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Oct 31, 2011 09:29 PM

Forced to Rush Through Dinner at Pomegranate (moved from Ontario board)

[NOTE FROM THE MODERATORS: even though the original post is about a local Toronto restaurant, all the replies are a discussion about the restaurant's behavior and etiquette, so we've moved it over here to the Not About Food board.]

We arranged a long-overdue reunion/dinner for five last Friday. This was for a dear group of friends, and I wanted everything to be just right, so I suggested Pomegranate, which has long been one of my favourite restaurants. It didn't take much convincing, as I've raved about the food there off and on for so long, and all of my friends were eager to try it. It's been a while - over a year - since I'd been there, but I only have good memories of eating there, and one of my Iranian friends agrees it's very good.

We made a reservation for five at 5:00, and were told we could have the table only until 7:15.

Four of us arrived between 5:00 and 5:30, but got the bad news that our fifth person was delayed at work and might come late, or not at all. This is when the problem started. The woman serving us (who I believe is the owner or owner's wife) said the two extra seats at our table were needed, and she wanted to move us to a table for four. We said the fifth person might still show up, but she said we couldn't have the extra seats if not, because the restaurant does fill up and it would mean her having to turn people away. I've worked in restaurants before, and I do understand this situation, but she was not very accommodating and there was an unpleasant tension over it.

Note: I found out later from my friend who made the reservation that the person on the phone had said we could have a table for four with a fifth seat on the end, or a table for six. As it's getting colder and everyone has heavier coats, naturally we'd asked for a table for six, as the extra seat would come in handy for coats and bags. But if filling to capacity is such an issue, why were we given a choice? I did notice that the restaurant did indeed fill up, and one couple was turned away.

We did finally get confirmation that our fifth person was on his way, and he showed up at 6:30. The poor guy had to order in a hurry and then wolf down his food - including receiving his dessert (saffron ice cream, which I've been raving about ever since I first had it at Pomegranate) at the same time as his main course.

We did manage to finish our meal by 7:15, although we had to really rush through dessert. By then, half of the restaurant had cleared and there was no sign of a second wave of diners. We were sitting at the back, and the entire row of tables on our side of the restaurant were now empty. But here's the kicker: as we were now relaxing and talking, our server comes by again and reminds us that the table has to be vacated by 7:15. With half the tables empty, we're still being rushed out?

I do have to say that the food did not disappoint. It was even better than I'd remembered; every mouthful was delicious. But the unpleasantness over the seating issue had me nervously watching the table occupancy the whole time I was eating, and the tension between the server and my friends didn't help. I saw one of my friends the following morning and found that she, too, had been left with a sour taste in her mouth from the whole experience. Granted, two+ hours should normally be ample for finishing a meal, but there was no attempt to accommodate our problematic circumstances.

So, dear foodies:
Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? One of my friends recounted a similar experience elsewhere recently, of being given a deadline for vacating her table. Is this becoming the norm? Will you go to Pomegranate if you expect to be rushed?

As much as I *loved* the food, I don't think I will return.

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    1. Mountain out of a mountain. If the place had been bursting to the seams with people, I *might* grudgingly understand, but if the dining room is half empty, there's not much excuse. That plus the attitude you got from whomever-she-was was over the line, too.

      Because you have a long history of satisfaction with the place, though, a letter/email/phone call to the owner might be in place -- that you like the place, but you won't be back, and here's why.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sunshine842

        Thanks - I did look for an email before I posted here, but there is none. I do intend to write a letter.

      2. I can see where you are coming from especially since I got a bad vibe from who I think you are talking about before (if it is the same person, the lady and the chef in the kitchen are husband and wife and owners). I only have eaten there once and while I enjoyed the food we were also in a group (of about 6 people) and I found that she wasn't all that pleasant/patient with regards to explaining dishes/etc. An Iranian friend loves the places and goes there all of the time so I assumed it was a one off bad day for this lady and I am open to going again.

        From the perspective of the restaurant they did give you a time frame and it was accepted before hand... It gets complicated to set up these group outings I know, but, I understand where the restaurant is coming from. Some restaurants won't even give you the table until the full party is there. However, if it was indeed empty and they weren't expecting other people (they could have said we have another group coming in at 7:30 or whatever) then they could have left you to relax/chat for a bit (unless you guys were loud and obnoxious ;) )..

        1. While the staff didn't handle the situation very gracefully, your reservation was for 5 and the bulk of your party didn't arrive until 5:30. Had your whole party arrived on time as per your reservation, time would never have been an issue.

          That said, the staff handled the situation terribly.

          1. Mountain out of a molehill. The place gets busy, they have to manage to previous experience, and only 80% of your group was present 30 minutes after your reservation. While the hostess could've been warmer and more accommodating, you could've helped yourselves by all being present at the agreed upon time. Your problems aren't theirs.

            4 Replies
            1. re: GoodGravy

              so they told you they needed the table by 7:15, your party straggled in late, with the last member finally arriving 1.5 hours after the reservation. they still managed to serve you in 45 minutes, and then had the gall to ask you to clear out at the time you originally agreed upon? the bstrds!

              i agree that it could have been handled better, but they likely had a second seating that they had to prepare for and they are well within their rights to ask for the table at the agreed upon time. if i was in your position, i would have been embarrassed by my friends who were so late. i get that it happens, but the restaurant is trying to operate a business and you are making it infinitely more difficult for them to do so when you don't show up on time...think about how mad people get when they show up on time for their reservation and the restaurant is running behind...because of other people who are late

              1. re: downtownfoodie

                This is a common problem - people show up late, expecting all others to wait for their "grand entrance". The late person should have had the good graces to call and tell those waiting to go ahead and eat without him. Failing that, the person who organized the event should have had the sense, after a 15 minute grace period, to simply start and let the late-comer suffer the consequences. Not the resto's fault!

                1. re: gttahaveit

                  It wasn't just one latecomer, the rest of the party arrived between 5-5:30 for a 5 reservation, half an hour late is already ridiculous. I just cannot believe the OP didn't even acknowledge or didn't see a problem with the bulk of the group arriving late. Also, the latecomer was an hour and half late and you waited. This is ridiculous and I can't properly judge the service because of all this. It's because of parties like this that so many restaurants don't take reservations anymore.

                  As far as the restaurant, if you didn't like the fact that you'd have to be rushed out at 7:15, why eat there?

              2. re: GoodGravy

                I agree with this. If you have a reservation at a certain time your entire party should be there. If someone is going to be that last they either should pass on the dinner or expect to be rushed. If one expects the restaurant to properly hold a reservation the customer needs to do the same.

                I would agree that the restaurant could have handled it better.