HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Sharing a table?

Question for this board, I did not post in the General Topics Board because I was looking for the area's perspective (maybe it will be moved).

The question is sharing a table at a restaurant?

If you go to a restaurant that has a waiting list for tables, not reservations, or reservation only area, but an area with a first come first served list.

If there are empty spots in that particular area, is it a no-no to ask to share a table?
Is it a no-no because you irritate people waiting, that don’t have the sensibility to ask?
Is this considered queue jumping?

Thanks for the input.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. it would never occur to me to ask if i could share a table with a stranger, although when i was a girl, my Mom took me to the Horn & Hardart Automat in NYC (in the late 1950's) and a strange man just sat down at our table and it made me very uncomfortable. it was an expected occurrence at automats, i'm not sure why; but i don't think i'd like it now, as an adult. i'd feel put on the spot, and not want to say no, but i probably wouldn't welcome small talk with a stranger, especially if i was on a date or wanted to chat privately with a friend.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Manderley

      Shared table seating was very common at popular price restaurants in midtown Manhattan during the lunch rush. There is just so much space, time and so many people to be fed. I had an office in the garment district during the 1980s and host/hostesses would constantly direct individual diners to open seats at tables that were not at capacity. Even if there was no employee seating patrons, it was not unusual for a patron to ask if the empty seat at your table was available.
      However, this did not lead to shared conersations in most cases. people had limited time and understood the need to eat and move on and let the restaurant turn the seats.

    2. l do it all the time if available, no worries. Has worked fine, generally l scare the other people away as taken up on sharing less than l ask for it.

      1. I think it depends on the restaurant and the seating arrangement. I often eat solo at Chinese places where I'm seated at a big round table with people I don't know. But if I were at the same restaurant, dining with a friend at a four-top, I'd think it was pretty weird if a single person joined us. Are we supposed to talk to this person? Will s/he feel excluded if we don't?

        1. I hate it when people ask to share my table. If it's a bar, or family-style seating, then by all means, sit next to me. I'm in that kind of mood or I wouldn't be there. But if not, then no. What am I supposed to say, interview them first? "Probably, but are you going to smack while you eat, try to talk to me while I'm reading, or otherwise have appalling table manners?" A new addition, brought about by experience, would be "are you going to pile all your stuff on the chair next to me, blocking me in, and refuse to move it when I need to get out?"

          I wish all people were a joy to be around, but alas, they are not. Unless you are certain you belong to former category, please do not ask to share my table.

          Also, you are kind of jumping in front of other people, since, you know, that other person might leave in 10 minutes, and there you are for another 20.

          1. At casual seat yourself places, I don't have a problem with asking strangers if I can have the empty seat at their table, and I don't mind if someone asks to join me or my party. I've met some very interesting people through shared seating.

            At restaurants with hostess seating, but still casual, I will let the hostess know that I don't mind sharing a table with strangers. It might get me seated faster, might not. I think of it as the single rider line at amusement parks - it benefits the restaurant to fill as many seats as possible, and it doesn't harm anyone b/c the seat would otherwise be empty. As for "queue jumping," it's no different than accepting first available when there is a long wait for a seat on the patio.

            1. I'm in DC. We do this all the time, and people often ask me. I've been known to take pity on (timid) people waiting and offer them the free spot.

              2 Replies
              1. re: odkaty

                So am I, and work and eat lunch downtown, and I've only seen it rarely - at DC-3 and BGR, both of which have very limited seating.

                1. re: odkaty

                  When I worked in D.C. it was common in the Union Station food court.

                  I've always hated sharing tables.

                2. I don't want to share a table with you, or I'd already be with you. No offense, but I want to eat with who I came with and nobody else, including if I came alone.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: rockandroller1

                    Right there with you. The whole thing is just awkward and I do not want to feel uncomfortable when I am trying to relax and enjoy a meal.

                    1. re: rockandroller1

                      There are downtown lunch places in which this is done all the time. The kinds of places where you are sitting closer to the people at the next table than someone at your table, so there is hardly any difference, anyway. Accepting is de riguer. I have never known anyone to refuse or even look uncomfortable saying yes. I always get a welcoming response. In fact, it would be weird to refuse.

                    2. Where I am it's not customary to share tables (the occasional noodle bar type place excepted)

                      1. If I've already paid at the counter, no problem unless you have perfume (or other scented products) on your body. Don't want to sit with you if I can smell you.

                        1. Another thought - my parents met in college when the cafeteria was full, and my mom saw a cute guy sitting alone. She asked if she could join him, and they hit it off. Pretty soon they were eating lunch together every day, and were married less than a year later.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: mpjmph

                            My parents met kind of the same way on a golf course. Her group was so slow that Dad's group said "either let us play through or join us". They joined up and have been married for 48 years, and still golf!

                            1. re: mpjmph

                              I was once struggling for somewhere to sit in an establishment and asked a lady sitting alone if I could occupy the seat next to her. I apologised and explained that I couldn't stay on my feet for very long due to a knee injury. She was almost finished and when she got up to leave she gave me a poem she had written. While I certainly didn't expect her to allow me to take the seat I was grateful she gave it to me and I got an unexpected surprise. But it's not something I would normally do and is not the norm around here.

                            2. Before I was married, I traveled a lot alone, some business but also for pleasure. I also cared about where I ate.

                              Often, waiting in line for a table, I'd chat with folks in line. Often they'd invite me to join their table. I never had a bad experience.

                              This happened in Louisiana, D.C., Kansas, Oregon, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Virginia....just off the top of my head's memories. Most of those meals were memorable both for the food as well for the locals' stories about their lives.

                              1. I didn't know this was even done. I've never been asked this or even thought to ask or offer to someone else.

                                There was one time a friend and I sat at a table that was really three 2-tops pushed together, and so I ended up sitting right next to the strangers beside me. It made it difficult to hold a conversation with my friend across the table, but I remember the food and complementary wine spritzers more vividly than the other patrons, so I guess it wasn't that big a deal. But I'd prefer my own table.

                                1. A few months back I was in a small Bolivian place that sold mostly baked goods and lunch items. Only about four tables, but popular for saltenas, a kind of soupy empanada.

                                  A rather elegant gentleman from Bolivia asked to sit at my table, since the others were full. Turns out he was an engineer with expertise in drilling tunnels and traveleled all over the world working on such pojects.

                                  He told me as a teenager the game his friends would play: it's hard to eat a saltena without spilling the soup inside, so the first round everyone paid for themselves, but the first one who spiiled the soup would have to pay for the next round.

                                  Not only did he show me how to eat it 'properly' but it was just a great experience that I could not have imagined otherwise.

                                  1. Seems that it is more common in big cities, and of course more common in less expensive places. There are places in Honolulu where it is customary, especially food courts at lunchtime, plate lunch places, or someplace with limited seating. On rare occasions I've even seen two previous single dinners join up so that a couple could sit together. Of course it was voluntary, no one asked them to do it. Still it was a nice gesture.

                                    1. It doesn't bother me one bit in casual places. It's happened to me plenty of times abroad while traveling and eating alone or just with one other person. And it happens a lot here around my neigborhood in casual bar/restaurant places that fill up quickly on Friday and Saturday nights or when there's a game on tv or live music. I can't say that I've ever met anyone terribly fascinating, but nothing creepy has ever happened either.