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Bar-Seating and Reservation Etiquette

aching May 2, 2011 11:07 AM

When dining out last week (at the Spice Table in DTLA, for you LA Hounds), two questions of etiquette came up on which I would be interested to hear others' opinions. The set-up: I had made a reservation for 7 PM on Thursday evening for myself and two friends. I arrived at the restaurant right on time, but both of my friends were running late.

Question #1 - I checked in with the hostess and explained that my friends were late. I said that I'd be happy to be seated at our table or to wait at the bar, whichever worked better for them. She asked me to wait at the bar - it was full, but she pointed out a party that was just wrapping up, and said that I could take one of their seats as soon as they left. When they did, a few minutes later, I took a seat and ordered a drink. After I received my drink, a different hostess (or manager, I'm not sure) came up to me and said that another party had been waiting for the seats, and basically, would I please leave. I politely told her that the other hostess had told me to sit there. She consulted with the first hostess, who came over to me, somewhat embarrassed, and told me that the other party had come in after me but that they were ordering food, so they took precedence. I don't like to make a scene, and I felt a bit at fault since it was my friends who were late in the first place, so I gave up the seat - but it seemed odd to me.

Question #2 - At 7:15, my friends still had not arrived, and the hostess or manager explained that they couldn't hold reservations past 15 minutes. I knew my friends were only a few minutes away, so I asked her if she could tell us when she needed our table for the next group. She said 8:45, so I asked if she would hold our table for a few more minutes if we promised to be out of there by 8:45. She agreed and seemed very grateful for the offer. When my friends arrived, I explained the situation - and they thought it was very rude of the restaurant! Personally, I thought it was perfectly fair since we were the ones (collectively) who were late - but I would have thought it was rude if we had been on time.

Thoughts?

  1. l
    LeoLioness May 2, 2011 11:17 AM

    1. Sounds like a miscommunication between the hosts and you got the short end of the stick. I think that considering you were already sitting, drink in hand, they should have just let it go and apologized to the couple for the mixup.

    2. Your friends are 100% on the wrong (and you handled it well). What do they think a reservation is for, exactly? To assure them a table whenever they want to eat, regardless of how that affects anyone else?

    1. s
      small h May 2, 2011 11:39 AM

      Question #2 is easy. Your friends are wrong. They were late, and they deserved to be rushed. In fact, they were lucky to be seated at all.

      Question #1 is a little trickier. If your seat usurpers arrived after you did, it's hard to see how they could have been waiting longer than you. It seems like there was a (completely understandable) lack of communication between the hostessess. Unfortunately, you came out on the losing end, but I can see why a restaurant would want a party of eaters at the bar, rather than a solo short-term drinker. I would've thrown you a free drink to make nice.

      1 Reply
      1. re: small h
        g
        grant.cook May 2, 2011 11:50 AM

        Agree on this one - if they ask courteously, knowing that you may only be there a few minutes, and you have a drink (which you could drink standing up), I can accept their request... probably would have comp'd you a drink, though like small h states.

        I will say I consider bar seating at most places sort of a free-for-all, with the host/hostess being able to make limited short term holds to accomodate parties if its during the prime of dinner service..

        As for #2, if the place is crowded, you are lucky they held it. They had alllowed for your party 1:45 for dinner, maybe up to 2 hrs assuming the follow on party could be held for a bit. They gave you a 15 min cushion, which is very reasonable. You are already a 3 person party, likely sitting at a 4-top, so a seat is being lost.. Your friends delay may have meant they'd lose that next cover entirely. That's a big thing for a restaurant..

        If you had been on time, the restaurant would have timed service so that you had a comfortable meal and your check came out to 3 satisfied diners before 8:45, so you'd not even notice the subtle pressure. If you sat there at the end trying to nurse coffees for another 45 min, they'd have probably said something.

      2. chowser May 2, 2011 12:01 PM

        I think you handled it fine and graciously. The mistake in the initial seating was the restaurant's fault and you were nice to go with the flow but your friends seem a feel entitled. To be late, and not incredibly apologetic but be offended by the problem they created is self-centered, at best. If your friends had arrived on time, as you said, all the the preceding events happened, then you would be justified in being offended.

        1. n
          nobadfoodplz May 2, 2011 03:17 PM

          If you were early and were waiting at the bar and your friends would have been on time I would not have moved. The other people can wait.

          But your friends were late and you needed a favor from the restaurant for them holding the reservations, so smartness says to stand. And nice thinking on your feet with the I will leave offer. and smart of the restaurant for accepting.

          BTW - your friends were wrong for thinking the restaurant were rude. More self entitlement.

          1. aching May 2, 2011 03:48 PM

            Thanks for the replies - glad to know I'm not crazy! These friends are not particularly self-entitled people in general at all, but they both are often late. I am rarely late, so I wondered if I was overreacting as we anally punctual people sometimes do. =)

            44 Replies
            1. re: aching
              e
              escondido123 May 2, 2011 08:33 PM

              I don't see any reason to call yourself "anally punctual" as if being on time is a bad thing. Most of the people I know who are always late find they have better things to do until the last minute and expect everyone else to indulge them. I now tell those kind of people an hour earlier, and they still barely make it for the "real" time.

              1. re: escondido123
                aching May 3, 2011 07:39 AM

                I don't think it's a bad thing, but I think the habitually tardy do! =) As I get older I try more and more not to let my own values/quirks/peeves cause me to get annoyed with other people and miss out on what could otherwise be enjoyable interactions. This dinner is a perfect example - we had a lovely evening, despite the rocky start.

                1. re: aching
                  l
                  Lixer May 3, 2011 04:58 PM

                  I was always a very punctual kid, then my high school band director drilled into my head "If you're early you're on time. If you're on time, you're late." as we had to be in our spots on the football field ready to play at 7 am.
                  Peoples' lateness irks me so much since I think it's a form of rudeness. It's amazing how many have no concept of time. I guess I'm the one that needs to chill and just go with it.

                  1. re: Lixer
                    e
                    escondido123 May 3, 2011 05:09 PM

                    I invited a friend to dinner last night..she will be one of five and has NEVER been on time in the dozen times we've been in the same group, different hosts. I accepted and I told her half an hour earlier than everyone else, who are all punctual. She said,"Well I'm planning to get a massage, how would it be if I came late? Before I could stop myself I said "Typical." I no longer get mad about it, but I don't act like it is nothing. It is just plain rude to host and other guests.

                    1. re: escondido123
                      bagelman01 May 4, 2011 05:57 AM

                      My brother and sister in law were always late for holiday meals at my mother's home. Dinner at 1 and at 1:20 the phone would ring and they said they were another 25 minutes driving time. My mother tolerated this twice. The third holiday, silver, china and crystal were cleared after each course and when the late couple arrived only main course and dessert was served to them. My SIL attempted to walk in the kitchen to get soup and was told to sit down, if she wanted a full meal, arrive on time. By the 5th holiday, my mother cleared the entire place setting at 1:15 and had my uncle remove the chairs from the table. When the ever tardy couple arrived, my father announced: "Your reservation has been cancelled, maybe you can get a table at the diner."

                      They were on time for holiday meals after that.

                      The OP's friends sound just plain inconsiderate. The restaurant had no obligation to hold the reservation, but also had no business asking OP to move positions in the bar after seating the OP. Personally, if I was the OP, I would be losing the friends and the restaurant.

                      1. re: bagelman01
                        thew May 4, 2011 06:27 AM

                        wow. just wow. if that's how one treats family, i wonder how they deal with the rest of the world. (and no, i am NOT speaking of the late couple)

                        1. re: thew
                          bagelman01 May 4, 2011 06:31 AM

                          It is sad that my brother and his wife treated my mother with such disrespect as to always arrive late.

                          1. re: bagelman01
                            viperlush May 4, 2011 06:57 AM

                            I agree with you and applaud what your mother did. For years my aunt and her family would do this to my family. Show up late or not show up at all (my cousin was notorious for doing this). It got to the point where it was just easier/ less stressful for my family to just spend the holidays just us or with the various in laws.

                            1. re: viperlush
                              thew May 4, 2011 07:31 AM

                              you all have the right to feel that way obviously. we tend to be a bit looser than that in my family. if someone is late - it has not ruined anyones time. they get just as much food and love as if they were early.

                              1. re: viperlush
                                j
                                Janet from Richmond May 4, 2011 07:40 AM

                                My Ex-husband's daughter and her SO are ALWAYS late for dinners. Always.

                                One year we held off serving dinner until they arrived, which also screwed up everyone else's day as they had other places to be. Since then I have only invited them for dessert, coffee, gifts.

                              2. re: bagelman01
                                l
                                Lizard May 4, 2011 07:31 AM

                                Exactly, the issue is those who assume everyone will wait on them. I don't know how I'd address the issue myself, but I can assure Thew, that when it comes to the "rest of the world" it means those who had meetings with me will need to reschedule, those submitting work may or may not have it accepted (depending on previously agreed deadline penalties), and those meeting me at the cinema will find me seated inside so that I don't have to miss the start of the film (if that was our plan).
                                Thew, if this had been a one-time thing in which there were extenuating circumstances, fine. Then the "no soup for you" response might have been a bit much. But this was a matter of setting boundaries and rules and no longer tolerating entitlement.
                                As for those above (like aching) being apologetic for being punctual, I am reminded of a friend who was always very late (so much so that I would refuse to meet on street corners, knowing that would mean standing outside for 45 min) but who once told me "I know you have a thing about being on time, so I make an effort to accommodate you." I told someone else about this. She laughed, and wondered if my friend offered up statements like "I know how you have a thing about people not stealing from you, so I make an effort not to go through your wallet".
                                I know being on time can be difficult. I struggle with it myself. But thinking about others and being respectful of their time is an effort we're supposed to make and not just when it's convenient or easy. This entitlement that establishes that all wait on them and they wait on no one is not on.

                                1. re: Lizard
                                  thew May 5, 2011 07:08 AM

                                  i dont think a family celebration and a business meeting need have the same rules and expectations

                                  1. re: thew
                                    bagelman01 May 5, 2011 07:18 AM

                                    same rules and expectations, no.
                                    I can choose not to do business with you if you are not timely. Your being part of the family is decided by birth, adoption, marriage or divorce (not my decision).

                                    That said, the host gets to set the rules and if punctuality is important to the host, be on time or suffer the consequences, Why should my mother have had her meal interrupted to serve courses more than once, just because certain family members are habitually late?

                                    1. re: bagelman01
                                      thew May 5, 2011 07:56 AM

                                      she's free to do as she pleases. i'm just speaking for myself - i would rather my habitually late brother feel welcome in my home, and feel loved, than spare my self the incredibly (again to me) slight inconvenience of having to get a bowl of soup out of order for him

                                      1. re: thew
                                        chowser May 5, 2011 08:51 AM

                                        At a restaurant, it's not that simple. You lose your reservation and you lose your time over someone else's thoughtlessness. My sister can feel loved all she wants to but when she was 20 minutes late to her informal bridal shower in a restaurant and we lost our reservations while a friend had flown in across the country from NYC, it's not just a minor inconvenience of getting out another bowl. That's typical and not a one time thing. I won't even get into how she was almost late for my wedding and forgot the rings. I love her and she knows it but there are times when her actions aren't lovable.

                                        1. re: chowser
                                          thew May 5, 2011 07:39 PM

                                          at a restaurant is different.

                                          1. re: thew
                                            chowser May 6, 2011 08:58 AM

                                            Lateness is most people carries over to all aspects of life, restaurants, dinners, appointments, etc. I served purple gray chicken (a dish similar to coq au vin) at a dinner party when the person the party was for was an hour late. It was barely edible. Probably my fault because I should have known she is always late, just not usually an hour.

                                        2. re: thew
                                          ursy_ten May 5, 2011 02:23 PM

                                          And your habitually late brother probably knows that it's no big deal to you. It would be pretty rude though if he persisted, knowing that it was bothering other people.

                                          My sister is habitually late - it does irk me when we have reservations but if we're just at home and it's a casual affair, I just factor that in and totally expect her to be late. That way she never disappoints me :)

                                          1. re: thew
                                            n
                                            nobadfoodplz May 6, 2011 03:04 PM

                                            Mr Thew

                                            I think they are separate questions. My children are always welcome in my home, feel loved and all that stuff. But I am still their parent and if they do something wrong I make the tough call and tell them that their behavior is not acceptable. Dinner at a certain time, they consistently show up late, I tell them to respect other people's time. Whether it is a restaurant or my family respect extends to all. You disrespect a committed time, well then you go without that homemade chicken soup. Now the kids do not want to do that a second time.

                                            1. re: nobadfoodplz
                                              thew May 7, 2011 06:49 AM

                                              i understand your point. i prefer to teach unconditional love.

                                              1. re: thew
                                                n
                                                nobadfoodplz May 7, 2011 09:41 AM

                                                Mr Thew

                                                Respect and unconditional love are not mutually exclusive.

                                                1. re: nobadfoodplz
                                                  thew May 7, 2011 10:17 AM

                                                  nope. but the focus is different

                                                  1. re: thew
                                                    n
                                                    nobadfoodplz May 7, 2011 11:05 AM

                                                    nope, each take 100% focus and acceptance.

                                                    i am done with this inane discussion

                                                    1. re: nobadfoodplz
                                                      thew May 7, 2011 12:11 PM

                                                      people having different viewpoints does not make them inane. not their differing viewpoints.

                                                      1. re: thew
                                                        l
                                                        Lizard May 8, 2011 03:56 AM

                                                        Not that I have even a part of this conversation, but, Thew:

                                                        * Nobadfoodplz called the conversation inane, not the people involved.

                                                        * I would argue that the conversation was a nonstarter given the false premise you established: that any effort to address behaviours and inculcating respect for others is somehow counter to love.Or "unconditional love." Allowing people to think that any form of correction or lesson that actions have consequences is a withdrawal of love or support strikes me as something of a snowflake machine.

                                                        We can dispute the methods, of course, but the frame you placed on the debate wasn't helpful for debate over the question over how we understand tardiness, particularly in regards to restaurant reservations and meeting with friends.

                                                        1. re: Lizard
                                                          thew May 8, 2011 06:20 AM

                                                          this subthread was not about restaurants, but family coming over for holiday dinners. a very different situation

                                                          1. re: thew
                                                            l
                                                            Lizard May 8, 2011 08:49 AM

                                                            Thew, you may wish to reread my post. I think the point stands. And frankly, treating one's parent (or anyone else for that matter) like a short order cook is not kind or respectful-- nor is a parent letting the child know that a matter of not loving, or loving with conditions.

                                                            I'm not saying you can't disagree with how the family handles this issue-- or about anything else for that matter. But presuming that this has anything to do with how much people within a family love one another, or reading this as the application of conditions for love seems very much misguided.

                                                            1. re: Lizard
                                                              thew May 8, 2011 09:17 AM

                                                              to me - love is first and foremost about acceptance.

                                                              1. re: thew
                                                                l
                                                                Lizard May 8, 2011 10:21 AM

                                                                ? Nothing to do with what's being said here. One thing to unconditionally accept and love a person. Another to unconditionally accept and love a behaviour. You seem to be conflating the two.

                                                                1. re: Lizard
                                                                  thew May 8, 2011 11:38 AM

                                                                  not at all. as i said - speaking only for myself, with the caveat that my family has never been much into formal meals anyway, i prefer my brother and his family there, and welcome them with open arms, early or late, and the food will flow as freely if they are the first or the last to show up.

                                    2. re: bagelman01
                                      n
                                      nobadfoodplz May 4, 2011 04:27 PM

                                      Totally agree with what your parents did, good for them. Being a parent actually means being a parent and it does not stop when the adult child acts like the child. You have to make the tough calls and call a spade a spade.

                                    3. re: thew
                                      c
                                      CanadaGirl May 9, 2011 04:24 PM

                                      Why should everyone that has been considerate enough to arrive in time for the scheduled meal time have to eat a cold meal, or one that is overcooked from being held, to accomodate people who are consistently late?

                                      They were right to begin the meal.

                                      1. re: CanadaGirl
                                        thew May 9, 2011 04:50 PM

                                        they don't. of course they were right to begin the meal

                                        people can eat as they eat. then when the late comers come, they eat. my problem was not allowing them to have the soup or whatever appetizer because they were late

                                        it's a family holiday, not dinner with queen of the may.

                                    4. re: bagelman01
                                      j
                                      jlhinwa May 5, 2011 08:06 PM

                                      That is incredibly rude and I respect your mother's direct way of handling it. I think it is Dr. Phil who says we teach people how to treat us. Drawing a line in the sand and saying "no more" is a very clear way to teach someone what is okay. After all, they are guests and someone has gone to much work to present a lovely holiday meal with all the trimmings (china, crystal, multiple courses, etc.). That's a lot more effort than takeout on paper plates and deserves consideration, though really, one should always be considerate of how their choices impact others.

                                      My husband and I work together on most holiday meals or dinner parties. He has absolutely zero tolerance for tardiness. I am a little more laid back and am happy to use the second oven to keep things warm. He works hard to time the meal components to be ready together at a specified time.If he says "Dinner at 7:00," he means dinner is at 7:00. Not "show up at 7:00" or later. He makes that clear when we invite someone new over.

                                      We used to have a couple join us on many holidays (family out of town) that could not ever seem to get it together to be on time. So we would sit down promptly at the appointed hour and begin eating without them and when they showed up mid-way through the meal, none of us stopped what we were doing. The first time, I was mortified and thought my husband was rude. The next time, I thought they were incredibly rude--couldn't believe they didn't get it after the previous holiday. As a result, we began inviting them less often, say maybe once out of every three or four times that we otherwise would have.

                                      Ultimately the lovely couple divorced and the husband is now blissfully punctual to everything, as is his new fiance. Apparently his former wife had the tardiness problem but he never wanted to rat her out.

                                      People are very interesting. I am always amazed at when and how the entitlement attitude shows up.

                                      1. re: jlhinwa
                                        m
                                        Mother of four May 9, 2011 05:00 PM

                                        I truly think it is about the person wanting attention! I have had friends like that, that are no longer friends. I also have DDIL's parents that are like that, DDIL too, and I have done exactly what your husband did. They love the attention, plus they are such important people!! LOL!

                            2. re: aching
                              s
                              smartie May 2, 2011 08:38 PM

                              if they are often late then why tell them 7pm. Tell them 6.30 and you be on time at 7.

                              1. re: smartie
                                aching May 3, 2011 07:33 AM

                                I actually thought of that, but lying to my friends about the time of the reservation seemed manipulative. Next time I probably will suggest that we meet half an hour early for a drink (and then we can skip the drink if they're late).

                                1. re: aching
                                  Angel Food May 4, 2011 07:57 AM

                                  I don't think it's any more wrong than them expecting you to tolerate their tardiness. I do this all the time - one too many times I've made the reservations then been stuck fending for the table waiting for everyone else to arrive. I tell the group, we're on for 6:30, and make the reservation for 6:45 or 7:00 (30 mins if it's a bigger group & I know we won't be seated with an incomplete party).

                              2. re: aching
                                psb May 4, 2011 02:50 PM

                                >but they both are often late.
                                >
                                are they "only" late for dinner rsvps or do they also late for for movies, theater/opera, and international flights too?

                                1. re: psb
                                  aching May 10, 2011 12:22 PM

                                  Well, for anyone who's interested in the specific foibles of my friends - I think they do both tend to cut it really close for other time-sensitive events like the ones you mention and sometimes do end up a few minutes late, but at least for the ones that I've met them for it really has only been a matter of minutes. And I'm certainly not claiming perfection myself - I've misjudged traffic, gotten stuck on conference calls, or simply lost track of time before too. My husband is much better about punctuality than I am - I've actually made him sit outside in the parked car with me when we've arrived at a dinner party ten minutes early at his insistence, as I think it's an intrusion to show up early at someone's house (which is a whole different topic!). Anyway, I love these friends and I'm not dropping them - I just wondered if my perception was off, or theirs, and I think the clear consensus here at least is that my sense was correct. =)

                                  1. re: aching
                                    l
                                    Lixer May 10, 2011 01:29 PM

                                    Lol, sitting in the car is definitely a burden that an early bird like me knows verrrry well. I make sure to keep a good book in there for when I overestimate driving time.

                                    1. re: Lixer
                                      aching May 10, 2011 06:22 PM

                                      I stream Netflix on my iPhone/iPad when I have time to kill sitting in the car - love it!

                                2. re: aching
                                  LindaWhit May 9, 2011 08:55 AM

                                  Time to start telling these friends that the reservation is a half hour earlier than they actually are. ;-)

                                  1. re: aching
                                    m
                                    Mother of four May 9, 2011 04:54 PM

                                    I also am always on time, and it really aggravates me when people are not. It's really an insult, implying you just are not important!
                                    The restaurant should definitely have bought you a glass of wine for giving up the seat you were all ready occupying. Sort of nervy of them asking you to leave, not good PR!

                                  2. GraydonCarter May 2, 2011 06:22 PM

                                    I know restaurants do this all the time: think of the bar as additional seating... but it isn't. It is a bar. People stand at the bar, sit down, stand up, mix it up. It is chiefly for drinking. If a seat is open, sit in it.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: GraydonCarter
                                      rockandroller1 May 5, 2011 09:10 AM

                                      I agree with graydoncarter - if it were a bar TABLE, that would be different. But bar seating is open season for whomever snags the seat first, and I think the hostesses are completely in the wrong to try to "reserve" these seats or promise them to anyone once this party or that one gets up. If they're going to do that, the bar seats need to be put into the reservation system just like tables.

                                      And to echo all the others, yes, your friends were wrong and you were right in planning to vacate by 8:45.

                                      1. re: rockandroller1
                                        Up With Olives May 6, 2011 10:24 AM

                                        Thank you, GraydonCarter. Back when the bar was just a bar and not diner seating the o.p.'s incident wouldn't have happened.

                                    2. r
                                      Raids May 5, 2011 01:58 PM

                                      You were asked to move from a bar stool? What??? If anything, they knew you were waiting for a table and would only be a few more minutes. Nobody has ever, ever asked me to move from a bar stool, at any caliber of establishment.

                                      Regarding your late friends, I think the restaurant was fair as long as that is their consistent policy. I thought the way you handled it was perfect also.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Raids
                                        GraydonCarter May 6, 2011 08:01 AM

                                        > consistent policy

                                        I always wonder what would happen if you give the hostess a $50. I mean if it were an important client or something. I don't have that much spare cash. Remember on the Seinfeld episode "The Chinese Restaurant" when Elaine gave the restaurant owner a $20 and he didn't do anything except pocket the bill.

                                        1. re: GraydonCarter
                                          r
                                          Raids May 9, 2011 10:39 AM

                                          Yeah, true enough. Recently, I tried to reserve the only lounge table at a popular wine bar/restaurant and was told they don't reserve that space. Okay, no problem, I showed up at opening time, 5:30pm to grab it for my book club, took off work early to do this, and when the doors opened, what was on that table but a "reserved" sign?

                                          Yeah. The other lounge tables are all for 2-3 people and are actually bolted to the floor. They suggested we just spread all 8 of us out at the bar. Fine, don't take my money, whatever. Instead our group dropped $400 on snacks and drinks at a lounge a couple blocks over.

                                          For DC residents, that was at Proof. Consider yourself warned.

                                          1. re: Raids
                                            n
                                            nobadfoodplz May 9, 2011 03:12 PM

                                            Raids

                                            Nicely done. You did not receive what you desired and you left no money to the restaurant.

                                      2. Veggo May 8, 2011 07:01 AM

                                        For years in Colorado I had reprobate golf buddies who were self-important and chronically late for reservations. Numerous times I negotiated to be seated before they arrived with the understanding that I would order drinks and dinner for all four within minutes. The later they arrived, the more ice melt was in their drinks and the colder was their dinner. And the no-shows owed me later.

                                        1. jgg13 May 16, 2011 01:54 PM

                                          The only rudeness were on the part of your two companions. I loathe people who are late. And as they say, if you're on time, you're late.

                                          1. b
                                            BelovedofIsis May 18, 2011 09:32 AM

                                            I have a question, why didn't you just take the table with out your friends? You could have ordered your drink at the table or ordered an appetizer while you waited for them to arrive?

                                            I HATE it when people are late Especially for FOOD (I get really crabby when I'm hungry). So when I'm on time and other people are late for our reservation I take our table and inform the hostess to direct my friends to my table and I proceed to order my wine, if there are freebies on the table such as bread I munch on that, if not I order an app. I have a good friend who is chronically late, I don't mean like 5-10 mins I mean 30-60min late consistently (even to work!) I would have her over for dinner frequently and after two or three times of having to make my family or other guests wait for that time while trying to keep the food warm and palatable I just started popping her portion in the oven/microwave and everyone else went ahead and enjoyed their meal fresh.

                                            27 Replies
                                            1. re: BelovedofIsis
                                              s
                                              small h May 18, 2011 09:35 AM

                                              <I have a question, why didn't you just take the table with out your friends?>

                                              Because many restaurants will not seat incomplete parties. And the OP says that the hostess asked him/her to wait at the bar.

                                              1. re: small h
                                                b
                                                BelovedofIsis May 18, 2011 10:41 AM

                                                To quote the OP "I said that I'd be happy to be seated at our table or to wait at the bar, whichever worked better for them."
                                                I wouldn't have asked, I would have requested to be seated.

                                                I haven't run into a situation where the restaurant would not seat an incomplete party. I mean what if they called and said they couldn't make it? Would they not seat me for my reservation because my friends called out last minute? That hardly seems fair since I made the reservation and I showed up on time, just because it ended up being 1-2 rather than 2-3 doesn't mean I should lose my reservation! I have been stood up by my husband (usually due to work, US military gotta love it) many times at restaurants where reservations were made and I ended up dining alone, I have never been turned away because of this.

                                                1. re: BelovedofIsis
                                                  LindaWhit May 18, 2011 10:52 AM

                                                  But if you choose to eat there, you play by their rules. And if their rules are such that they don't seat the group until everyone is there, thems the breaks.

                                                  1. re: LindaWhit
                                                    b
                                                    BelovedofIsis May 18, 2011 10:58 AM

                                                    If I was refused my dinner reservation because my husband ended up having to get on a plane to Afghanistan instead of making it to dinner with me and our friends I would have a thing or two to say to the manager. That is just extremely unreasonable and a place like that doesn't deserve my patronage.

                                                    1. re: BelovedofIsis
                                                      j
                                                      Jase May 18, 2011 12:26 PM

                                                      There's a big difference in the scenario you just described. There's two different things that are being confused here in this sub discussion.

                                                      1. Taking up a table waiting for the rest of your party to arrive because they're running late.

                                                      2. Your party size changed and what you have now is set.

                                                      In the first case, most busy restaurants will not seat an incomplete party and justifiably so for the many reasons already discussed. In the second case, most restaurants will do their best to accommodate and get you seated if everyone is already there.

                                                      1. re: BelovedofIsis
                                                        LindaWhit May 18, 2011 01:08 PM

                                                        Whoa. COMPLETELY not what I said. I was speaking to the original scenario. *You* are the one who added the military factor into the equation, Isis, which doesn't factor into this situation at all.

                                                        So I repeat - the restaurant has their rules, which they follow. Should you not like those rules, you don't eat there.

                                                    2. re: BelovedofIsis
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                                                      escondido123 May 18, 2011 10:59 AM

                                                      There are many restaurants that won't seat an incomplete party because they never know when the other folks will actually show up, if ever. Meanwhile one person is sitting at a table for six, while another party of six is waiting. Not always fair, but good to ask when you make a reservation.

                                                      1. re: escondido123
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                                                        BelovedofIsis May 18, 2011 11:06 AM

                                                        This scenario I agree with somewhat, if you had a table for ten and only 5 showed fine give me a smaller table or move us to a smaller table or separate the tables, whatever they need to do. But I do think it is unreasonable if only 1 person can't make it then the whole group is refused the table/reservation all together. Or its a 2-4 person group which takes the same table size, so what if there are only 3 people at a 4 person table because one person couldn't make it? Why turn away the 3 people who could make and were on time?????

                                                        1. re: BelovedofIsis
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                                                          escondido123 May 18, 2011 11:10 AM

                                                          Restaurants do what it best for them. If only 3 of 4 show up and then you spend the next hour waiting for the fourth, that means the table is making almost nothing. Now if you say, they'll be just three of us and you then sit down and begin to order probably no problem. Every place goes by their own rules, it's just important to know what they are.

                                                          1. re: escondido123
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                                                            BelovedofIsis May 18, 2011 11:22 AM

                                                            Ok looks like I didn't explain myself enough. lol I don't wait for people who are more than 10 min late, I eat with out them. If they are not there on time I tell them I will sit down and order with out them. I understand the table rotation thing and I'm not talking about gigantic parties. If my aforementioned friend shows up in the middle of dessert (its dessert because I didn't wait to eat for her sake) then she has the time between me finishing it, having a drink, and getting the check to decide what she wants to do, usually we would just move on to a different place that would serve food and drinks. She would eat and I would continue to drink. My husband understand this too, if we have reservations and he is going to be more than ten minutes late I will order my drink, app, and entree with out him, sometimes if he is on his way I will order his food for him.

                                                            Although as I have said before this has not been an issue at any restaurant I've been to.

                                                          2. re: BelovedofIsis
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                                                            small h May 18, 2011 11:11 AM

                                                            <Why turn away the 3 people who could make and were on time?????>

                                                            Because those three people may be commandeering a table for eight, waiting for five people who may not ever show up. And if they do show up an hour late, like your previously mentioned friend, the table doesn't turn over when it should.

                                                            1. re: small h
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                                                              BelovedofIsis May 18, 2011 11:26 AM

                                                              "Or its a 2-4 person group which takes the same table size, so what if there are only 3 people at a 4 person table because one person couldn't make it? Why turn away the 3 people who could make and were on time?????"

                                                              Please read my whole quote, I'm not referring to a table for 8. I'm referring to a small table of four and only three could make it, so the three would go a head and eat with out the fourth.

                                                              1. re: BelovedofIsis
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                                                                small h May 18, 2011 11:35 AM

                                                                And in some restaurants I'm sure that would be fine. In others, it wouldn't. If the late arrival doesn't extend the total time the party is at the table, it really is a no harm, no foul situation. But it's the restaurant that gets to make this call. You always have the option of going elsewhere, and in the situation the OP describes - a crowded place with a lot of people waiting for tables - I don't think the restaurant would care if you walked.

                                                                1. re: BelovedofIsis
                                                                  chowser May 18, 2011 12:22 PM

                                                                  Yes, if you were planning to go ahead and order and not hold the table for the hour or so until your friend showed up, I think you could inform the restaurant that. But, if they seat you, and you're waiting, even if you order drinks, they could have back to back reservations for the table and that would hold up the next party because your friend was late.

                                                              2. re: BelovedofIsis
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                                                                donovt May 18, 2011 11:17 AM

                                                                So far you are the only person who has said that a reservation will be refused if one person isn't going to show. Not being seated while waiting for latecomers is completely different.

                                                                1. re: BelovedofIsis
                                                                  LindaWhit May 18, 2011 01:10 PM

                                                                  But I do think it is unreasonable if only 1 person can't make it then the whole group is refused the table/reservation all together.
                                                                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

                                                                  Yet again - you're changing the scenario. If someone cannot make it, the people in the party who are already there say "our party has changed from 5 to 4, so we're a complete group now." And in all likelihood, they would be seated.

                                                                  But if someone is expected but late, and the restaurant's policy is to wait to seat the party until the entire group is there? That's their prerogative to do so.

                                                            2. re: small h
                                                              GraydonCarter May 19, 2011 02:17 PM

                                                              What if I wanted to save the fifth seat and a cup of wine for Elijah?

                                                              1. re: GraydonCarter
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                                                                small h May 19, 2011 04:07 PM

                                                                You can do that twice a year. But don't get any funny ideas about dripping your wine onto the tablecloth, because it's a bitch to get Manischewitz Extra Heavy Malaga out of white linen.

                                                            3. re: BelovedofIsis
                                                              LindaWhit May 18, 2011 10:11 AM

                                                              "I have a good friend who is chronically late, I don't mean like 5-10 mins I mean 30-60min late consistently (even to work!)"
                                                              ~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                                              I know it's been said, but a "good friend" wouldn't be that rude to show up an hour late every time.

                                                              1. re: LindaWhit
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                                                                BelovedofIsis May 18, 2011 10:51 AM

                                                                Well when it comes down to being "rude", that word is flung around a lot, it is a perception based definition. There are things I find "rude" that others don't and vice versa to her it wasn't rude to show up late.
                                                                As a friend I accepted that about her and its something she doesn't want to change about herself. So she doesn't complain about people starting with out her or there not being a second helping of something because she wasn't on time. This goes for movies too, she wasn't there on time I bought my ticket, munchies, and went and sat down. She would show up either during the previews or the first 15 min of the movie and find me in the dark. She complained ONCE because I had gone on ahead with out her after waiting 10 min, and I told her if she couldn't be bothered to be on time then I couldn't be bothered to wait, its unfair. She didn't complain again.
                                                                We all have different friendships and hers was worth it despite her chronic lateness.

                                                              2. re: BelovedofIsis
                                                                aching May 19, 2011 10:51 AM

                                                                The hostess asked me immediately upon my arrival if my whole party had arrived. Since they hadn't yet, I offered to be seated AND order, or to sit at the bar, and she asked me to sit at the bar. She didn't say that it was their policy never to seat an incomplete party, but it was implied (and I have definitely had that experience at other restaurants - maybe it's an LA thing?). Maybe if I had insisted on being seated they would have done so, but I was trying to be accommodating to mitigate the inconvenience caused by my friends' tardiness.

                                                                I'm sure that if I had said that my friends weren't coming at all and I was dining solo, they would have handled it completely differently (although I still would have offered to sit at the bar - why not, if eating alone?).

                                                                1. re: aching
                                                                  LindaWhit May 19, 2011 10:57 AM

                                                                  aching, it's not just an L.A. thing. It happens in Boston, and I'd warrant it probably happens in many major cities.

                                                                  1. re: aching
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                                                                    BelovedofIsis May 19, 2011 12:52 PM

                                                                    Oh yes, I agree that you handle the situation just fine. I was jut curious about my original question and then was surprised at the responses to it. I would have dined at the bar also if I was asked to if I had ended up being the only one.

                                                                    Maybe reservation and dining is a bit different here in Europe, I haven't been in the states for 5 yrs now. Or maybe it depends on the caliber of the restaurant as well.

                                                                    1. re: BelovedofIsis
                                                                      aching May 19, 2011 01:28 PM

                                                                      Here in my town, it's the trendy restaurants that tend to be the most militant about seating whole parties at once. They want to turn their tables efficiently to maximize their profits and they can get away with dictating rules to their customers because they're so popular. I could see how it might be a peculiarly American way to handle things - my dining experiences in Europe have always been more relaxed on the whole than the typical American experience.

                                                                      1. re: aching
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                                                                        BelovedofIsis May 19, 2011 02:42 PM

                                                                        This is true, in my experience Europeans spend 3-4 hours dining, whereas in the states its an hour and a half tops. An old friend of mine came to visit me in Germany and we spent some time in Baden-Baden for the day spa. There was this very upscale French restaurant on the main strip and we had stopped in early in the afternoon so make a reservation for that evening, they said not to worry about it and just come on in when we were hungry showed up at 7pm and were waited on hand and foot for 2 and a half hours by this amazing waiter! He even put up with taking our picture at the table and the owner even stopped by to chat and make sure we were enjoying our wine. I remember dining in a French restaurant in Tucson, AZ and the service was terrible the sauces were scorched and we were all but rushed out the door as fast as they could with out physically picking us up. It took me a week to land a reservation there, never dined there again! (I did tip the water boy though who was very friendly and was always stopping by the table making sure all was good).

                                                                        1. re: BelovedofIsis
                                                                          s
                                                                          silence9 May 20, 2011 02:22 PM

                                                                          May we infer from your last sentence above that _only_ the 'water boy' was tipped, or did you mean that he was tipped _in addition_ to the primary server(s) for your table? Thank you in advance for clarifying...

                                                                          1. re: silence9
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                                                                            BelovedofIsis May 22, 2011 04:11 AM

                                                                            The service charge was included in this bill and the the service was some of the worst service we have ever gotten so I did not include any extra tip for the server. She did nothing, she took our order and showed back up with the bill 30 min later while we were still eating our meal, she insulted my husband because she didn't like the way he was dressed and continued to be rude. The water boy on the other hand was very polite and brought us our drinks, food, checked back with us, brought us what we requested, pretty much did everything the server should do. I advocate tipping your server for good service but this was just plain rotten service with service charge included, no tip this time, first and only time this has happened.

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