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Server: "This section is closed."

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Last weekend we stopped at a Bob Evans chain restaurant for dinner. We were seated and waited for a server to acknowledge us. Minutes later, a server came over and said, “This section is closed.”

This happens from time to time in restaurants in general.

Servers, please don’t tell a customer that the section they were sat in by your restaurant is closed. It makes them feel wrong and makes a bad impression. It’s not your customer’s fault that your host/hostess sat them in a closed section.

Think it. Let it be on the tip of your tongue. JUST DON’T SAY IT.

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  1. When a section in a chain restaurant is closed, a manager has deemed it so as part of ordinary restaurant funtions. The server is correct to tell you so, but should be diplomatic about it. The hostess in your situation was obviously not informed the section was closed. It was an honest mistake. You should not have felt bad. What was so wrong?

    3 Replies
    1. re: ttoommyy

      How about "perhaps the hostess wasn't aware this section is closed. I apologize. Please let me re-seat you. Do you have a preference for a booth or a table?' instead?

      1. re: HDinCentralME

        Perfect!

        1. re: HDinCentralME

          Very appropriate response, IMO.

      2. Sections are typically closed because there isn't enough business and corralling all the customers in another section means waitstaff doesn't have to walk as far. If I'm seated by the host/ess by mistake, take off my jacket, place my napkin on my lap and start perusing the menu, why should I have to gather my things and move just for the mere convenience of the restaurant? Shouldn't they just accept that a mistake was made by them and deal with it?

        I know, it's not really a big deal to move to another seat but in the balance of things and for the sake of customer service, who should be the one who is mildly inconvenienced?

        6 Replies
        1. re: RC51Mike

          "If I'm seated by the host/ess by mistake, take off my jacket, place my napkin on my lap and start perusing the menu, why should I have to gather my things and move just for the mere convenience of the restaurant?"

          Other diners will see you sitting in the closed area and ask to be seated there. It becomes a sticky situation (been there, done that as a wait person). Sometimes it's just a good thing to be nice and do as one is asked in a situation like this. Is it really inconvenient to put your jacket back on and move? Yes, I understand it's the principle of the thing, but sometimes it's just best to roll with the punches.

          1. re: RC51Mike

            It's not just about the waitstaff walking as far. Often when a section is closed, it has been (or is curretly being) cleaned, has been stripped of certain amenities (no hot coffee nearby, or no bread available, etc). The floor may be wet (or about to become wet), silverware may have been removed. The area may not be set up for guests, or it may be about to be cleaned which would interrupt a guest's experience. A restaurant should accept their mistake in seating a customer there and handle it politely and appropriately as stated above, but having a customer stay in a closed section could mean that the cleaning and close-out work needs to be delayed an hour until the guest is finished eating (which means employees are on the clock waiting, and money is being wasted), or if the section was already cleaned, it may now need to be redone, which also creates additional work for other servers or staff.
            Just letting you know there are other implications to having a customer remain in a closed section than the tread on a servers' shoes.

            1. re: hyacinthgirl

              My best friend in high school was a waitress at a fish camp. She had stories, her last one being....The hostess sat a couple in my friend's just-closed and cleaned section as she was leaving for the evening. She walked into what was apparently only a SEMI - private bussing area, said 'SH!T' in frustration, was overheard, and promptly fired.

              Even at 16, though she had the manners not to complain to the patrons directly ;-)

              1. re: danna

                It may have been unfair, but at 16 it was a good lesson learned.

            2. re: RC51Mike

              Then don't complain when you get poor service because you aren't part of the servers normal section nor near any of her other tables and as such are easily overlooked.

              It's not like you even had drinks served. You took your jacket off and picked up the menu quelle horreur

              1. re: RC51Mike

                "why should I have to gather my things and move just for the mere convenience of the restaurant?"

                No, stay where you were misseated and put up with bad/slow service, the sounds of a vacuum cleaner, and smells of mops, detergent, glass cleaner, AND the noise from the staff table where the off duty staff are bitching about customers such as you.

                Don't blame the minimum wage server who has to tell you the section is closed. Would you rather sit there for twenty minutes and wonder why no one came to take your order, or why they turned the lights out?

                Especially in such a low class joint as Bob Evans. We're not talking fine dining here, but the lowest of low of non-fast food or cafeteria feeding joints.

              2. Not that I have anything against the place but it's BOB EVANS!! We aren't talking about fine dining here!! I'm surprised they actually have sections!!

                I think you can gauge the level of customer service to be somewhat equal to the level of the restaurant you are visiting. In this case I would place Bob Evans on the bottom rung of the restaurant hierarchy ladder.

                I'm not surprised by your post but more by the surprise of your reaction.....sorry.

                1. the vehemence of your reaction, especially at a Bob Evans restaurant, really surprises me.

                  this happens all the time in all sorts of restaurants.
                  hostesses aren't perfect.
                  there are miscommunications
                  all sorts of things occur, even more often in chain/cheap/high-volume restaurants than fine dining/heavily staffed restaurants.

                  when i'm dining at an inexpensive, everyday, restaurant, i don't expect to be treated like the queen of england nor do i have the expectation that the servers, hostesses, etc, will have a phenomenal amount of social skill (if they did, they could probably find a better job)

                  i'd give them a complete pass on this tiny, trivial, mistake.

                  guess that's just me.

                  1. Why would it possibly make you feel wrong that the hostess sat you in a closed section? You didn't choose it.

                    Not sure why you'd want to be ignored in a closed section where no servers are assigned to take care of you in the first place. Just move as requested and stop taking stuff personally that you neither caused nor are responsible for.

                    1. You're correct in saying the server did a poor job if they did responded in such a way. As a server, they should never let the customer feel like they are "wrong" when it was out of their control.
                      If I were to train that server, I would make sure they explain the situation politely, saying that being in a unserviced section was a mistake and that being here could cause undesirable service- especially if you are far away from active sections or the server assigned to that section is not in/ready to serve yet.

                      1. This would have bothered me too Hick. I'm surprised at the number of scolding comments made by my fellow hounds. Thanks for posting this.