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Waiting for a table - what's your limit?

Mine is in steady decline... and I live in New Orleans, a city of wonderful food. I've just discovered that any wait of over a half hour or so (at a place that doesn't accept reservations) is almost never worth it to me.

I try to patronize places for lunch instead, if I love the food, but standing in line just almost never seems justified. I'll get all kinds of "exceptions" thrown at me, I know, and I'd be more willing to do that - or wait even with a reservation - for a truly stellar restaurant experience with a cuisine I can't get here... but I'm just less patient and a better home cook than I used to be, I guess.

What's your limit?

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  1. My patience has declined approximately 10 minutes per decade since I turned 30....
    1 hour at 30
    50 minutes at 40
    40 minutes at 50
    30 minutes as I approach 60

    and...at most places I won't even get out of the car if i see a line..............

    There are too many choices and in this bad economy no need for long waits. I don't often drink, so I'm not interested in a wait in the bar (often used evem when the table is ready to up the establishment's profit margin).

    1 Reply
    1. re: bagelman01

      Your timetable is spot on. As I approach 50, 40 minutes is about it. The longer the wait, the higher my expectations, and high expectations are never a good idea.

    2. 20 minutes, unless there's a bar where one can be seated and drink til the table opens up. Then probably 45 min.

      1. I don''t have much patience anymore....but I get more patience if I can sip some wine while I wait.

        30 minutes max.

        1. I'm the person in your group that says, "Let's go somewhere else."

          0 minutes if I'm alone.
          15 minutes if in a group and word is the place is great.
          30 minutes if in a group and someone in the group knows the place is great.

          1 Reply
          1. For me, it's a That depends. Why am I hear? Do I "really" want to taste this? That adds + to my waitablity. People with me, since I do not take folks with me to a place I have never tried, no issue. If I am the guest then the hostess/host of the party decides, unless I know them really well. Then I start whispering ""Is this wait worth it?"

            Mainly I watch the floor and the hostess/host of the room. If I see service is going well and front of the house is handling it well, I wait. But if I see incompetence, exit to the door is rather rapid.

            1. I will never wait in a line under normal circumstances. The one exception (ever) being a new place where we knew the chef and drove 40 minutes to get to the restaurant, which does not take reservations. We waited about half an hour for a table. It was worth the wait.

              1. I completely agree with both points (less patience and better at cooking at home). I can't help but remember a couple months ago, when I was dragged to a work dinner, and my husband's colleague insisted on eating at one of the few places in our city that doesn't take reservations on one of the busiest nights of the year. We couldn't really say anything because we were entertaining an out-of-town client, but my idea of a nice evening out is not to preface it by standing awkwardly in a crowded hallway/foyer for an hour. (It is also, IMO, a very over-hyped and over-priced place, but that's another story.)

                1. depends on the place.
                  place in my own city that I have been to: up to and including an hour. that said, most times I will just time it better(go late) if it's really what I want.

                  place in my own city that I haven't been to that is new/hot: 90min max, but only if the bar is avail.

                  place in other city that comes recommended by someone I know and trust: 60 min. same bar rule as above applies

                  once in a great while, destination, out of town spot: limitless. I waited 5 hours at Pizzeria Bianco. had to.....found out that Apizza Scholls in Portland OR is every single bit as good, and about 15 min away from me!:)

                  1. Yeah, probably about 1/2 an hour. Like others, I've grown more impatient the older I get. I suppose when I was in college time seemed endless. Now, any waiting time is wasted time I could be putting to better use. Also, I've yet to find a restaurant that is so significantly better than any place else I could go to that's worth an hour or more's wait.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: PegS

                      Ten minutes flat! I HATE sitting/standing around waiting for things and there are always other places to eat.

                    2. 15-30 minutes TOPS if there is a place to have a wine. Chances are the longer the wait the more service will stink and kitchen will be overwhelmed. Even the best places that usually have waits don't on off nights or earlier or later in the evening. And a wait is no indication of quality. People wait an hour or more at some chain places on the weekend. Blech!

                      1. It depends on the circumstance,place,people I'm with. If my wife and I decide to go out on a whim, and we're hungry, no waiting is allowed. If we're with friends going to a popular place (with no time constraint) we'll sit at the bar or window shop till we're beeped. One memorable (trying) experience was waiting for a table at Cheesecake factory (over an hour) with my young daughter and her friends. Hungry expectant kids aren't much fun.

                        1. If there is a bar available on premise...or close by, an hour. If not, 15 minutes.....as that usually will turn into 30 minutes...generally, .this will be at restaurants I am familiar with. If I an unfamiliar with a restaurant and there is a line out the door.....I pass on completely for another day.

                          With small children.......Pass completely

                          1. 20 minutes for a table.

                            If there's a seat at the bar, chances are I'll eat at the bar.

                            1. I tend not to wait on line to eat in a restaurant. I hate standing on line in a crowd, as many people smell of perfume or laundry products. It's one thing when they're a table away, but having to be smooshed together, as sometimes happens in lines, forced to breathe in that stench, takes all the pleasure out of it.

                              How many of you use scented detergent? Dryer sheets? Or wear perfume or cologne when you go out to eat? You may be part of the problem.

                              Something to think about.

                              3 Replies
                                1. re: Jay F

                                  I don't mind a bit being next to a lady who takes a little pride in her hygiene, or who may be wearing perfume...be glad you're not standing in line somewhere in europe!

                                  1. re: Jay F

                                    What's the saying? "Nice perfume. Must you marinate in it?"

                                  2. In South Florida (Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Miami) for some reason many top restaurants don't accept reservactions, so you have no choice but to wait. During tourist season, this means you either join the old folks for the early bird special at 4pm, or don't go out until after Passover.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: GraydonCarter

                                      If it's a restaurant you frequent I would speak to the owner and tell him you are a year a rounder. Many orders appreciate your business when the snow birds and tourists leave and might make exceptions for you during the busy season. If they are smart they would.

                                    2. 30 minutes, nothing much is worth more thn that.

                                      1. Directly proportional to how good the food is.

                                        I would never wait something like 30+ minutes to eat Olive Garden or Cheesecake Factory, like many folks seem to do on a regular basis.

                                        But if I was at Per Se or Alinea? I'd be happy to wait 30+ minutes even with a reservation, granted having to wait at either of those places is just not that likely.

                                        1. Roughly 20 minutes is pretty much the limit I and a lot of people I know use. It's the same amount of time that a lot of people use to wait for others to show up before proceeding with Plan B, and that restaurants might hold a reserved table open waiting for all to be seated, et cet. It's a handy standard gauge for the window of social time before it's wasted and can be used for something else, as it were.

                                          1. It depends on several factors. If there's a bar where I can get a seat and I'm not out of my mind with low blood sugar, I can wait an hour or so.

                                            If it's not a prime time and I'm in an area where I can easily walk to another place and likely get seated, I won't wait more than 30 minutes.

                                            I definitely won't wait in line for a sit-down restaurant.

                                            1. I agree that patience wanes as we grow older! I generally avoid places that do not take reservations, that's how bad my limit is! I would say 20 minutes or so is my limit. My DH and I rarely drink with dinner. When we used to enjoy cocktails before, going to the bar to wait would be a no brainer, but now, it's just spending more money than we wanted to.

                                              1. My impatience coefficient always stated ' l wouldn't wait 20 minutes for Christ to walk on water ' thus waiting that long is probably too long for a restaurant. l tend only to go to places that take reservations. Once there with res will only wait 15-20 until it is honored.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                                                  Wait 15-20 minutes to have a reservation honored??? No way. If I make a reservation I expect the table to be ready when I walk in.

                                                  1. re: Mother of four

                                                    You must be a business person. We will wait for 2 minutes until we declare you are late for a meeting.

                                                    I've never been to a doctor's appointment where the doctor was ontime. I am always on time or early, and he is always 15-45 minutes late.

                                                    Any time a service delivery operation has an opportunity to insert someone into the schedule ahead of you, they will. They try to shift things around, speed things up, but it never works out.

                                                    1. re: Mother of four

                                                      Restaurants like all businesses have unexpected snafu's. If It is the first time at a place with a res. and there is a 20 minute wait I am willing to wait, second time....."The last time",then it is management needs a tune up, not my business..
                                                      The problem usually with no res places; is if theyr are busy most likely other good no res. restaurants will be on wait too. Then do we want to go on a "Food Hunt or just wait and enjoy the banter in the line!!

                                                  2. Like so many others said, it depends.

                                                    No bar? I would not wait, at all. Sitting or standing in a foyer or entry drives me nuts.

                                                    With bar? I would wait up to an hour. The husband and I will often go out at the spur of the moment and in doing so, we almost expect that we will need to wait for a table and that is ok with us.

                                                    1. It depends on how hungry I am and where I am. If I'm traveling and it's my last day and I really really want to go to a particular restaurant, I'll wait. But if it's a local place, or if there will be other opportunities to go there, then 30 minutes max if I'm not too hungry.

                                                      I work in a place that reaches two hour waits almost every weekend and I have no idea how people do it. I mean, I understand tourists, but locals? I'd just ask when the best time to come is and come back another day at that time.

                                                      1. 30 minutes, max. And then, only if I'm in a big group (6+) and have no reservations. But I tend to be anal retentive about planning ahead, so that's the main time the waiting issue comes up.

                                                        1. It really depends on a bunch of things including (1) whether I believe the time estimate, (2) how much I want to eat there, (3) how comfortable is it to wait, (4) how hungry I am/how long it will take to get the food once we are seated, and (5) how long it would take to go somewhere else. Last month a friend took me out for a b-day dinner at a place I'd been wanting to try forever. It was a Monday and we got right in, and had a FABULOUS dinner. It was so good, I wanted to take my SO there that weekend. We went on Saturday night and they told us the wait would be an hour, but I wasn't starving, they were cool with us going to the bookstore down the street and checking back later, and I knew the food would be fabulous and SO would love it so we actually waited about 1.25 hours total (1 in the bookstore and about anout 15 minutes in the waiting area). My SO was shocked that I'd agree to wait that long...until he tasted the food. The dinner was TOTALLY worth the wait.

                                                          If the resto doesn't have a bar, I really like it when the resto will take your cell # down and call you when a table is clearing up so you don't have to stand there staring at the people eating their food and trying to ignore all the people staring at them wishing they'd just hurry up and finish!

                                                          1. If they don't take reservations, forget it. The restaurants that have good food take reservations. I haven't found a restaurant yet that's worth more then a five minute wait.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: Mother of four

                                                              I've been to plenty of good places that don't take reservations. But they're often "order at the counter" ethnic places, or places that have a fairly quick turn around, like my favorite pho place, so they're not the sort of place that would need a reservation system.

                                                              1. re: Terrieltr

                                                                I've also been to plenty of good restaurants that don't take reservations. Momofuko in NY, tons and tons of great small plates places in Spain, some even with Michelin reviews, upstairs at Chez Panisse, etc. Momfuko is one of the most important restaurants in the last several years. I sometimes wait and sometimes don't but it's certainly not a poor restaurant because they don't reserve tables.

                                                            2. Really depends on how I much I want to eat there, why I'm there or who I'm with

                                                              I can be extremely paitence, especially in good company. But basically, as soon as I start feeling bored or restless, I'm out of there and I'll find somewhere else.

                                                              1. Personally, I will never wait in line, but if I am with others I'm willing to wait 15-20 minutes.

                                                                1. Like everyone else, it depends. They have a bar? I'm set for quite a long time. How long will it take to go to another place just as good that might also end up having a line? I've made that particular mistake too many times to count. Those who believe that a reservation is some sort of gaurantee for that time are dreaming. It is an educated guess as to how long the people eating before you will take. Restaurants are pretty good at these estimates but you should also not be surprised when you have to wait 20 minutes because the folks ahead of you lingered and lingered. I've also seen some very good restaurants that don't take reservations. If they're so busy that there's always a line, why take reservations? If the people who ate at 6:00 left at 7:40, that table might sit empty waiting for the 8:00 reservation (that might have called and said they'll be 10 minutes late). You now have a table sitting empty for half an hour and you make no money on empty tables. If you have a line every night and don't take reservations, you never have an empty table. Anyone ever have reservations for a rental car only to find no car waiting? And don't get me started with airlines...

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: bobbert

                                                                    And that's why I don't go to those restaurants.

                                                                  2. Usually 15 minutes is my limit. My husband, on the other hand, HATES waiting. If we're with friends, I don't really mind a 30 minute wait at the bar.

                                                                    My husband used to work at a very popular restaurant in Hartford, CT where people would gladly accept the 3 hour wait. To this day, this restaurant (on a weekend) has a minimum 3 hour wait time - and no reservations accepted! Pathetic.

                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                    1. re: krisrishere

                                                                      I think what's really pathetic is the people waiting three hours for a table! Totally crazy!

                                                                      1. re: Mother of four

                                                                        Oh my, can't imagine a 3 hour wait--what's so special about the food that makes it supposedly-worth the wait? What on earth do you do doing those 3 hours? My tolerance gets shorter as I age. I think it's about 20 minutes now, and even then, I'm not happy.

                                                                    2. I'm not good at waiting....maybe 15-20 mins if I am really having a craving for a certain something that particular place has. Usually I just go elsewhere and try again another night. If I am with others who want to wait I usually will, for a reasonable time anyways before I start grumbling ;-)
                                                                      Unlike others this has not changed with age-if anything I'm more patient now LOL!

                                                                      1. 15 minutes. I don't like waiting.

                                                                        1. I wonder if they are having this discussion in Haiti......................................

                                                                          1 Reply