. Also if you are a group larger than six, you must dine alla famiglia on Friday and Saturday night. We recently canceled a reso there as this was not an option that would work well for our party of 8.

                                            1. re: grayelf

                                              As I and, I think, others have said, sittings are not an issue (as such) when it is clear at the time of reservation, etc - although like greyelf, I find myself occasionally clock watching which I don't particularly enjoy. Much prefer the attitude of the Italian place, localish to me, which clearly states on its website

                                              "Your Reservation: Although we are only a small restaurant we will not rush you to finish your meal - in fact your table is yours for the evening. If you are tired of restaurants with table time restrictions, treat yourself to an oasis of calm: relax and enjoy yourselves. Booking is highly recommended as we don't want to disappoint you but when we are full we are full!"

                                              1. re: Harters

                                                For American restaurants to adopt that model, they would need to increase prices to cover the loss of business that would result. To the extent they use that model, prices have been increased to do so. Customers must pay one way or another; there is no free table time.