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An etiquette question

Time: 9:00PM
Location: Small South End restaurant, very popular and crowded with people waiting for tables (w/reservations)
Scenario: sitting next to a man and woman who finish dinner and tell the waitress that they will be having a cigarette outiside and then ordering dessert, they return in 15 minutes (9:15PM).

My question: is this OK?

(note:this scenario actually played out a bit differently but those of us at dinner discussed the ethics of the scenario under these circumstances)

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  1. well, better than a few years ago when they may have had it in the restaurant.

    Though it may seem inconsiderate, I don't think that anyone should feel rushed through their meal. Suppose it was a slightly different scenario, where they had finished their entrees but wanted a bit of time to settle before dessert, maybe ordering coffee first. Or, what if they simply asked for a slower pacing to the meal?

    I think I'm okay with it. What was your table's consensus?

    1. I think that is incredibly rude. What makes them more important than all the people waiting? If they must have a leisurely cigarette break before dessert, they need to take their dessert to go. They are hogging highly wanted real estate

      1 Reply
      1. re: trishalikespie

        which they paid for, as did everyone else. the next table might decide to sit there and have coffee or a digestif after dessert. just because people don't approve of cigarette smoking doesn't make the behavior rude.

        if they were told to make it quick by the server, then they should just have their dessert and go smoke after. if the server told them, "you're fine!" then the server knew there would be enough time that it would not impinge on other customers' rights.

        and yes i smoke socially and no i've not done this.

      2. they have the table..they want dessert..........the law requires them to go outside to smoke........sounds fine by me..........If the place had a nice lounge area, the wait-person (how PC is that???) might have suggested moving to a couch for their dessert.

        and..if iot was THAT busy.........the WP might have wanted to comp the dessert so they could turn tables

        1. If the restaurant was okay with it, and they didn't come in dragging a cloud of smoke....doesn't impact me or my meal or my experience.

          (if I were the one waiting for a table, I might feel differently, but it's really up to the restaurant to approve or disapprove)

          1 Reply
          1. re: sunshine842

            Spot on, their table for however long. To linger for 45 minutes over a cup of coffee perhaps no, but this seems fine.

          2. Yes, that is absolutely fine. If the reservations are too closely stacked, that is on the restaurant. They should account for faster and slower diners (unless they don't care just trying to cram as many covers as they can).

            1. If they had popped outside for a smoke while waiting in between courses, fine. But that wasn't the case here. They asked the server to stop their service for an extra 15 minutes while lots of people were waiting for their reserved tables. They could easily have waited for a smoke until after dessert was finished and they had paid and left. A restaurant isn't a bar, where you can pop outside for however long you want for a smoke. Yes, I would have been peeved. That behavior smacks of entitlement.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Kat

                I smoke and I agree with Kat. It's also a ridiculous scenario, since smoking a cigarette takes about 3 minutes, tops.

                1. re: pasuga

                  it takes me around 7 minutes to smoke a cigarette. im also very picky with cigarettes, and just like food, i like to savor my cigarette. its an experience for multiple senses for me. the sound of the lighter, watching the glow of the ember, the feeling of my lungs filing with smoke, the aroma of the whiskey barrel fermented tobacco. mmmmmmm. and also, im addicted haha.

              2. Not much difference than taking a bathroom break or someone heading out the door to make a cell call. The couple did alert the waitstaff and sounds like it was OK.

                1. Your real question may be "What is the longest reasonable time their cigarette break could have taken ?". If they'd taken a 30 minute break, would the posters who were OK with a 15 minute break still be OK with it ? If they'd taken a 2 minute break, would the posters were not OK with a 15 minute break now be OK with it ?

                  1. It's only rude if they did not tip the server accordingly.

                    This is no different than diners lingering at a table slowly sipping their cappuccino or espresso before deciding to order dessert.

                    1. It wasn't very considerate of them, hard to say where the line is between inconsiderate and rude. Most offices allow about 10 - 15 minutes for people to take a smoke break (time to get outside, light up, enjoy the smoke, and a few minutes of clean air so you aren't filling the office with stale tobacco smell afterwards) so the break may have been on the long side, but not pushed over the line - IMHO. If i was waiting for a table, would I be annoyed? Yes. Oddly enough if this were a bar and people were holding their table all evening while they went in and out several times, it would not be considered rude or even unusual.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                        This ten to fifteen minutes is whys friend started smoking. Smokers could take more than just the two allotted breaks. Very unfair IMO.

                        1. re: melpy

                          You know people who actually said "I really want more breaks in my work day. I think Ill take up a life threatening, addictive, incredibly expensive habit.?"

                          1. re: thegforceny

                            maybe they don't inhale. i know several people who started smoking while serving in the armed forces exactly for that reason.

                            1. re: thegforceny

                              I know guys in the military who've done it for that exact reason. Smoke breaks are ok. Stand outside and stare at the clouds breaks are not.

                              1. re: Hobbert

                                That's why I started smoking very large cigars when I was in the service.

                              2. re: thegforceny

                                Absolutely. There was no peer pressure (opposite actually). We were not young. No other friends in his circle smoked. He is highly educated with a ridiculous memory (captain of our quiz bowl type team in high school). He just wanted more breaks. Now it is 5-6 years later and he is still doing it though he has tried to quit.

                          2. Maybe they were regulars and this was something they always did, with the restaurants ok?

                            1. The nicer, wimpier side of me wants to say, sure, that isn't that much time....and they might count this as part of their enjoyable dining experience.

                              The other side of me says forget it. Rude, stupid, arrogant. Stinky.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: sandylc

                                rofl.I love decisive!....would you like expresso or coffee afterwards?

                              2. i know waiters and waitresses that really don't like it - but if it's a regular at the restaurant they'll be cool about it.

                                1. Certainly regularly see that happening where I am. I doubt whether anyone thinks it a problem.

                                  1. They asked the waiter, that is good etiquette.
                                    The waiter told them it was ok, that is good etiquette.

                                    Maybe the waiter knew they had ample of time before their table had to be readied before the next reservation.


                                    1. I do this all the time. In fact, I've stepped outside for a smoke more than once during the course of a meal on more than a few occasions - generally post-cocktail, pre-app and then post-mains, pre-dessert. Often this is at crowded restaurants with reservations. So, of course, I see nothing wrong with that behavior.

                                      I always seek approval of my server before doing so by saying something such as, "I was thinking of stepping outside for a cigarette, if it's alright with you." Never once has a server hesitated to say that it is perfectly acceptable for me to step outside and smoke; however, if they informed me that others were waiting for a table and that I could do so, but that it would be preferable for me to take my dessert or after-dinner drink in the bar, then I would have absolutely zero problem with that.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: MonMauler

                                        Once upon a time I was a smoker, and I do occasionally enjoy a single cigarette with a drink. But I never, ever, even in my most nicotine-fuled days, felt the need to stop in the MIDDLE OF A MEAL to smoke. Holy cow -- what are they putting IN cigarettes these days?

                                        1. re: Cheflambo

                                          I can remember the days (albeit a long time ago) when friends of mine smoked their entire way through the dinner...
                                          A cigarette with appetizer, another with salad, another with the entree and another with dessert.

                                          I have foreign friends visiting LA who are aggravated they can't do the exact same thing when we go out to dine.

                                          1. re: latindancer

                                            yes, for those used smoking, not being able to during a meal is a real challenge, and even worse when they drink.

                                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                                              This is definitely part of the reason for me. Although I am a regular smoker, I commonly go 4-8+ hours at work before stepping outside for a smoke. In social situations, in bars, and at restaurants, though, I am enjoying myself, and part of that includes smoking. I use smoking breaks in these instances to escape conversations or company I'd rather not indulge, to have a private moment with a fellow smoker, or simply to get up, move around, and see what is going on outside of my immediate vicinity.

                                              I would never consider removing myself from a high-end tasting menu service, where the food and drink is thoughtfully paced over several hours. I would, and often do, take a smoke break or two when I am at a similarly high-end establishment, spending several hours over the meal and ordering a la carte, though.

                                        2. re: MonMauler

                                          Do you do this when dining with others who are non-smokers?

                                          To be honest, if I were at a neighboring table and saw you disappearing for 10 minutes or so repeatedly during the course of your dinner I would think you were having severe stomach distress. I might even wonder if your meal, from the same kitchen as my meal, was causing these weird absences.

                                        3. I think that they are entitled to enjoy their meal. If the restaurant management does not object, it is OK. While the people waiting are indirectly impacted by the actions of people who are currently seated, the transactions are between each group and the restaurant, not with each other. If they smoked and brought in a cloud that irked other sensitive people dining, that is a direct impact.

                                          On the other hand, in NYC recently, there was a couple that used this to walk out on a few very expensive meals (i.e. including ordering $500 to $1,000 bottles of wine) before word got around the industry - "We're going out for a smoke before dessert" and never return...

                                          1. it speaks volumes regarding the lack of self control of those diners, but the resto didn't seem to mind, so what can you do

                                            1. I feel it is impolite to do this. If you have ordered your dessert and then slip out while waiting for it to come, that is one thing. To make the server guess where you are going and what you are doing and keep watching out for your return in order to serve you well is not a kind gesture. There are the others that are also waiting for tables to consider. I wouldn't be happy if I was in line.

                                              4 Replies
                                              1. re: Astur

                                                That's what I don't get. Why didn't they order dessert, then step out while waiting for it to arrive? It seems to me that by postponing ordering for a cigarette break, they are really wasting time, as after they come back, they'll have to wait for the waitperson to see that they are back, then order, then wait again for the dessert to arrive. Surely this could be done more efficiently.

                                                1. re: MelMM

                                                  I imagine they were more interested in enjoying their evening than about how efficiently they were spending their time.

                                                2. Unquestionably rude to both restaurant and waiting diners.

                                                  7 Replies
                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                      What is the practice in Europe? Is smoking not banned inside restaurants?

                                                      1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                        Practice (and the law) differ between countries. In the UK, smoking is banned by law inside buildings (homes and hotel rooms excepted). FWIW, it is a law I disagree with, even though I am not a smoker.

                                                        1. re: Harters

                                                          Having been forced for the first 18 years of my life to breathe tons of cigarette smoke constantly, I am all for laws limiting my exposure now.

                                                        2. re: GraydonCarter

                                                          In France banned inside public buildings. Took effect a few years back and was obeyed instantly.
                                                          Whenever you pass a restaurant or bar there are many, many people outside obeying the law. Here it is not necessary to ask regarding your table it is taken as a matter of course.

                                                      2. re: sal_acid

                                                        They told the server/restaurant where they were going. Restaurant accepted this. This does not affect anyone currently seated in the restaurant at all.

                                                        Therefore the only party who might possibly have a claim to inquietude would be the party due to sit at that exact table...and even they can only take it up with the restaurant, because it was the restaurant's decision at that point.

                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                          agree, and how would they know that was going to be their table?

                                                      3. I really don't see an issue with this.

                                                        If people are waiting for tables with reservations, obviously the restaurant is overbooking and I would be upset with the restaurant.

                                                        1. What you don't mention is whether people are waiting for tables past their reservation times. If people are waiting for 9pm tables at 915 and the restaurant is approving this behavior when already behind on reservations, then the management is being somewhat rude.

                                                          You also don't mention how long the people had been there. If they started their meal at 8 and still finished at 930, then this is in no way rude. I think the line gets fuzzy when they have been there for 3 hours plus and lingering without food or drinks.

                                                          1. i dont see anything wrong with this. i do understand that it could frustrate people that are waiting. however, at least for me, going to a restaurant is fun. after i finish my main course, i love just sitting there for a good 15 minutes chatting and relaxing. maybe even have another drink.

                                                            1. I know people primaily from the east coast or abroad who do this, when I am dining with such companions I find it annoying (especially when half the table ups and leaves intermittently). But there is certainly nothing wrong with it from an etiquette standpoint...Does make me cringe to think of the days when they could smoke right at the table!

                                                              1. Tacky, disrespectful, entitled. Not sure I'll go with rude. But an addiction (and I hear those of you who take pleasure in it) shouldn't take priority. You're there for the food, other people are waiting, the rhythm is around the food. You're not entitled to smoke everywhere anymore. This is one of the consequences. The social norms are changing, and I'm sorry, I'm okay with that. I've seen lung cancer up close and personal. I'm okay with some social pressure.

                                                                1. In general - I do not think what the couple did was poor etiquette. They asked, they were told it was ok, and they could have just as easily sat for 15 minutes arguing about the dessert menu.

                                                                  But to play devil's advocate, the only reason why I think what they did was uncourteous is that in asking their server - given the notion of the customer is always right - their server would essentially have to say "yes, it's ok".

                                                                  If the server said 'no, there are other people waiting for the table' - then the couple may have skipped dessert altogether and given a lower tip (partially due to the lower tab but also perhaps gone lower due to feeling rushed). The couple may have stayed, ordered dessert, but been irritated with the server and given a lower tip. Also - the couple may have opted to prove their point, and do a combination of not ordering dessert/not tipping well/and lingering anyways to prove a point.

                                                                  The couple may have also been gracious, ordered dessert and tipped well - but if I'm a server - I'm going to let the couple go smoke. The restaurant as a whole and management may suffer due to people waiting for reserved tables, but the individual server has a greater likelihood of being primarily focused on their immediate benefit of pleasing the already seated table.

                                                                  Therefore, while I don't have a problem with the couple enjoying the meal the way they wanted - I don't necessarily see asking the server as the person who's going to give an honest answer vs. a customer pleasing answer.

                                                                  1. Maybe they could have ordered dessert (if it were non perishable) prior to the smoke break so that it would arrive at their table just as they returned. I see no problem with them going out for a short break and returning to their table to finish. I cannot imagine smoking a cig and then being able to eat a dessert without hurling but that is just me.