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Mar 10, 2010 06:02 PM

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.

            11 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: 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.

                        3. re: carolinadawg

                          It's the restaurant's privilege to do its absolute best to meet the customer's needs whether that is a customer who is waiting to be seated or a customer who is already seated. So, yes, restaurants serve customers. That's what they do.

                    1. 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.