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Dec 11, 2010 02:40 PM

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;

              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.