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Booth for One?


I went for brunch today at my local diner sans hubby (we both like a little alone time once in a while). When I come around 8 in the morning during the week they have no problem giving me a booth as they're obviously less packed. Today, I asked for a booth (nicely) and was told I'd have to take a table, which is banquet style. I realize that this was a busy time for the diner and they also want to save the larger booths for groups of people, not solo diners. Also, the food is pretty decent for a diner and I usually get good service. However, I am on a very tight budget and do not get to eat out that often any more. Also, due to being sick and a hubby recovering from a recent surgery... I really would have appreciated a booth. Finally, while I am a social person in the right circumstances, I always find it extremely uncomfortable sharing a table or banquet booth style seat with a stranger. Is it worth it to talk to the wait staff the next time I go there? (My hubby and I are good customers; we get breakfast there usually once a week.) Going to another diner is not always an option; this place is in walking distance and when I'm by myself, I need to walk (I don't drive). I'm also not looking just for take-out; the main reason I want to eat out is to be out of the house, in a comfy booth, to eat decent to good food, read a paper and RELAX :} I can resign myself to only eating there solo at 8 am during the week, but it's never as relaxing (I have to then go to work :} ).

  1. "the main reason I want to eat out is to be out of the house, in a comfy booth, to eat decent to good food, read a paper and RELAX"

    This is the EXACT reason why they dont want you in the booth. These mom and pops (and especially this type of place) only make money when the tables are turned over. There isnt much profit in a $3 breakfast and when 1 person takes up a 4 person booth for an extended period of time you are basically taking money out of the restaurants and servers pocket.

    In regards to the newspaper part - nothing pisses off a restaurant owner, the wait staff, and other patrons waiting in line to eat more than somebody using the restaurant as a library. Eat you food and be on your way. Take a few minutes to sit and relax, but an hour to eat your $3 toast/eggs/homefries and read your newspaper is (in my opinion) obnoxious bordering on ignorant.

    If you care about the economic health of you local greasy spoon then you will need to deal with sitting at a table/bar when you are dining solo.

    4 Replies
    1. re: joe777cool


      @OP: Is there nothing other than booth and communal tables? If not, then go early or share a table.

      1. re: joe777cool

        Wow. I don't mind honest opinions here; I posted the OP afterall. But seriously? At a hole in the wall place in Chinatown, I can understand your viewpoint. But a diner? "Onbnoxious bordering on ignorant" for reading a paper during breakfast? Am I supposed to stare at the wall, or even better, glare at other diners as I eat my meal by myself? Yes, I'd like to relax in an ideal situation, which means to me the comfiness of a booth and no time pressure. However, if you read my OP, I obviously aquiesced and sat elsewhere. Also, I am well aware that they want to turn over the table, and I never linger longer than the time it takes to finish my paper (one or two more cups of decaf). Considering that I am a regular as is my husband,. I cannot fathom how this is obnoxious or ignorant.

        1. re: NicoleFriedman

          Nicole - I went off on a bit of a tangent there that wasnt specifically or exculsively aimed at you. It was directed at the "campers" that sit and sit and sit, eating their $5 meal, leaving 15-20%, totally oblivious of whats going on around them (ie wait staff and owner are ready to strangle them and the customers in line are giving them the death stare).

          I have worked breakfast, at a major chain, and my policy was no singles on booths while we were on a wait. Tuesday at 3pm? Stay all freaking day! Yes I have also kicked people out too. It was usually the waitstaff who started asking me about 15 minutes after a party was done eating and by 30 minutes or so I would politely go over and remind them that we had a line of people waiting to eat and aks them to wrap things up. Funny thing is I NEVER recollect having to ask any regulars to leave.....

          1. re: NicoleFriedman

            Finishing your paper while drinking one or two more cups of decaf is the exact definition of lingering.

        2. Oh my, how harsh, joe777cool. Nicole should be able to relax and sit at a booth- I am sure she would spend more than three dollars(brunch is more than that) and even if she doesn't-so what? I do understand what you are saying- but that can't fly all the time- are people really that cold?Maybe Nicole sends a lot of friends and associates to this diner- or maybe she and her husband frequent the diner regularly. There is a lot more to business than "get em in, get em out". Have you ever heard of business goodwill?
          Maybe the owner or waitstaff could offer a two person table or something a little more solitary, to accomodate Nicole, honestly, in the whole scheme of things it is not such a big deal.

          4 Replies
          1. re: elismamie97864

            Its business - not personal. yes it is that cold sometimes. where do you draw the line? what if a diners favorite table is an 8 top? should you let them sit there? should a party of 1 get the last remaing booth and make a party of 4 wait when there are open seats at the bar?

            business goodwill only goes so far when the waitstaff is trying to pay their tuition and the owner is trying to pay their mortgage. the restaurant is there to serve you a meal, not provide you a "comfy place to relax" for as long as one may please

            I could never just sit there, we have all been there at one time or another. Waiting in line, scoping out the restaurant trying to figure out who was next to leave only to see people sit and sit while your stomach begins to eat itself. I personally think it is very selfish. And agin, this is not posted at anyone directly!

            1. re: joe777cool

              Personally, I hate booths....I find them very uncomfortable and limiting....but I'll argue a little for the OP,

              Should everyone be treated exactly the same in the original request and situation.....or should exceptions be made for good customers? When exactly does a person become a good customer anyway? Does the distinction happen with the frequency a person stops by.....or by the amount a person spends on a visit? Should it matter if you order Lobster Stew or simply two eggs with toast and coffee to determine how long you should be able to stay or where you should be allowed to park.

              From the JFK Walking Tour....


              5. Union Oyster House. JFK used to visit the Union Oyster House, famous for its traditional Yankee seafood fare, every Sunday to read the newspaper over a bowl of lobster stew. His private booth, number 18, in the dimly lit, upstairs Pine Room is dedicated in his honor. (41 Union Street, 617-227-2750; www.unionoysterhouse.com)

              1. re: fourunder

                I saw a segment on the food network where they said that JFK would read a stack of newspapers there.

                1. re: fourunder

                  "Personally, I hate booths....I find them very uncomfortable and limiting"

                  Being in the restaurant business the prized tables were always the booths....funniest thing were the people with wide girths trying to jam themselves into those booths.

            2. I don't think that any of our local restaurants would deny a booth to anyone who asked for one. They might not offer one to a singleton at a busy hour, but they wouldn't say "no," if asked.

              6 Replies
              1. re: pikawicca

                I think I'd be embarassed to ask. Esp. knowing that I wanted to relax, read the paper, whatever.

                1. re: c oliver

                  I wouldn't ask either. The only time I take up a booth when alone or spend extra time reading and relaxing is when I know there are a bunch of empty tables available for anyone who might walk in (and I always tip extra anyway). Otherwise, I have a lot of sympathy for owners and servers whose living depends upon them turning tables in a reasonable time, especially during busy Sunday brunches where they might make a good portion of their weekly take. I know it doesnt seem like much to spend 30 extra minutes to finish reading one's paper and drinking two extra cups of coffee, but if everyone did that, they'd have a major slowdown.

                  1. re: Cachetes

                    And that is just it- everyone does not do that.

                    1. re: Cachetes

                      Despite my OP, I absolutely have sympathy for the mom and pop restaurant, especially in this economy. Which is why I did not push at all when told "no". However, there is nothing wrong with being disappointed. Dining out for me is more than just the food, especially when I'm by myself. The truth is that if I cannot get a booth at this local diner, then my urge to eat there significantly decreases. They probably will make more money in the longrun with more frequent turnover of the booth I would have liked, but they will lose some of my business. On a side note, I realize that what one writes on the internet often loses its context. However, I am surprised at how some of you think I'm coming off as being demanding. If I had insisted on a booth even after being told no, then I can understand that. Is even asking the question of waiting for a booth demanding, when I am a regular customer?

                      1. re: NicoleFriedman

                        Agreed, you of course have every right to your feelings! And I live in an urban area also, and am a bit bummed that there's no where I can go to linger over Sunday brunch. Too few places, too much rush, so I just avoid the Sunday morning crowds. And I don't think you were too demanding, in fact you demanded nothing, as far as I can tell.

                        1. re: NicoleFriedman

                          You can certainly ask for a booth, even if you're NOT a regular customer. Ask for one the next time you're there, but if's it's not available or if they'd rather save the space, then sit at a counter or share the banquette. You aren't obligated to talk to anyone. I never do.

                          I'm not sure if it's your intention, but you are also giving us the impression that as a once a week regular customer you should be given deference, which I don't agree with. In NYC (especially the Outer Boroughs, everyone is a regular customer somewhere) having to give regulars preferential treatment would also mean everyone would get preferential treatment. And it would kinda put the restaurant in a bad spot, wouldn't it?

                  2. Is there a question here? I see you asked 'nicely' for a booth. However, if you're not willing to accept 'no' for an answer, it doesn't matter how nicely you asked, it's become a demand.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Lizard

                      Here's the question:

                      " Is it worth it to talk to the wait staff the next time I go there? "

                      I'd say no.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        The question should be, "Is it reasonable for a single diner to specifically request and expect a booth at a diner during a busy Sunday service?"

                        The answer, in my humble opinion, is no.

                        1. re: lynnlato

                          And I'm ok with c oliver and lynnlato saying "no" as they're directly answering my question.

                          1. re: lynnlato

                            Thanks for pointing out the question. I really didn't see it buried in there.

                            1. re: lynnlato

                              I agree with c oliver and lynnato. The exception might be if I were willing to tip at least 100%.

                          2. re: Lizard

                            How could it be a demand if I asked a question, they said no, and I took another seat?

                            1. re: NicoleFriedman

                              It's not, especially if you took another seat. However, if you did wish to press the issue and argue against them for the number of reasons you have stated in your post, it does begin to edge its way into the demand. So no, it's not worth it to speak to the staff the next time you go there.

                          3. agree with others here, you asked, they said no because it's Sunday so accept it or leave. They don't care why you want a booth for one.

                            1. It depends. If they have two-person booths, then definitely you should talk to the wait staff. If they only have four-person booths I'd say no, it would cost them too much in lost business to seat one person there during a busy period so I wouldn't consider asking.

                              1. find a less busy time to go... and Then Ask. ;-)

                                1. Isn't it always surprising that we ask a question anticipating a generally supportive response and we get the opposite.

                                  Kind as you appear to be, I really do feel it is unreasonable in this context to expect what you asked for.

                                  IMO even with being a regualr at a restaurant, it is a business arrangement, not a social interaction.

                                  Another issue, if I am waiting in line on a busy Sunday, which is my only day to go to the diner, not only will I think the single jerk in the booth reading her paper is inconsiderate, I will be aggravated at the diner for allowing such behavior and this is not good for the diner's business.

                                  1. I have found that in different parts of the country there is dissimilar attitude. I am in NY grew up in Queens. Here its churn and turn. While in school in Dallas, we would bring our books and hold a study group at the table over dinner. Nicole where are you located?

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: phantomdoc

                                      That's just it! I live in NYC (Queens) and so I am not completely surprised by the responses to this thread. I'm obviously used to the rush rush rush attitude of many New Yorkers. However, I absolutely hate that lifestyle and attitude towards life. Trust me; if I could move elsewhere I would. Even when I am with my hubby or someone else, dining with a sense of being rushed takes away a lot of the pleasure of going out in the first place. I've read all of the responses and have taken away that it's an unfair question to ask my diner when during a busy time for a booth. Which is why I will have to find somewhere else to eat my solo brunch.

                                      1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                        And then all will be satisfied.

                                        1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                          Just for clarification, I have no connection with NYC. But I would not ask for a single booth in the stated situation.

                                          It really is just a different way of looking at it. I do not see it as a moral or ethical prolem. It is just breakfast.

                                          1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                            I always feel uncomfortable at those NYC diners and luncheonettes where the tables are crammed so closely together that you have very little personal space. Yes, you have your own table, but you are literally rubbing elbows with the guy next to you.

                                            1. re: GraydonCarter

                                              And there's no room for your book, much less a newspaper.

                                        2. Maybe it is the approaching big 55, maybe it is reading hundreds of posts on similar topics on CH; maybe it is reading all the blogs on restaurants, maybe it is just the sheer tiredness of the "how dare the customer" attitiude that has reached the tipping point, but i'm beginning to rethink this issue.

                                          Wouldnt it be great if every customer in every business and every business in every business in every encouter were a pareto optimal situation. wouldn't it be great if every dish came out perfect, every server were perfect, every customer were perfect, every table was ready at the correct time, every customer ordered immediately, every customer left huge tips, everything was kum-bay-yah.

                                          But it is not. I have spent who knows how many days weeks and months with my customers and prospects without zippo business, i have spent endless hours waiting for tables, numerous meals sent back, many rude servers , several incorrect bills, and other non-pleasant incidents. I have tried to do my best in the 35+ adult years being the perfect customer in probably 99+% of the time.

                                          So in that rare instance that I want to linger, enjoy an extra cup of coffee, maybe ask for a booth as a single and read the paper and unwind for a bit, I am getting to that point where I now will do it. I've earned it.

                                          To Nicole...if you are definitely a regular during the week when the diner is not full and on an weekend you want a little payback...go for it.

                                          And if the $3 that the diner is losing on that rare sunday that you need your "me time" tips the P/L to BK, then the place had waaaaay more issues that that empty seat across from you in the booth. If economically doable in your situation, double the tip and buy a few pieces of pie to go to make up the revenue lost . If not chalk it up to quid pro quo to those visits when noone else was there.

                                          Enjoy the time. Sometimes it is just needed.

                                          1. Back in the old days, I used to sit at the counter -- didn't want to take a whole booth (or table) to myself. * Service was often more attentive; but I'd have to put with all the recovering alcoholics puffing on cigarettes and drinking endless cups of coffee.

                                            The cigarettes aren't a factor anymore (at least not where I live), but some places are taking out their counters entirely and putting tables in their place. Ho-kay, then; but I at least tried to be considerate.

                                            * also: far less chance of sitting near a couple of screaming kids

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Muskrat

                                              Yeah. I even feel guilty taking a booth for the two of us unless there's loads of available seating.

                                              1. re: Muskrat

                                                i was going to ask if there was a counter at the op's favorite diner, i find it a nice way to dine solo. but it sounds like Nicole has made up her mind to try a different venue.

                                                sometimes it's more about the pace or some other factor (the paper) when we pick a place, and sometimes it's more about killing time and relaxing than the food. diner-style restaurants must have quick service and turnover-- it doesn't seem fair for a customer to demand that they stretch the business model to accommodate extended lounging/lingering during busy times. a parisian sidewalk cafe seems more like the op's speed. she should either find a coffee shop (downside will likely be limited food menu, otoh possibly great coffee/tea drinks) or a nice table service brunch place (higher prices than the diner). there will be a trade-off, but it sounds like the relaxing pace is more important than the food or price point.

                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                  I have never liked dining at a counter. Unless I am literally starving and the food is of 5 star quality, it has never appealed to me. I have no problem waiting. A parisian cafe sounds wonderful but there isn't one to be had in my neighborhood:} I'd be happy with a good coffee shop as well; the closest thing to it is starbucks (ok in a pinch but not my idea of a good brunch place) which is often packed to the hilt anyhow. Under normal circumstances I can walk quite a bit to find other options. However, as I already stated, this has been a pretty rough few weeks. My husband is recovering from a surgery, I've been out sick for the last week... maybe I was being a bit selfish in asking but I could have really used that booth! :}

                                              2. It is a bummer and I can understand your being disappointed because it would be a relaxing thing to do. To me, the question on behavior is: what if everyone did the same? How would that affect the system? In this case, if everyone did the same, single diners wanting to linger over coffee with a paper, taking up seats made for 4, there would be a huge slowdown in service and number served and the restaurant would lose a lot of revenue. Would you be happy waiting over an hour for a table because people took up tables meant for far more customers and taking their time to relax over a couple of cups of coffee? How would you feel, as a customer waiting outside in the cold with others doing that? On off hours, there aren't enough customers to matter and then I don't see a problem with lingering.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. Question......Which newspaper did you have with you on this particular Sunday morning?

                                                  The New York Daily News
                                                  The New York Post
                                                  The New York Times

                                                  If it was one of the first three, I suspect the request could have had a different response......but armed with a Sunday Times.......they probably assumed you would be there all day reading.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: fourunder

                                                    Of course the Times would be unreasonable. I read the Post, and I'm a fast reader.

                                                    1. re: NicoleFriedman

                                                      I would seat you in the booth.......no problem. In fact, most diners in Northern New Jersey provide you copies of the Post and Daily News to read every day......including Sundays

                                                    2. re: fourunder

                                                      Or think of the Sunday Times the way it was up until the 1990's.

                                                    3. I can understand your desire to slow down. I dislike the rush, rush that life can be more and more as I get older, but how enjoyable can it be of others are waiting and the restaurant is forgoing income to accomodate you?

                                                      I think you realize this, but wish it wasn't so. I hope your next meal is slow, delicious and worth every penny.


                                                      1. I have confidence that Nicole is both curteous and aware of her surroundings, and would not Bogart a booth if she recognized that she was impeding commerce and making hungry people wait.

                                                        13 Replies
                                                        1. re: Veggo

                                                          She was but she did ask if she should talk to the waitstaff the next time.

                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                            Just reading this whole thread makes me grateful that I don't live in a community that worries about this sort of thing.

                                                            1. re: sedimental

                                                              You don't have restaurants where you live? I see this in sleepy small towns, big cities and the 'burbs. I don't find it unique to NYC at all.

                                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                                  I can vouch that it ismost definitely not unique to NYC. Having worked in the resto biz a good portion of my life and in several different states, if people are waiting for a table and a casual lone diner is finished eating and taking up a booth to leisurely read - there are people giving him/her the death stare and getting irritated with each passing minute - trust me.

                                                                  1. re: lynnlato

                                                                    Agree with lynnlato here. I doubt doubt that in your community this does not take place. But this is in no way unique to NYC.

                                                            2. re: chowser

                                                              I re-read the OP. Her family issues are of no concern to the waitstaff, and I'm not sure what they would talk about. Maybe to learn what time rush hour ends, so she could arrive later in the morning and read the paper without overstaying her welcome.

                                                              1. re: Veggo

                                                                Or earlier. I find that when we go to breakfast before 8 or 830, it's easier. Every area varies, I'm sure.

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  A long leisurely 'earlier' would drift into rush hour. For me, I'm not allowed to leave the house on weekends until I complete the Super Tough weekend sudoku puzzle, which can be as late as 8:45 if wine was involved the previous evening.

                                                                2. re: Veggo

                                                                  Not just to waitstaff but to the other customers waiting for a table. Nicole, sorry you're going through a lot right now but lingering in a booth during rush hour will probably cause a lot of ill feelings amongst those who are waiting for a table. Personally, I can't see myself relaxing in a booth reading my paper while angry customers are giving me death stares. I agree with the others that waiting until a less busy time would be the best option. Or find a place where lingering is considered acceptable.

                                                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                    "death stares" - LOL this reminds me of when I went to Hong Kong in the early 80's and was surprised that people waiting for a table in restaurants are allowed to park themselves right beside you. They'd scope out tables that were finishing and pick the one they wanted. I haven't been there for a while, I don't know if they still do that. I'd never encountered it before and I thought it was a little off-putting but it sure made you pay up and leave.

                                                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                      Ha! I just typed a reply up above and used the same term! Clearly, we're all familiar with the "death stare".

                                                                    2. re: Veggo

                                                                      Exactly--and I'd be much more comfortable and relaxed without all the other hustle and bustle of the crowds.

                                                                3. At the places I frequent, I'm more likely to give up a prime space in order to accomodate other diners and thus make things run more smoothly, rather than ask for that prime space at a busy time. Then when I'm there during less busy times, the staff and management are likely to give me that extra special attention I've earned by being a good, considerate customer.

                                                                  6 Replies
                                                                  1. re: mojoeater

                                                                    That's what I'm talkin 'about mpjoeater, I am not sure what happened to common sense and a sense of community. Give and take. For those of us that don't live in NY city.... this appears weird.

                                                                    1. re: sedimental

                                                                      I guess you missed my reply above. I currently live in a community of hundreds and before that in a small town with a population of 10k+. Saw/see this type of behavior. Definitely not limited to NYC.

                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                        I beg to differ. This is a common sense issue. If a restaurant is busy...don't ask for prime space real estate...if it's not busy...you might be the queen of the kingdom. Make friends with the owner. It's a no brainer.

                                                                        1. re: sedimental

                                                                          Sorry. I was replying to your comment that if you don't live in NYC, it's weird.

                                                                      2. re: sedimental

                                                                        What's weird to me is the broad brush you paint your attitude with regards to one incident in a one place.....and making assumptions of behavior you have no first hand knowledge of.

                                                                        1. re: fourunder

                                                                          Fourunder....your response in another post "entitlement perceptions......" would be perfect here too.

                                                                          When I read stuff like:
                                                                          " Is it worth it to talk to the wait staff the next time I go there?"
                                                                          " The truth is that if I cannot get a booth at this local diner, then my urge to eat there significantly decreases."
                                                                          "But seriously? At a hole in the wall place in Chinatown, I can understand your viewpoint." (what's that about?)

                                                                    2. imho, your expectations of this diner are out of line/unreasonable.
                                                                      if you want to linger in a booth, you should consider adjusting your schedule.

                                                                      1. Folks, we think this discussion has run its course; it's just becoming repetitive and snippy. We're locking it.