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"Someone is waiting for your table....'

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We met friends that we do not see that often at a restaurant. It was a new restaurant but be have been frequent patrons of the many restaurants the owners have previouly owned. We had drinks, apps, dinner, split dessert and were lingering, enjoying our friends company. The receptionist came by and said to us "We have someone outside who would literally pay you for your table right now.' My husband thought she was kidding, I don't think she was. There seemed to be other tables opened and I was not aware of any time limit. We did not stay after dessert but we certainly did not rush. Were we wrong not to rush?

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  1. Did you ask how much they wanted to pay?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Philly Ray

      I thought the same thing..."How much $$$?"

      If they ~really~ wanted the table and it was enough $$$ to compel you to leave and walk a few blocks to the next bar or whatever....great. You can laugh and nibble/drink and chat about it later.

      Food + rushing = a bad combination IMHO.

      1. re: pedalfaster

        Great thoughts! No we did not! We should have!

        1. re: pedalfaster

          "Sure if they pay my bill and leave a nice tip".

          I would have finished eating dessert at my pace without rushing, but wouldn't have lingered.

      2. The hostess, from how you relate it, was not asking you to leave, only letting you know of the offer from the other people. That's fair, as it seems to have involved actual money. I would have asked how much, if good enough, accepted the offer and moved to one of the other open tables. Perhaps the other people had some sentimental value about that particular table.

        For me, if I am enjoying myself and see open tables, I feel no need to rush. Not to camp, mind you, but not rush. I would have jumped at the chance to hear the offer, and then accept, move over and try to figure the rest of the story for the why that table.

        1. You were not wrong not to rush, but you may have made a mistake in not grabbing the opportunity to negotiate!

          1. "Okay I'll sell them the table but I'm going to need some help carrying it outside"

            1 Reply
            1. Just how good was your table? I'm curious. I'm curious as to why the receptionist took it upon herself to be the waiting patron liaison. Very odd. Would she get a cut of the $$?

              1. What an awkward approach for the receptionist to take.

                Assuming you were moving along at a normal pace, the receptionist was out of line. If you were camping, which it doesn't appear to be the case, I could excuse some gentle encouragement.

                If she wanted to entice you to get up from the table, she could have said something along the lines of "would you like to continue at the bar, the first round is on the house."

                I like redfish's response and would have loved to see her reaction.

                1. The OP posted " We had drinks, apps, dinner, split dessert and were lingering, enjoying our friends company." So the OP stated they were lingering. I think the receptionist was trying to give them a hint that it was time to leave and thought that would be a "lighthearted" way to do so. I think I would have paid the check and either gone to the bar to enjoy my friends company some more or would have left.

                  4 Replies
                    1. re: escondido123

                      I have heard that some restaurants are a bit more tactful by explaining that they need the table and then offering to buy a round for the table if they move to the bar.

                      1. re: Philly Ray

                        OP, can you give us an idea of how long you were at the table? There's a group of friends with whom I love eating out, but their idea is to occupy a table for 4 hours, regardless of the line of folks waiting to come in--I get uncomfortable. So, for the OP and others, how long--ballpark--is acceptable?

                        1. re: Philly Ray

                          Always a nice gesture on the restaurant's part.

                      2. OP, I think you were being told to skeedattle. Sounds like you had a lovely dinner, lingered and the table needed to get turned.
                        I think if the evening is going great with conversation and company, take it to a bar and keep going. If it's at the end of the night and there's no way the table will be turned, then linger. If you're aware that someone is waiting for your table, then show awareness and discern when it's time to go.

                        1. I've found that a rather effective (and non-confrontational) way to handle a really awkward and/or inappropriate question/comment is just a slight tilt of the head with a gentle "Oh?"

                          They will, to a person, feel the need to explain themselves in enormous detail....until they finally realize how awkward and/or inappropriate their utterance was, and they skive off to go pester someone else.

                          Sorry -- rude, rude, rude, and if anything, it might have made me order another round.

                          2 Replies
                          1. We got there around 6:30 and left around 10:00. We did not linger for a really long time. We were finished drinks and just talking a bit. I just felt a little uncomfortable. I know there are restaurants that have "seatings" and that is fine. I guess there were people seated outside and they wanted to come inside. I agree it was a subtle way to ask but I did feel rushed. We were not ordering anymore drinks. She said it right when the dessert and cappucino came so it was not really even when we were finished.

                            35 Replies
                            1. re: Alica

                              She said it right when the dessert and cappucino came so it was not really even when we were finished.
                              OK, now I'm in your corner!
                              What a sh*tty way to end the meal...

                              1. re: monavano

                                I agree. I even think it is tacky to drop the check on the table while you are still having dessert. Unless you request it, at least wait until dessert is cleared before bringing the check.

                              2. re: Alica

                                I consider three and a half hours a long time. Don't know if I would say you were treated badly.

                                1. re: escondido123

                                  Excuse me? The OP just said that the dessert and cappucino had just arrived. If they'd been finished, really finished, and presented with a bill, there might have been a gracious way for the house to handle that, but I don't think the receptionist should have been involved at all. Completely inhospitable, and it is the hospitality industry when last I checked.

                                  1. re: lifeasbinge

                                    As well as the OP mentioning that there were open tables.

                                    1. re: lifeasbinge

                                      "Excuse me? The OP just said that the dessert and cappucino had just arrived. "

                                      So what? What if they dragged their starters out for 2 hours? Are you still OK with that?

                                      Restaurants *do* in fact have seatings. The OP's party overstayed their welcome. Just because a restaurant is in the hospitality industry doesn't mean you can do whatever you want. Those people who were waiting for a table were entitled to "hospitality" too.

                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                        I read that they had drinks, apps, dinner, lingered and then ordered dessert to share along with coffee. So I imagine the server thought they were ready to leave and then along came the dessert order. Since the OP didn't rush, I don't really know what the issue is.

                                        1. re: escondido123

                                          "Since the OP didn't rush ..."

                                          No - in no way can a 3 1/2 hour meal be considered "rushing."

                                          It's time to put this whole "hospitality industry" idea into context. Yes, restaurants are in the "hospitality" industry. They're also in the "profit" industry. The key to profitability at the low and mid priced end of the scale is to turn tables at least twice in the course of an evening since a restaurant's staff costs and rent are fixed. A single seating means they don't make as much money - their costs are the same whether they turn the tables once or twice. Revenue doubles with 2 seatings.

                                          The exception is at the very high end when they're charging a ton of money. Then they can make a profit with a single seating. In that case, and in that case alone, is a table "yours" for the whole night.

                                          Some people's expectations are unreasonably high. They really believe that hospitality extends to restaurants losing money just to extend that level of courtesy. The thing is, any restaurant that routinely does this won't be in business for long.

                                          The classic response is "Well! I'll take my business elsewhere!"

                                          The restaurant won't mind - they really don't want customers that cost them money. They'd much rather give the table to people who will finish their meal in 2 hours.

                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                            All of that makes total sense but what if you just want to go out with great friends, have great food & wine and relax in a nice restaurant. Should we be watching our watches, setting a time limit? Should restaurants now that there will always be the in and out people and the let's hang out people.

                                              1. re: Alica

                                                You were pushing FOUR HOURS.

                                                The place "with great friends, have great food & wine and relax" with no time limits is called HOME.

                                                1. re: thegforceny

                                                  ding ding ding ding...winner chicken dinner!

                                              2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                Bob Martinez, I do respect the table turn, but the OP said, "There seemed to be other tables opened ", so *again* I ask, what really was going on?
                                                Sorry, if I am told something that is either, solid true, someone for some reason wants that table enough to "pay"for it, or the lamest excuse for "please leave" when there are open tables, since money was mentioned, my only question would be "how much and show me what table we can move to."
                                                And it is still a bird in hand vs, two in the bush deal. They had paying/ordering customers, and empty tables, at what 10PM, as the OP said in a reply, and they are trying to "turn a table" So they get one more empty table. Yeah, makes no cents.

                                                1. re: Quine

                                                  "Bob Martinez, I do respect the table turn, but the OP said, "There seemed to be other tables opened ", so *again* I ask, what really was going on? "

                                                  Right. I thought the same thing. Why would they ask them to free up the table when there were other tables available? On the surface, it makes no sense.

                                                  Some guesses -

                                                  * The open tables were smaller than the one occupied by the OP's group. The new diners were a larger group and they needed a larger table.

                                                  * There was something special about the table occupied by the OP. It had a view of a waterfall, or a castle, or Mt. Rushmore .... The restaurant felt that after 3 hours it was time to give somebody else a shot.

                                                  * And lastly, maybe the arriving group were big time regulars. They show up 2 or 3 times a week and spend bags of money. This was their favorite table and after 3 hours the restaurant thought that they deserved to have it.

                                                  Maybe there's more possibilities but that's a start.

                                                  One last thing - you said:

                                                  "And it is still a bird in hand vs, two in the bush deal. They had paying/ordering customers, and empty tables, at what 10PM, as the OP said in a reply, and they are trying to "turn a table" "

                                                  The problem with that logic is that the OP's group had already eaten their meal with the exception of a shared dessert or two. In the restaurant's mind they had already spent 95% of what they planned. The arriving party was about to order a full meal. There was a lot more money to be made in turning the table.

                                                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                    Agreed until you said turn the table. They had empty tables. They were turned and waiting empty.
                                                    So, no matter what, the reason was the others wanted that specific table, given that the restaurant had empty tables, or not, it was not handled well, by the management.

                                                    The statement of "willing to pay" is just so bizarre, that I do believe it is true. I do think the hostess (why is she being called a receptionist?) was flustered, and unsure as how to deal with the situation. Inexperience? If there was a legit offer by the outside group, (as in outside waiting on the sidewalk, or at an outside table?) that merited being taken as serious by the hostess, she could/should have figured out how to move the one party to accommodate both. She didn't.

                                                    Yes, 3 hours is a long time, but keep going back to the empty tables that were earning nothing, and the hostess, wanting that particular one. So, something was turned, a good dining experience in a new restaurant, to a bad, share the story publicly, experience.

                                                    1. re: Quine

                                                      and at 10 pm, they can bloody well pull two tables together.

                                                      sorry, but giving a bum's rush to a party of four who have had drinks, appetizers, dinner, dessert, and coffee is just bad business -- it's just plain stupid when there are other tables open.

                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                        "Sorry, but giving a bum's rush to a party of four ..."

                                                        They were there for *three hours* at the point that the restaurant asked for their table and they stayed another half an hour. That's hardly "the bum's rush."

                                                        In my earlier post I listed 3 reasons for why the restaurant might have wanted their table. I'm sure there are more. I doubt that the request was made out of pure whimsey. There was a reason but in the end we'll never know for sure what it was.

                                                        I suppose the OP could go back and ask but that would spoil our fun.

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          +1, sunshine.

                                                          The restaurant is in the hospitality business and hassling customers (if, indeed, it was hassle) is simply not hospitable. Nor is it sensible business.

                                                          1. re: Harters

                                                            Unless you're charging $100 - $150 per person for dinner a restaurant can't make money if it doesn't turn the table at least twice. Calling it the "hospitality business" doesn't change the underlying economics.

                                                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                              Many restaurants I know do not particularly try to turn tables - and some make a point of saying that they don't. Perhaps the "hospitality" industry is understood differently where you are, Bob.

                                                              1. re: Harters

                                                                I live in New York City. Rents are high.

                                                                Bkeats is making the same type of point I made earlier. Maybe he did it more clearly than I did.


                                                      2. re: Bob Martinez


                                                        The Open tables may have belonged to servers who already had the chance to serve 2 seatings, while this poor server has had only one check for a 3 1/2 hour evening.

                                                        Back in the dark ages when I waited tables, I would not have wanted to be counting on an average of 2 seatings per night and have my income substantially cut because a party decided to camp out until 10 PM when there really is no chance of my getting another full meal patron.

                                                        Not only does the rstaurant have to make money, but it must make sure its employees have the chance to make a night's pay or the employees will leave.

                                                  2. re: escondido123

                                                    No, there was a pretty steady flow. Drinks, apps, dinner, ordered dessert to share and coffee. We did not wait to order dessert. I guess the question is, when is it okay to expect a time limit on someones evening.

                                                    1. re: Alica

                                                      the limit is 20-30 minuets after you stop buying stuff. unless your "over the limit" in that case let the server know so they can adjust seating to let you regain compouser.

                                                      if it was a special event like thats the table they got engaged at they should have let the hostes know so they would not have seated you there in the first place.

                                                      my perfect resturant flow is arrive with reservation- be seated in 10 min or less after all i did reserv a seat.

                                                      the s/a fills water and removes any unneeded table ware within 5 min the server arrives to take any orders apps salads

                                                      drinks should arrive with bread in 5 more unless you ordered some wierd concoction or wine that has to be unlocked.

                                                      in 10-15 your first courses arrive and if you have not taken mains they should be take from you now if your ordering them, bread also refreshed if you request it with new amuses. and any drinks, the s/a during this time should keep everything full and or cleared.

                                                      salads apps ect should take 15-20 min assuming your not stuffing yourself and have some conversation. during this time anytime a drink is low the server should inquire without being ask to if you would like another. (some consider this a pushy server but i prefer beasked instead of waiting or haveing to flag one down.

                                                      mains should arive and drinks refreshed for the main meal, at this point your server should let you be unless requested by you to attend them. or they see one person finish.

                                                      this part is were i think things normally get messed up. how long do you let people sit if they no longer order anything or how long befor asking for a desert order. i like 10 minuets befor the server request a deseert order unless your ordering drinks. and i request tthey start suggesting people leave if nothing is ordered withing 20ish min.

                                                      thats a decent timeline i think some like it shorter other like it longer it depends on the atmosphere.

                                                      but for me one order of anything every 20 min is a reasonable bussiness expectation.

                                                        1. re: Alica

                                                          In that case you were averaging 40-50 minutes for each stage of your meal. (and I can't see "Drinks" taking 40 minutes before the Apps arrived...) (You say elsewhere the meal took 3 1/2 hours in all) Wow. It is clear you were talking and talking with your friends and were unconcerned with the food (I for one am blinking at the thought of eating stone-cold and congealed food on my plate). I'm sure it was enjoyable but as others have commented it might have been an idea to finish your meal more quickly then adjourn to the bar or another place where you could have coffee, drinks, etc etc and talked more. Unless, of course, it was the sort of place that Bkeats talked about in his post where you had the table for the whole evening - but clearly it was not. Those other empty tables you referred to - were they separated or were there, say, two tables next to each other so they could be pushed together if the incoming party was a large one as BM painted as one scenario? How many of you were there and was your table a large one? (Or the scenarios Karl S wonders about) Just wondering.

                                                          If this was the case, I rather commend the restaurant for staging your meal in such a protracted manner [and refraining from carrying away your plates of congealed food before you were finally "done" (40-50 minutes later) otherwise I'm sure you would have mentioned being irritated by their asking repeatedly if they could take something away] and the waiter and kitchen slowing down your order progression to match your, uh, pace.

                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                        What if the restaurant is responsible for the dragged out,2 hour timing for apps and entree?It does happen.What if that was unnoticed due to the overall comfort of the OP's party?

                                                        1. re: lcool

                                                          Let me ask you a question. Don't you think if there were service issues and delays caused by the restaurant then the nice woman who started this thread would have mentioned that?

                                                          She posted 7 times on this thread and she didn't.

                                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                            "what if that was unnoticed due to the overall comfort of the OP's party"

                                                            if it was unnoticed, she wouldn't have mentioned it, because she, um, didn't notice.

                                                            Not everyone enjoys a lockstep meal with military-precision timing. There are people who go to a restaurant to talk and enjoy the company of friends, and don't stress much about the timing of the courses.

                                                    2. re: escondido123

                                                      Indeed. Three and a half hours is as long as big tasting menus in high-end restaurants. I think that was also what my last dinner at Table 21 in Volt (Frederick, MD) lasted for, IIRC, all twenty-one courses of it.

                                                      The current dinner (18 courses) at Alinea in Chicago commonly takes around 3 1/2 hours (or in that vicinity) also.

                                                      ETA: Come to think of it, on one occassion I had the "Menu Dégustation" at Everest in Chicago with two additional appetizers specially added in (with the "Préludes" and the Mignardises/Petits Fours - Eleven courses in all; plus coffee at the end as well...) it also came to about 3 1/2 hours - and that was also with some longer delays between some courses.

                                                    3. re: Alica

                                                      "She said it right when the dessert and cappucino came so it was not really even when we were finished"

                                                      This of course is a change from the initial post: "We had drinks, apps, dinner, split dessert and were lingering, enjoying our friends company. The receptionist came by and said... "

                                                      1. re: Alica

                                                        3 1/2 hours is over staying, unless you doing a preplanned tasting menu.

                                                        1. re: rasputina

                                                          really? By whose rules? Was this displayed on a menu, on the door or discussed with any customer at any time?

                                                          Who is allowed to arbitrarily decide who's been there long enough...and how on earth do you justify kicking someone out who is enjoying their evening and continuing to order? (OP said they were not finished with their dessert)

                                                      2. I asked my husband what was the longest we had ever stayed at a table in a restaurant...he said about three hours. Then he remembered one evening at D' Chez Eux in Paris. We were there for 4 hours...arriving at about 8:30..and were eating throughout the evening. Cost a bundle but well worth it.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: escondido123

                                                          "I asked my husband what was the longest we had ever stayed at a table in a restaurant...he said about three hours. Then he remembered one evening at D' Chez Eux in Paris. We were there for 4 hours..."


                                                          But that was in Europe where often the table is considered yours for the evening. At least that has been my experience.

                                                          1. re: Fowler

                                                            And that was my point. The US is not France I'm sorry to say.

                                                        2. Alica, I guess my question now would be as you and your husband have frequented the owners' other restaurants, will you tell/have you told the owners? You might learn why you were the target of such an odd comment. Maybe the hostess is indeed new, as Quine suggested.

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: pinehurst

                                                            The hostess was the owners daughter. Very nice girl, but a young girl. We go to alot of restaurants and we have been with friends just catching up and never felt rushed. I wonder if it makes a difference if a restaurant takes reservations or not. I think she just wanted to open up the table, I am sure saying we could sell our table was just an expression.

                                                            1. re: Alica

                                                              I think the big puzzle is that you mentioned that there were tables opened. Assuming you didn't have the one table in the place that came with complimentary chairside massage, reservations could have still been accommodated.

                                                              Were I you, I would mention this in the nicest possible way to her boss, also known as Dad. "Hey, How's the new restaurant? Good, good...well, my husband and I were in the other night enjoying a meal. You know we love your restaurants. Well, it was about 10 and we'd just been served dessert when your daughter...what a lovely girl!...came over and said the strangest thing to us! (Insert statement). Isn't that funny? She's such a character!"

                                                              1. re: pinehurst

                                                                My family was in the restaurant business when I was growing up; my guess is that it was Dad that sent her over there to get them moving. And it sounds to me like she was trying to be friendly and humorous about it.

                                                                1. re: Niblet

                                                                  I was thinking something like what you suggest, Niblet. I doubt the hostess' age factors in too much as a clue about inexperience in this situation, as it's likely she grew up in the family business if they own or have owned other restaurants; I'm sure she's been immersed in informally learning about the restaurant industry a long time. I grew up in my parents business and even as a tween, I knew more about how our store was run and our inventory then our adult employees of various ages (I know, I'm projecting -- but it's also a possible scenario). Perhaps her parent didn't even suggest it, and she made the "executive" decision because her job was hostess and other customers were getting anxious to enjoy THEIR evening too, while OP was lingering toward the 4th hour at the table.

                                                                  1. re: team_cake

                                                                    Both NIblet's and team's suggestion make perfect sense, but would make more sense to me if the restaurant were closing for the night (instead of having guests waiting) or if there weren't open tables.

                                                                    It might have been tactful for Dad himself to come over to his faithful patrons who follow him from restaurant to restaurant and say (if they were indeed closing), "How was your meal tonight, folks? Everything great? Hey, before Maurice closes up the kitchen, can I send you out one more super special dessert to share?"

                                                              2. re: Alica

                                                                " I wonder if it makes a difference if a restaurant takes reservations or not."

                                                                It makes a huge difference. Also, if your table was a particularly desirable one or had been specifically requested by the party waiting for their reservation to be honored (it could have been the table that was special to them for any number of reasons*), that would be the kinda of situation where this scenario makes sense.

                                                                To step back from the particulars: 3 and a half hours is a long time for most American restaurants: a table that was booked for 6:30 would be planned on being ready for next service by 9 or 9:30 (this restaurant seems like it's not too rushed, so perhaps the latter). But the restaurant clearly expected to turn this table again before closing.

                                                                * Eg: it was the table where a prior special moment happened; it's a table that particularly well suited to the special needs of one of that party's members (that's one I am deeply familiar with, and there's a host of variables involved); it's the table where the staff can best execute a special request by that party; et cet.

                                                            2. I'm not going to go into the particular details of Alica's experience, but address instead the question of whether there is a time limit for a meal. The answer to that is yes. When you go out to dinner, you are not buying the table for the night. You have it for a reasonable period to finish your meal. Depending on the place, that could be 1 hour or 3 hours. Otherwise a restaurant could only plan for one turn of the tables. Imagine what reservations would be like. If a place had 30 tables, well then they could have 30 reservations for the night. You could do that. In fact when Alain Ducasse opened a place in NYC a while back, thats exactly what he did. Your reservation for a table was for the entire night. People were outraged by the prices though. That's the balance that a restaurant needs to maintain as Bob points out. Its a business. Needs to make money. Part of the business plan will determine how many covers a night will be served which will entail an assumption on how many times a table is turned. So yes, there is a time limit. The question that leads to then is how a restaurant manages guests who stay longer. Maybe this place could have done a better job. Bern's in Tampa added a dessert room some time ago to move people out of the dining room and keeping lingering down. I thought it was a great idea but not every place could afford to do this.

                                                              13 Replies
                                                              1. re: Bkeats

                                                                Ducasse does it in New York because that's how every restaurant in France does it...you have the table for the night -- if they turn it, great -- but you would NEVER be subjected to anyone clearing their throat and tapping their foot.

                                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                                  And the economics of the bottom 99% of American restaurants and servers cannot operate profitably in that manner (throat clearing and foot tapping aside).

                                                                  1. re: Karl S

                                                                    There are thousands of restaurants in Germany where you can sit all night if you want. Somehow, none of them are going broke b/c of it.

                                                                    It remains a mystery to me why in the US this heavy turning tables is necessary, but not so in other countries.

                                                                    1. re: linguafood

                                                                      In part because to attract good servers (who do not get the compensation and government benefits available in European countries ), the establishment has to be able to turn tables so that servers can get adequate compensation to live. The alternatives (raising prices, mandatory service charges regardless of size of party, much higher taxes to support much greater govt benefits, et cet.) are not typically attractive to American diners, and there's so much competition that establishment that wanted to adopt the European system would be hard pressed to succeed unless they were offering a high-demand lux product, as it were. It's just a very different context/background that we tend to be blind to.

                                                                  2. re: sunshine842

                                                                    "Ducasse does it in New York because that's how every restaurant in France does it...you have the table for the night -- if they turn it, great -- but you would NEVER be subjected to anyone clearing their throat and tapping their foot."

                                                                    Really? When you typed that post did you think that nobody was going to check? There's a French website called http://www.bestrestaurantsparis.com/f...

                                                                    It's the equivalent of Opentable. You can make reservations on line. I just picked 3 high end restaurants at random. All of them allow you to pick time slots.

                                                                    1. re: Bob Martinez


                                                                      Well, of course, you can book online. It's the 21st century here in Europe. You'll still have the table until you're finished regardless of whether your booking is 7.30 or 10pm (except for a small number of places which put time limits on when they require you to vacate - although I'm certainly not aware of any French restaurants that do that). We have a very different culture here and very different attitude to the apparent American view of restaurant "hospitality". It extends well beyond the high end. For example, a small Italian bistro in my part of the world states on its website - "Although we are only a small restaurant we will not rush you to finish your meal - in fact your table is yours for the evening" (http://www.dapiero.co.uk/). Most places don't need to say that - we all simply know it to be the case.

                                                                      Sunshine's post is entirely accurate and you may wish to consider that you owe an apology for the tone of your post.

                                                                      1. re: Harters

                                                                        That may be in the UK or in France but the OP appeared to be referring to a place in the US - and, judging from his/her profile, probably somewhere near Providence RI, USA.

                                                                        It is indeed interesting that European mores tend to a "table for the night" and I would hope that I have occasion to experience such a thing again soon but, as you say, circumstances are different in different parts of the world.

                                                                        1. re: Harters

                                                                          Look, I don't doubt that *some* restaurants in Europe award tables for the entire evening to a single group. Clearly they *all* don't - which is what she said. (FWIW I've been to Paris more than 20 times and ate out virtually every night. My meals, most on business trips when I was dining with French colleagues, all lasted about 2 hours and then we left. It wouldn't occur to me to camp out for the evening.)

                                                                          The French OpenTable clone that I linked to showed that restaurants were booking specific time slots. If the restaurant was booking the table for the entire night the status would either be YES or NO. If somebody booked the table for 7:00, there would be no reason for the restaurant to show the same table available at 9:00PM.

                                                                          If the 9:00PM group showed up there's a good chance they'd find Madame Alicia and her party just finishing their mains and looking forward to a leisurely 2 hours of desserts and cordials.

                                                                          That makes no sense. The restaurants I linked to (the first three I happened to try to book) all expect to turn multiple tables. In Paris.

                                                                          Which brings us back to the OP. She wasn't dining in Paris or Brussels or Frankfurt or Rome. She was at a restaurant in New England. They weren't playing by French rules of English rules - they were playing by ... well, you know. Citing the customs in place in a city almost 4,000 miles away is the ultimate red herring.

                                                                          If I walked into a restaurant in Paris, ate a meal, and then refused to pay the service compris on the grounds that "we don't do that in the USA" the French would rightfully think I was a lout. You need to respect the customs in place in the country you're in.

                                                                          A number of people on this thread, customers and even a server, have confirmed that table turning is standard practice at American restaurants. Some people clearly don't like it but that doesn't change the fact that it's part of the unwritten compact between diner and restaurant.

                                                                          1. re: Bob Martinez


                                                                            Although you are completely misunderstanding the way OpenTable and its equivalents work in Europe (and you also seem to be unwilling to accept information from folk living in Europe about how our restaurants work), I'm entirely in agreement with you about how American restaurants work. Just glad we don't have that culture here.

                                                                            And, just by way of clarification for your future trips to the country, my understanding is that, in France, where there is "service compris", there's nothing for you to refuse to pay as it's , erm,"compris"

                                                                            1. re: Harters

                                                                              Thanks for having my back, Harters.

                                                                              Bob -- re-read Harter's responses -- I won't rehash them all, but he's right.

                                                                              And I wasn't responding to the OP with that particular comment, I was responding to the comment about Ducasse.

                                                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                In Tokyo there are restaurants where you sit on straw mats. You can probably eat in Mongolia sitting on horseback. All of that, including the lack of time limits in other countries, has nothing to do with what's acceptable in Providence Rhode Island.

                                                                                1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                                  one more time...I was replying IN PARTICULAR to the comment about Ducasse, and explaining why it is that he operates his restaurant the way he does.

                                                                                  I had no intention of likening it to Tokyo or Mongolia or Providence, nor did I make any implication that I was doing so.. It was a different comment, to which I replied directly.

                                                                      2. re: sunshine842

                                                                        That's one of the things I adore about dining in Paris. I can linger over a cup of coffee if I want and no one bothers me. On the other hand, when I'm ready to go and looking for the check, it sometimes seems there's no one around. But the convention in the US is different. Won't say better or worse, just different. Causes confusion for travelers. Like that whole tipping thing.

                                                                    2. Since there appeared to be other tables available, the length of time they were occupying their table is a red herring. Immaterial. Not pertinent.

                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                      1. re: ricepad

                                                                        So why do you think they singled them out?

                                                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                          I don't know, something special (to them) about the table, I imagine. The hostess (receptionist?) was quoted as saying someone would "...pay...for your table..." Assuming that's an accurate quote, it sounds like they wanted that particular table, not any other table. In fact, if there were other tables available, that's the only scenario that makes sense to me. But I could be wrong. I have been before.

                                                                        2. re: ricepad

                                                                          Unless, for the reasons I noted above, the reservation was for a specific table, and the other tables already were booked for incomings who had yet to show. It can happen.

                                                                          1. re: Karl S

                                                                            At 10 pm? Possible, but improbable.

                                                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                                                              I agree. And I suspect it was in Providence, which does have a restaurant scene, but I am not sure how busy things get at 10PM normally there unlike, say, midtown or downtown Manhattan, et cet. But the point is merely that there are circumstances that do arise along these lines and campers should realize that.

                                                                        3. On one hand, I sympathize with those pointing out that a business is a business, people may have reservations, etc, etc... On the other, I do feel that if you're using the table - especially if you've been ordering and are not simply "camping" - it's your table. Part of being in a business like a restaurant is accepting that there's some amount of guesswork involved as to how long a party will take to finish their meal/occupation of space. Some tables will take longer than expected; some will take less time the predicted. As a patron - within the realm of reason - it isn't my job to worry about managing an establishment's space/timing concerns.

                                                                          For example, I have a medical condition that means I eat EXTREMELY slowly - at half the pace or less of most others around me. I warn my dining companions and they are all OK with it, but them's the drops, and I'd be pretty offended to be hustled along by a restaurant just because I eat really slowly. Sure it's a medical issue not "just socializing", but from the restaurant's perspective it presents the same practical concern re: space and timing. It'd be one thing to order a glass of water and the cheapest possible salad and then sit there for 3-4 hours, but it sounds like the OP and friends were spending reasonable money and enjoying a social event at a leisurely pace. I can't say I find anything wrong with that, especially as it sounds like they were spending decent money to be there.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: chartreauxx

                                                                            I would just alert the restaurant to your special needs in this regard; that's what would be fair - and the restaurant can choose to when accommodating your needs works best - it has to work mutually. For example, people who've undergone gastric bypass surgery can only eat about a 1/2 cup of food, spread over 30 mins, and then have to wait before drinking fluids, et cet. to avoid dumping syndrome.

                                                                            1. re: Karl S

                                                                              I can appreciate the sentiment, but I don't feel it's reasonable to put that onus on me, as a paying guest. Unless I'm told upfront at the beginning (there was a thread on this not too long ago, with a hostess informing a party that they were welcome as a walk-in but the table was reserved beginning at time X), or unless the restaurant has a standard policy about seating times or meal duration, it seems to me that eating at a restaurant means I can enjoy my experience, at my pace, within reason. I guess it's a fine line, no? What's appropriate vs rude as a dining guest is heavily context-dependent and a little hard to define, but I think with a little faith in most people's civility and judgment, we can assume the OP wouldn't be here worrying about it if she and her friends had been acting carelessly rude. I think best case it wasn't handled gracefully by the restaurant, and probably wasn't totes appropes.

                                                                              1. re: chartreauxx

                                                                                If I knew it would take me a long time to eat, I would choose to mention it when I made the reservation so they would know not to make another reservation after mine. Just a courtesy that would be good for both sides.

                                                                          2. Ah my fellow Americans...some of you seem to be profit minded; others leaning toward that long forgotten "customer service" aspect. Which is right in this case depends on your point of view.which many of you try and express so well. In Europe, of course, it is quite different. There, the customer service spect would tend to prevail.

                                                                            And in most small town American restaurants/diners, the lingering over a cup of coffee is still not only allowed but encouraged. Providence area being so much more cosmopolitan ( I went to school there), they must have a serious profit objective that they would push people out the door to make room for the next payor. Not a place I would tend to frequent again

                                                                            The best piece of advice I see in this whole thing so far would have been to have the owner offer a gratis after dinner drink or coffee in the bar/lounge, but the tacky "There are ppl willing to pay you for this table" is unsophisticated, shallow, crass, and uncalled for. For all the hosty knew, the next folks were only gonna order drinks and a munchie appetizer.

                                                                            Sorry, Alicia, I'm totally on your side...take your time and enjoy your meal and the good times. It is supposed to be the reason ppl go out for meals......at least 95% of the ads for restaurants seem to stress this

                                                                            1. Imo insist that the hostess escort the people willing to pay for the table inside, so that you can commence negotiations. It's difficult to negotiate with a third party standing between you.

                                                                              Start off by offering to let them have the table for $500, see what kind of counter-offer they make.

                                                                              If they come back with a weak offer of $75, show them the back of your hand and continue enjoying your post meal relaxation, if they want that table they have to make a serious offer.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: redfish62

                                                                                Yes, I'd think the total of the check would be the minimum acceptable offer in this case.

                                                                              2. am I missing something? (don't think so) the party was clearly not finished with dessert and cappucino when the receptionist spoke to them. it is simply rude and bad business to interrupt customers' dinner to ask them to leave. if the shoe were on the otrher foot and a table was waiting for change, would some here be equally critical of the restaurant as they are of the customers? just curious. it remains simply inexcusable behavior on the receptionist's part

                                                                                1. I also am old enough to remember when the standard in business was "the customer is always right" unless said customer is just being a complete jerk. if a restaurant has this little regard for its customers, I wouldn't go back. Yes, I know, there are MORE than enough customers to make up for impossible people like me - but perhaps not in this economy if ever

                                                                                  1. is the problem that the receptionist made the "pay for table" comment, or that the receptionist said anything at all?

                                                                                    offering a free round is great, but what if the restaurant does not have a bar section? or what if the answer is "no thanks, we're fine at the table and we've had our limit anyway"?

                                                                                    hypothetical situation: you have a reservation for 9 pm and show up on time. this place is full. the large table that can accommodate your group still has the previous party at that table sitting and lingering. after waiting a reasonable number of minutes (15? 60?), do you ask the receptionist to say anything?

                                                                                    let's say you do, and the receptionist informs you that s/he already mentioned to them at the 3:30 mark of their meal that there was someone waiting. do you want the receptionist to take any additional action, or do you leave and accept your fate in the name of customer service?

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: ta0126

                                                                                      If s/he has already spoken to the table at 3.5 hours, then this means they must have been seated sometime prior to 5:30. That could still just about be lunch service where I am. I suspect it would be a very unusual occurance for the restaurant - in my experience, folk who are wanting to have an evening meal in the late afternoon are usually doing so because they want to meet with their friends/colleagues and then get off home early.

                                                                                      1. re: ta0126

                                                                                        None of the above.

                                                                                        The problem is that **anybody** said **anything** -- a table of four that hasn't even finished dessert really should not be subjected to the thinly-veiled "you need to leave now" to which they were treated.

                                                                                        They shouldn't be asked to leave until after they are finished with their meal, period, no discussion. If it were two hours after the meal and they hadn't ordered anything since dessert, then there has to be a tactful way to suggest that it's time to move along. If they're continuing to order coffee and digestifs, then shut up and find somewhere else to seat the incoming party.

                                                                                        If you have a reservation and show up on time, it's up to the restaurant to seat you -- NOT to kick other diners out the door if they've not even finished their dessert.

                                                                                      2. oh my, oh my, oh my.......

                                                                                        If it's Red Lobster, well, maybe. Not sure...


                                                                                        An evening out for a white tablecloth dinner is a rare treat for us. So on those occasions, we like to take our time with the whole experience, drinks, appetizers, salad, entree, dessert, dessert drinks, and coffee. If a member of the restaurant staff approached us with such a crass interruption I would ask for the manager.

                                                                                        1. Alica,

                                                                                          I would say the restaurant handled it poorly. What they could have done was have the Manager come over and politely say that they would like to move you to the bar and buy your party a round of after-dinner drinks. Just one option if they really needed that specific table so badly.

                                                                                          1. So here's how I imagine the scenario could have worked. The table waiting either can't fit into any of the available tables or really wants OP's table. Let's say it's the second. Waiting guests (WG): "hostess, we really want that table in the window." Hostess: "well, they're just finishing entrees, so it might be a while." WG: "We're in no hurry. We'll wait."

                                                                                            Guests linger between entrees and dessert. Finally order dessert. WG tires of waiting. WG: "Hostess, we really want that table. We'd pay them to leave." Hostess laughs. WG insists: "please tell them we'll pay them for the table. Isn't the customer always right?" Hostess complies.

                                                                                            While it's certainly an odd exchange, no one seems to note that the guests who are waiting also have the "but I'm the customer" argument. That's the problem with the customer always being right argument; it often puts "right" customers at odds with one another.

                                                                                            I imagine the unwritten chowhound post is the one that says: "Hostess refused to present my offer to guests to pay them to leave. Wasn't she wrong not to listen to me?"

                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: nc213

                                                                                              and the answer would be No, she was not wrong to listen to you. She had other tables open and offered to seat you at them, but you rather selfishly insisted that she interrupt someone else's evening.

                                                                                              1. re: nc213

                                                                                                I might give that a try sometime, just pick out a table and tell the hostess I'll pay them $20 if they leave right now, would be worth the money for the LOLs.

                                                                                                1. re: nc213

                                                                                                  These kinds of situations are how you judge the caliber and discretion of a nice restaurant. At a neighborhood place, you might expect the hostess to try something this cute. Your meal sounds nice though, which means its a place where one might be reasonably expected to to for a date, with an out of town friend or with a client. In that case, that kind of interruption is absolutely unacceptable, more-so if you are a regular. It puts you in a position where you either comply (seem like a pushover) or decline (seem like a dick). An actual cash offer would be even more gauche. The customer doing the "normal thing" is more right than the customer trying to buy the table, with the exception of actual nightclubs. The staff's role is to protect your experience.