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Reservation confirmed but table not ready - how long have you waited?

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SeoulQueen Oct 15, 2011 01:03 AM

Recent experience where I booked a table for 8:30pm on a Friday night. They rang me the day before to confirm, which I did. I rang them back the night of the dinner at 7:45pm to ask about dietary restrictions and during the conversation, they re-confirmed that the table would be ready for 8:30pm.

My party and I show up for 8:30pm but the table was not ready. We then waited 40 minutes before being seated. This is unacceptable and I would have happily taken them elsewhere except one of the guests was from out of town and really wanted to try this particular place (celebrity chef etc) so we stayed.

I have never had to wait so long for a reserved table. What has everyone else experienced? Is there a polite way to complain to the manager in this type of situation?

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  1. bagelman01 RE: SeoulQueen Oct 15, 2011 04:34 AM

    My standard is that I'll wait 20 minutes and no longer. I recognise that a table cannot be forced to leave for the next party, but management could try to move them along. That said, my standard applies to me and my family, I we have guests, I consult them as to how long they are willing to wait for the table and agree to their decision.

    BUT>>before walking, one must calculate how long it will take to get to the next restaurant and when one might be seated. There may be no time gain in such a move.

    Chances are, I'd cross restaurant #1 off my future dining list.

    1. h
      Harters RE: SeoulQueen Oct 15, 2011 07:38 AM

      It's very rare that I've ever had to wait for a reserved table. And, then, only ever a few minutes - usually with an apology that they are just resetting the table.

      1. h
        HoosierFoodie RE: SeoulQueen Oct 15, 2011 08:16 AM

        I think 15-20 minutes is o.k or acceptable. After that point there should be something comped, IMHO. We once waited an hour and would have gone somewhere else but couldn't get in anywhere. We complained at 25-30 minutes to the completely clueless hostess. Finally I went up and complained and told them that if they wanted us to eat there they were going to waive corkage and comp the drinks we'd had while waiting. They did that and I complained later via e-mail to the manager and she comped our next meal there. So, in that case, they really tried to make it up to us. We've been back because of that otherwise I'd never go back.

        I also don't like the "wait in the bar and have a glass of wine" game. I like to drink as much as the next guy and I don't mind 5 minutes. But when that little game turns into 20 I get a little pissed.

        1 Reply
        1. re: HoosierFoodie
          m
          Missmoo RE: HoosierFoodie Nov 4, 2011 10:30 AM

          I was going to comment but then I read the rest of your description of the event;)

        2. e
          escondido123 RE: SeoulQueen Oct 15, 2011 09:14 AM

          I'm sure I've waited at least half an hour but that was under pretty unusual circumstances on a night when there was a big festival going on and the place had the best location in town. I must admit I never expect to be comped anything. If I am, it is a pleasant surprise.

          1 Reply
          1. re: escondido123
            h
            HoosierFoodie RE: escondido123 Oct 20, 2011 11:11 AM

            Sorry. I was unclear. I complained again after 25-30. Weren't seated for another 25-30.

          2. s
            sandylc RE: SeoulQueen Oct 15, 2011 09:24 PM

            Things do go wrong. I would be curious to know how management/hostess managed the situation.

            3 Replies
            1. re: sandylc
              h
              HoosierFoodie RE: sandylc Oct 20, 2011 11:15 AM

              In this instance, the hostess decided to do nothing as there were some open tables and there were several groups waiting. Now, they might not have filled the open tables because they didn't have the staff to serve them. I don't know what the situation was but there was no explanation other than "it will be a few more minutes". We weren't looking for comps but it was a Saturday night and our options were limited.

              1. re: HoosierFoodie
                b
                bobbert RE: HoosierFoodie Oct 20, 2011 07:35 PM

                A good host/hostess can make or break a dining room. They can double/triple seat servers putting them and the kitchen in the weeds - you may often see empty tables while you wait because of this. If orders for apps came into the kitchen at the same time for the ENTIRE restaurant for example, the kitchen would probably crash with just about everyone being unhappy (this is why bigger parties, weddings, etc. have a set menu and are rarely allowed to just order off the regular menu - the kitchen can have all the dishes prepped beforehand so they're ready).
                Now with that being said, I have seen more than my share of host/hostesses whose main qualification sometimes appears to be how good they may look in a tight shirt or way too short skirt and who seem to have little mastery of customer service or how to properly seat a restaurant. The best ones try to become a server so they can make some real money. The tight shirt/short skirt can be nice to look at as long as there is some adult supervision nearby that can keep things moving along. Before you guys rightfully attack me - I have seen many attractive host/hostesses who do a very good job as well:)

                1. re: bobbert
                  h
                  Harters RE: bobbert Oct 21, 2011 02:28 AM

                  bobbert is spot on about the need for front of house to be aware of the needs of the kitchen and to space out reservation times with that in mind. One smallish place near me will not take reservations for more than a couple of tables at the same time and will space others at 15 minute intervals.

            2. a
              Allice98 RE: SeoulQueen Oct 16, 2011 04:01 AM

              The only time I have ever had a bad experience with a reservation in this way was a work holiday lunch that i booked. Small office. We went to the restaurant at a later time that we would have gone because it was a good place for us to go for a holiday lunch specifically. We usually would have chosen the earliest time and instead choose a 1pm time which just doesn't work for some of the staff that i work with. We ended up waiting for something like 45 minutes and finally had to leave and go to another restaurant which meant everyone piling back into cars and heading to a new location in town. Didn't have a choice as one person was pregnant and absolutely couldn't hold out any longer.

              I have never been back.

              I need to mention that the table we would be sitting at had a group of ladies that were all opening christmas gifts and gabbing over coffee. I need to also mention that I had at a prior time booked this same location for a retirement party at a non holiday time of year for our office and was told at time of booking and warned that we were not allowed to bring gifts, end of discussion because they didn't have room and needed to be able to accommodate the group booked after us. It wasn't a problem at all. Management needed to step in in the situation where we were waiting and didn't and I wasn't fair at all.

              In the end the poor servers lost out because it would have been a hefty group tab and they never got it. They also never even called to appoligize and they had my number with the reservation.

              I never expected any kind of compensation but an apology would have gone a long way to smoothing things over.

              1. huiray RE: SeoulQueen Oct 16, 2011 05:12 AM

                To the posters here: How about naming the restaurants you had bad experiences at?

                19 Replies
                1. re: huiray
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                  smartie RE: huiray Oct 16, 2011 07:12 AM

                  seriously? How about naming the campers who think it's fine to sit and sit at their table with coffee and yet another cognac or even nothing when it's clear there are people waiting AND when the management might have already come over and asked them nicely to vacate their table.

                  Why name names, you'd have to name thousands of establishments. I'm sure your doctor has run very late, your meetings have gone overtime, your client hasn't shown up, the person in front of you at the check out is counting each penny out and putting items back when you've just loaded the conveyor belt, traffic is dreadful and your plane got canceled or overbooked, your hotel has no knowledge of your booking and is full. Stuff happens.

                  1. re: smartie
                    huiray RE: smartie Oct 16, 2011 07:27 AM

                    Yes, yes..etc etc. However, what I had in mind were those particularly egregious examples that seem to be the subject of the threads so far. They're places of public accommodation, and doing so (i.e. naming them) wouldn't be much different than talking about the issue in a review of the restaurant, as it becomes part of the dining experience. As far as those campers - that's stepping into private individual territory. But for realllly bad ones...heh, that's an idea...especially if the person is a public figure in the public eye... ;-)

                    p.s. I'd put "your hotel has no knowledge of your booking and is full." into the same category of a public accommodation subject to public review by consumers/patrons.

                    1. re: smartie
                      h
                      hetook RE: smartie Oct 16, 2011 11:45 PM

                      Stuff ever happened where you camped? after getting th table

                      or in a car at crowded pkg lot? Camping happens. This post wasn't ment you, it was for smartie.

                      1. re: smartie
                        ttoommyy RE: smartie Oct 17, 2011 11:59 AM

                        "How about naming the campers who think it's fine to sit and sit at their table with coffee and yet another cognac or even nothing when it's clear there are people waiting AND when the management might have already come over and asked them nicely to vacate their table."

                        If it's a high-end restaurant and I've paid a decent amount for dinner, you bet I will "camp" out as long as I want. Granted, I will not sit there with a totally cleared table, but with "with coffee and yet another cognac" you bet I will. That's why I love dining in Italy; the table is yours for the night. They will never rush you out.

                        1. re: ttoommyy
                          Karl S RE: ttoommyy Oct 17, 2011 01:37 PM

                          It's just that that is not a socially accepted custom in the US, for reasons that have been amply dissected on camping topic threads.

                          1. re: ttoommyy
                            iluvtennis RE: ttoommyy Oct 17, 2011 04:34 PM

                            In the US, have you ever had a reservation and had to wait a while for your table to be ready because the previous reservation hadn't vacated yet...not because they hadn't been served in a timely manner but because they decided to linger a while. You're okay with that? Just wondering because i feel like some people that complain about having to wait for a reservation are the same ones that decide to camp out at a table. Can a person have it both ways?

                            1. re: iluvtennis
                              huiray RE: iluvtennis Oct 17, 2011 05:23 PM

                              "Can a person have it both ways?"
                              -----------
                              Yes, those who declare: Do As I Say, Not As I Do.
                              (Or those who think normal rules do not apply to them)

                              1. re: iluvtennis
                                sunshine842 RE: iluvtennis Oct 18, 2011 01:37 AM

                                but the restaurant knows that there are people who will camp out -- and thus creates the need for a plan B if someone camps out.

                                1. re: sunshine842
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                                  DeppityDawg RE: sunshine842 Oct 18, 2011 04:58 AM

                                  I'm sure good restaurants leave themselves some wiggle room to deal with campers, but if one night the planets are aligned against them, and twice as many tables camp as usual, then they're screwed, and the people who made later reservations are screwed, and it's the campers' fault.

                                2. re: iluvtennis
                                  h
                                  Harters RE: iluvtennis Oct 18, 2011 05:28 AM

                                  I know things seem to be different in America than they are in Europe. You would not find references to "camping" on our boards. Except in the minority of places that might set a time limit at the time of booking, tables are regarded as yours until you decide you no longer want it. As I mention upthread, even allowing for our customs, I have rarely had to wait even a few minutes for a table. I'd have to conclude that, therefore, European restaurants are simply much better at managing their table availablity than their American counterparts. I cannot explain why that might be the case, but it certainly seems to be the reason why Americans might have to wait longer on occasions.

                                  1. re: Harters
                                    sunshine842 RE: Harters Oct 18, 2011 06:10 AM

                                    it's possible, Harters.

                                    It's certainly more enjoyable to sit at a table without the annoyed glares of anyone.

                                    1. re: Harters
                                      Karl S RE: Harters Oct 18, 2011 06:15 AM

                                      The compensation practices are different: among other things, American waitstaff are paid sub-minimum wage and must turn tables in order to make sufficient $$, unless they are lucky to get a table that orders many courses, which is less and less common today. And the social contract in general is very different: most of the people in the restaurants are not benefitting from generous social benefits, but have to supply those themselves from what they earn. Et cet.

                                      1. re: Karl S
                                        sunshine842 RE: Karl S Oct 18, 2011 06:28 AM

                                        please do not assume for even a second that the individual does not pay for social benefits (medical insurance, in particular). I can assure you that anyone making a paycheck in Europe has a substantial portion subtracted for healthcare.

                                        1. re: sunshine842
                                          Karl S RE: sunshine842 Oct 18, 2011 06:31 AM

                                          I am well aware of that. But costs tend to be less regressively distributed than in the hit-or-miss fashion of the US. The models are just very different, and this is one of those areas where residue of those differences shows up.

                                        2. re: Karl S
                                          h
                                          Harters RE: Karl S Oct 18, 2011 08:23 AM

                                          I'm not at all certain that differences in pay systems can account for the difference in experiences in how long one might wait for a reserved table.

                                          Restaurants both sides of the Atlantic have the same interest in maximising profits; in turning tables when possible; in generally managing their available seats; in keeping the customer satisfied, in seeing their loyal staff properly rewarded; etc.

                                          It's possible that DeppityDawg has it - in that there is a lower rate of table turning in Europe. Certainly if I have a reservation at around 8pm, there's likely to be very few tables occupied by folk coming to the end of their meal and, when I've finished my meal at, say around 10, there's not likely to be many other customers waiting for it. Understanding that many Americans eat earlier than many Europeans, I wonder if this still applies as much to the "good restaurants"

                                          1. re: Karl S
                                            PotatoHouse RE: Karl S Nov 1, 2011 05:07 PM

                                            [Quote] American waitstaff are paid sub-minimum wage and must turn tables in order to make sufficient $$, [/Quote]

                                            Not true of everywhere. Only 20 states allow lower wages for waitstaff ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_... ) and considering the number of waitstaff in this thread ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/809413 ) that admit to lying on their taxes about how much they make in tips, I feel no pity for them.

                                          2. re: Harters
                                            d
                                            DeppityDawg RE: Harters Oct 18, 2011 07:01 AM

                                            There are no references to camping on the European boards because most of the participants are American tourists who are wondering how to get reservations in the first place… (Yes, kidding.)

                                            I think it is just a simple matter of allowing more time between seatings. Which means that some tables will only have one reservation for the entire service. Which is something most American restaurants cannot afford, especially since the dinner service starts at 4pm or whatever.

                                            1. re: DeppityDawg
                                              Karl S RE: DeppityDawg Oct 18, 2011 07:24 AM

                                              And Americans would not pay the necessarily increased $$ in sufficient numbers to make up for reduced volume.

                                          3. re: iluvtennis
                                            ttoommyy RE: iluvtennis Oct 18, 2011 01:08 PM

                                            Remember, I am talking about high-end restaurants. I have never been asked to leave when "camping out" at a table. As long as I am ordering more to drink (say, a digestivo), the restaurant should not have a problem with it. Better restaurants plan for this and orchestrate the seating accordingly. And as for people glaring at me, the kind of restaurant I am talking about would not have people congregating so close to the dining area so that they could glare.

                                            Now, if we're talking about a a middle-of-the road restaurant, of course I would not camp out; the atmosphere just doesn't invite it.

                                    2. cookie monster RE: SeoulQueen Oct 16, 2011 11:10 PM

                                      How long have I waited? About 2.5 hours. Long story short, Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant that wasn't usually open on Thanksgiving, and they grossly underestimated how long people would linger. We had the last reservation, 6pm, and were seated around 8:30. We couldn't go anywhere else - absolutely nothing else in the area was open - and they did comp our drinks (with the result that I barely remembered how dinner was once we finally got fed). But of course I wouldn't wait that long under normal circumstances.

                                      1. sunshine842 RE: SeoulQueen Oct 17, 2011 12:29 AM

                                        A half-hour or so, depending on the circumstances.

                                        If I'm a part of a big group, and we have a reservation for a big group, then shame on the restaurant for parking someone else at the big table, knowing that my group is coming in. Even if they DID, and the other group was camping...do what you need to do and move enough tables to accommodate my group.

                                        If it's a small group (up to 6) -- I appreciate having some leeway and that campers don't leave -- but c'mon -- a 2,4, or 6-top is common enough to be able to find **something**.

                                        I've always considered "having a drink and waiting in the bar" to mean -- we have a table for you, but we'd rather nickel-and-dime you for a round of drinks or two before we actually seat you. Don't like it AT ALL.

                                        They'd have no qualms about seating someone else at my table if I didn't show up for my reservation (and have had such happen, even though I was stuck in traffic and phoned them to advise them that I would be alte), so I have no qualms about walking out if they don't have a table for me within a reasonable period of time.

                                        1. j
                                          James Cristinian RE: SeoulQueen Oct 17, 2011 05:07 AM

                                          For the original poster, two things shout out about the situation. One, Friday night 8:30, the other is celebrity chef. This is a recipe for disaster and I would be surprised if there wasn't a wait. Frankly, I wouldn't put myself in that situation.

                                          1. Karl S RE: SeoulQueen Oct 17, 2011 05:29 AM

                                            20 minute max.

                                            On the flip side, I don't expect restaurants to hold my reservation if I am, or my party is, late by more than 20 minutes.

                                            I am also party to the widespread but not universal convention that, when getting together to meet up with folks, if they don't show up within 20 minutes of the agreed-upon time and don't contact with firm idea of a reasonable reschedule, then those who are present are free to leave. The 20-minute rule of thumb is, interestingly, quite common. I never had "taught" to me, it's something I came up with on my own when I would meet friends at Penn Station coming in from different parts of the NYC metro area back in the '70s. But I've learned over the past 30 years that plenty of other people have this handy rule of thumb. It's very very useful. Eliminates wasted time. (As you might infer, there are no chronically late people in my very wide circle of friends, both close and merely lightly social; over the decades, those folks are weeded out of the timely social pool - it takes about 10-15 years, it seems.)

                                            1. m
                                              MrBook RE: SeoulQueen Oct 18, 2011 08:01 AM

                                              This is definitely all on the restaurant management. It is not other diners' responsibility to make sure reservations are honored for the time they were made. Clearly they overbooked the place and should not have taken so many reservations, no matter how in demand it makes the restaurant appear. If it were a twenty minute wait, okay, people are lingering, it happens, but if they can't find a single table to seat you for forty minutes after your reservation time, they just overbooked.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: MrBook
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                                                Harters RE: MrBook Oct 18, 2011 08:24 AM

                                                Agreed. See my comments upthread about presumed less than stellar table management.

                                                1. re: MrBook
                                                  d
                                                  DeppityDawg RE: MrBook Oct 18, 2011 08:31 AM

                                                  It makes no difference to you whether the previous diners have been there for 45 minutes or 4.5 hours? Definitely the restaurant management's fault for "overbooking" in both cases?

                                                  You seem to suggest that a well-run restaurant should always keep an extra table, just in case. And if they're expecting two later reservations, I guess they should keep two tables free, just in case. Etc. For a place that only has 10 or 15 tables to begin with (but needs to seat 20 or 30 parties per evening to stay afloat), this is starting to look like a bad idea…

                                                  1. re: DeppityDawg
                                                    m
                                                    MrBook RE: DeppityDawg Oct 18, 2011 09:32 AM

                                                    As soon as I wrote that post, I knew that someone would dismiss my point by putting "overbooking" in scare quotes. That's good internet!

                                                    1. re: MrBook
                                                      d
                                                      DeppityDawg RE: MrBook Oct 18, 2011 10:14 AM

                                                      And your answer to the question is… ?

                                                    2. re: DeppityDawg
                                                      h
                                                      Harters RE: DeppityDawg Oct 18, 2011 09:47 AM

                                                      I'd suggest that a well-run restaurant (at least in Europe - and I see no reason why it wouldnt apply to American places) has a good idea how long the average diner takes to eat a meal. They will also be aware that some parties will be quicker and some will be slower. A well run place will factor that in when deciding how many reservations it can accommodate at a particular time.

                                                    3. re: MrBook
                                                      sunshine842 RE: MrBook Oct 18, 2011 08:52 AM

                                                      +1

                                                    4. dave_c RE: SeoulQueen Oct 18, 2011 09:08 AM

                                                      How was the food?

                                                      The wait depends upon the restaurant, but in my old age I'm in the 15 to 30 minute range.

                                                      I understand people camp or service can be slow so there's a back log as the evening progresses.

                                                      Is there a polite way?
                                                      Just state the fact about your disappointment, your wait time. Your reservation were confirmed... etc. The last resort threaten to yelp them naming names. j/k on the last part. :-)

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: dave_c
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                                                        SeoulQueen RE: dave_c Oct 19, 2011 11:50 PM

                                                        The food was hit and miss. The dishes that worked were delicious, but the ones that didn't were average at best. I had eaten here previously and would say the same thing about that meal too.

                                                        Thought the wait staff was excellent compared to the 2 people at the front who were handling the reservations (plus whatever idiot took all these bookings - the entire front waiting area was jammed with people who had booked and were waiting for their tables)

                                                      2. b
                                                        bobbert RE: SeoulQueen Oct 18, 2011 09:46 AM

                                                        This is is one of my favorite recurring threads. What makes it a favorite is when I see some of the same posters who say they would never return to a restaurant where they might have been asked to vacate a table that they had been camping at talk about how it's the restaurants fault if they have to wait for a reserved table and, once again, how they will never return. They don't see the possible hypocrisy of that stance.

                                                        That being said, there are times when it is clearly on the restaurant. There are places, especially in big cities, where a celebrity will aways get a table - maybe even MY table. There are places that compensate for no-shows by overbooking - like the airlines used to regularly do (believe me, showing up for your confirmed flight to find no seat available for you is usually a bit more of a hassle than waiting a half hour for dinner). In the vast majority of restaurants they do a very good job managing their reservations. Sometimes things go wrong - maybe my future table all ordered all 5 courses and they ordered items that take longer to cook. There are many things that can throw service off a bit and things can domino from there. A returned roasted chicken dish that has to be redone - that can set a table back quite a bit. Then there are the campers. First, they may have arrived 10 minutes late to begin with ("hey, there was a lot of traffic - not my fault") and then they began their reunion with old friends while other tables were looking over the menu. How many of us were not ready to order when the server returned? How many times has no one at the table even LOOKED at the menu yet? How many times has someone said "can you go over those specials again?" More dominos. Yeah, I know, management should take this into account and probably does to a certain extent but sometimes shit just happens. And then there's the campers who think it's ok to start opening presents or just shooting the shit while you wait.

                                                        Management does usually have a plan B. Some places now require a deposit on a table in case of a no-show (which most people find distasteful). They all seem to call to confirm a day before. Some leave tables open for walk-ins that can be used for those with reservations when dealing with campers. Smaller places do not have the same options of larger places and they should have even greater slack cut for them. If you only have 8 tables things can go south in a hurry and your options may be limited.

                                                        What do I want from the restaurant when I'm waiting? Unlike many who look at a wait as a chance to start getting free food or drink, first and foremost, I'd like an explanation. A good explanation goes a long way in placating me. If I understand what is happening I can base my actions on an educated assessment of whether or not I feel the explanation is a valid one.

                                                        Leaving after 20 or 30 minutes usually will turn the already long wait into a nightmare as you drive to another spot only to start the wait anew sans reservation. If you can walk right into another place it's usually because not as many people are eating there and there's usually a good reason for that as well. So, to finally answer the question, I really don't have a limit on how long I'll wait. I feel that once I'm there, I'm usually committed. Keep me informed, (sure, I'll have a drink even though that's not what I'm looking for) and I'm usually OK with almost anything. Will I come back? Depends.

                                                        1. s
                                                          SeoulQueen RE: SeoulQueen Oct 20, 2011 11:50 PM

                                                          I don't think I would have minded as much if not for the fact I spoke to them 45 minutes beforehand and they made no mention of the fact they were running late with the tables. A simple "yes we have your reservation, but FYI there may be a slight wait as we are running a few minutes late with several tables that are lingering" would have been appreciated. It was doubly annoying because my guests and I cut short our pre-prandial cocktails in order to hoof it across town to make the 8:30pm reservation. Oh well... something to note for future reference with this restaurant if I ever decide to go back again.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: SeoulQueen
                                                            s
                                                            smartie RE: SeoulQueen Oct 21, 2011 05:19 AM

                                                            SQ they probably wouldn't know that a few tables are lingering 45 minutes ahead of time.

                                                          2. Bill Hunt RE: SeoulQueen Oct 31, 2011 10:29 PM

                                                            Without complaining, I'd say 15 mins.

                                                            However, I have waited longer, but not without complaints, and really bad reviews.

                                                            Hunt

                                                            1. viperlush RE: SeoulQueen Nov 2, 2011 02:48 PM

                                                              About 5 years ago waited 45 min and I still regret it.

                                                              1. h
                                                                hetook RE: SeoulQueen Nov 2, 2011 03:37 PM

                                                                I like to go into the lounge and enjoy a cocktail.If it's a good spot it might be worth the extra wait.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: hetook
                                                                  l
                                                                  LeoLioness RE: hetook Nov 4, 2011 01:07 PM

                                                                  I enjoy doing that in theory. But these days, where the bar of a restaurant is usually an extension of its dining room, getting a seat (or even adequate standing room) in the bar to wait for your meal is often impossible during primetime dinner hours, at least where I live.

                                                                2. a
                                                                  acroyear RE: SeoulQueen Nov 7, 2011 11:58 AM

                                                                  Hey - so I was just alerted to this thread. I guess 20 minutes is at the outer end of my limit. Especially where there are nearby alternatives available.

                                                                  I'll post my experience here.

                                                                  We arrived promptly at 1:30 p.m. and they said they were waiting for tables to finish-up and asked us to wait in the bar area and they would call us. I should have known something was up because as soon as we arrived through the main doors there were other people standing around near the hostess stand (and the bar).

                                                                  They did not offer to seat us at the bar probably because that would have been impossible since the bar was full with people dining - I saw a couple of people receive a chocolate cake of some sort so not sure if it is possible for walk-ins to eat at the bar or what. There were other couples standing around in the bar area also (complaining among themselves) - we were not the only ones.

                                                                  During our wait, no one updated us so at the 15 minute mark I called to see if another place nearby had space and they did - this other place doesn't take reservations for lunch so we waited five more minutes to the 20 minute mark and then went to give the hostess our coat check marker to get our coats back and said we were heading somewhere else and weren't going to wait. At that point, she did say sorry and I said that in terms of feedback she should know (or maybe she already did since the reservation was made through open table) that we booked this a month earlier. There was another guy next to the hostess looking at a screen and she turned to him after saying sorry as if looking for him to help out but he made no eye contact with either her or us and said nothing. Neither of them offered up that it would be "another 5 minutes" or whatever. So the coat lady came out and handed us our coats and we left.

                                                                  That is the scoop.

                                                                  Luckily lunch wasn't a total bust - we were able to get a spot nearby and enjoy ourselves. But after this experience I wouldn't bother trying to return for lunch if it is going to be so disorganized and overbooked (at least for a late sitting).

                                                                  If I am going to a fine-dining establishment and have a reservation booked I expect to walk-in and be seated promptly. And I bet if I didn't show up on time my table would have been given away!

                                                                  P.S. for the record, if the restaurant wants take my credit card and charge me if I don't show, I have no problem with that either.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: acroyear
                                                                    Bill Hunt RE: acroyear Nov 10, 2011 05:26 PM

                                                                    The "one must wait for a table" concept actually won a restaurant industry award, back in the late 80's, or early 90's. A major national chain of middle-end, fast, adult dining establishments decided that their bottom line would be greatly enhanced, if patrons had to wait 45 mins. for a table. Whether at the bar, or seated in a waiting area (with apps. and beverage service), the profits soared, and the award was handed out. Shortly afterwards, many such corporations adopted the mantra, "sorry, but the wait for a table is ~ 45 mins." Some carried this to the extreme. One of the Dallas-based, award-winning corporation's restaurants opened near us. It had been open for about a month, when, one very snowy evening, we decided to try it. The parking lot was almost empty, as was the rather large dining room. I'd guess (remember this is in the early 90's, and my memory is NOT what it once was), that there were maybe four tables, out of ~ 150 with diners. There were quite a few members of the staff, rather milling around. We approached the hostess' stand, and announced that we were walk-ins. Her response was, "I am sorry, but it will be 45 mins., before we can seat you."

                                                                    I looked over her shoulder, and commented on a totally empty dining area, with staff just standing about. Her comment was, "well, there is always a 45 min. wait for a table here."

                                                                    We drove to a local, chef-driven restaurant, and were instantly seated.

                                                                    Marketing concept awards aside, one should not have to spend their time at the bar, in a seating area, or elsewhere, and ESPECIALLY when they have a reservation.

                                                                    Though there has been at least one exception, my normal time to wait, beyond my reservation, is ~ 30 mins.

                                                                    I am also not a fan of queuing up in a line, and being prodded along. Even with Galatoire's, I will make a reservation, and dine upstairs, rather than spend an evening "in line." Maybe I am alone in that sentiment, but that is fine with me.

                                                                    Hunt

                                                                  2. j
                                                                    jcgoodwin RE: SeoulQueen Dec 6, 2011 01:42 AM

                                                                    This is always an interesting dilemma for both the diner and the staff. I personally will wait around half an hour if I did not come starving and if I know that the meal is likely to be a good one.

                                                                    The fun part: the staff perspective.

                                                                    As a head of house, even on the most well oiled of nights on our floor,
                                                                    100 seat fine dining $65+ per head, things go wrong.

                                                                    There will always be that table that is camping out or viewing that contract for the fifth time. I always first take the "lets push em' out approach." Most staff members should have an appropriate grasp of proper technique in order to seamlessly speed up or slow down a meal. If things are getting out of hand, a pre-meal transition to the bar is the only true solution.

                                                                    The biggest mistake I see from inexperienced servers/hosts is trying to placate the waiting customer with a time or false pretense. You don't tell them the time their table will be ready. Let the customer know that you care and tell them that you appreciate their wait and you hope to have their table ready shortly.

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: jcgoodwin
                                                                      h
                                                                      hetook RE: jcgoodwin Dec 6, 2011 04:01 AM

                                                                      is that @ Olive Garden? oh neat...they're gonna let me thru.

                                                                      1. re: jcgoodwin
                                                                        Karl S RE: jcgoodwin Dec 6, 2011 04:44 AM

                                                                        " You don't tell them the time their table will be ready".

                                                                        That's my cue to leave. False pretense is of course not acceptable either. "We don't know, and we'd understand if you leave. We are so sorry." is honest and professional.

                                                                        1. re: Karl S
                                                                          j
                                                                          jcgoodwin RE: Karl S Dec 6, 2011 10:07 AM

                                                                          I couldn't agree more.

                                                                          1. re: jcgoodwin
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                                                                            ErnieD RE: jcgoodwin Dec 7, 2011 06:23 AM

                                                                            Yes, seriously. I eat out very rarely so it's not a pressing issue in my life, but I'm very responsive to just the basics-"we're having a busier night than we expected, and we'll get you a table as soon as we can" goes a long way. Much further than "8:00. 8:30. By that I meant 9:15."

                                                                      2. s
                                                                        SimplyMarie RE: SeoulQueen Dec 6, 2011 02:52 PM

                                                                        Wow..this has never happened to me..but I can't imagine that I would be willing to wait more than 20 minutes or half hour unless I was with a large party that could not be accommodated someplace else easily.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: SimplyMarie
                                                                          a
                                                                          acroyear RE: SimplyMarie Dec 6, 2011 04:42 PM

                                                                          If I was with a large party and had to wait I would find that even more unacceptable since they knew a large table was coming and presumably was going to spend spend spend and if they made me wait I wouldn't be going back.

                                                                          I have never been asked to vacate a table. Ever. If I was going for some lunch special I would totally understand if I was asked to leave after say 2 hours (if the restaurant was busy and people were waiting for tables).

                                                                          The more I am paying for dinner, the less pleased I would be for waiting.

                                                                          I wouldn't mind waiting also if the place I am asked to wait is a comfortable setting (i.e., a nice lounge that has capacity and where I would be served promptly) vs. my experience at JG where it was like wait at the bar - which was overcrowded - so we were just left standing, waiting, with no drinks and no update. That to me is unforgiveable and with plenty of other fish in the sea enough to turn me away from future visits.

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