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When is it OK to change tables?

My GF and I had lunch at a mid-scale pizza place today: GF immediately liked the place because there were a number of good-sized tables, well-spaced, and the ambience was nice, with soft jazz and low lights (in contrast to the unfortunate Vegas trend of bright, specular lighting and screaming music). We were looking forward to a pleasant lunch out.

Since it was not quite noon, the place was empty -- I mean *empty* -- and soon after we seated ourselves, a group of five middle-agesters a few years older than us arrived and sat down right at the next table. To make matters worse, the alpha male was a blowhard who droned on about his important connections at some corporation he used to work for, so the women had to pipe up just to be heard by each other.

Question: why did this happen? Why would a noisy group of five enter an empty restaurant and sit down right next to a couple having a quiet conversation? But never mind: it's a rhetorical question.

Later, my GF, who is hearing-impaired and could not understand me very well once the racket at the next table began, posed the question: why shouldn't we have simply picked up our pizzas and moved to another table? This sounded unacceptable to me at first -- I was concerned about offending the people at the other table -- but on reflection, why should I care what that bunch thought? Besides, they would probably have been oblivious to our moving.

So: When is it OK to change tables, or, in a higher-end restaurant, request to change tables?

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  1. I'm not sure why you'd care if you were offending them when it was *they* who felt entitled to come and sit down *right* next to you with all their ill mannered loudness. They apparently weren't too worried about offending you, right? I have no idea why people do what they did....it happens alot though, from my experience.

    When I'm dining, spending my time and money to have a nice dining experience, and someone else impedes on that experience then all bets are off...

    I would have had no problem moving, but that's just me. As you say they, most likely, wouldn't have even noticed. If you were a little worried about them being offended and the awkwardness it may have caused, I suppose you could have quietly said something like, "we're having a little bit of trouble hearing each other so we're going to move a little further over there" with a smile. There are gentle ways of doing things like that and still have it come out a win-win.

    9 Replies
    1. re: latindancer

      Totally agree.
      It's like the empty beach and someone puts their towel right next to you.

      1. re: Beach Chick

        And who turns on the radio so all can listen to their music,while you are quietly trying to read a book. Then again there is the large loud group that decide to plop right down next to you while the rest of the beach is empty! No matter how you look at it they are all inconsiderate people that you can justify moving away from without worrying about hurt feelings.

        1. re: Beach Chick

          Or a 10am matinee @ the theatre, completely empty, and in walks the *only* other person, plunks themselves right down next to me and chomps on an entire large popcorn throughout the movie.

          Or an entire mountain. Very young and in love we packed up and headed for the hills to camp with a large tent, etc.
          A large group of stoners drives in, in the middle of the night, and sets up a circle of tents within two feet of us. We spent the entire few days trying to figure out, with them partying like there was no tomorrow, how to move without offending. We envisioned them bludgeoning us in the middle of the night if we left. We were young *and* stupid.

            1. re: latindancer

              I have a vivid memory of a former boyfriend who, when faced with a similar situation, climbed up a nearby rock and shouted out for all to hear: "You'll never reach Buddha-hood if you are noisy in the mountains!"

              1. re: janetofreno

                I love that!

                Going back many years, we were dining at a high-end Northern CA restaurant. One particular table was way, way over the top. They were screaming, shouting and all were laughing, at every word. The management approached them several times, asking that they tone it down. They did not, possibly becoming even louder. At a point, the management gathered the all up, and escorted them out. The entire dining room stood, and applauded that move.

                The rest of the evening was excellent.


            2. re: Beach Chick

              Ha Ha! I totally forgot about the empty beach syndrome. Like WTF? Seriously? Do you think I want or need company?

              1. re: JerryMe

                <empty beach syndrome.>

                LOL. It's a good one. It'd be interesting to understand the mentality...it's like some sort of pack mentality like a dog going straight for the other dog.
                Does the person think you want the company or are they afraid to be by themselves and you're their safety net should a giant tsunami occur out of the blue? It's just one of those quirky little behaviors that are so odd.

            3. That is a shame Steve. It happens way too often to me. Since you seated yourself did you pick a cozy little corner? With no hostess on duty I would have moved pretty quickly. Was there linen on the tables? I would have taken my napkin to the new table if it was linen and tried hard not to soil two tables.
              Dining out sometimes feels like rolling the dice with who you get as fellow diners. I was just telling my friend about the days when there were no smoke free zones and cigarette smoke would come wafting over as you were trying to eat.
              If only the noisy table had arrived first you could have sat as far away as possible. Once in awhile I get in a mood where I want to eat out but my tolerance for situations such as you experienced is zilch. Just once, when I was living in Miami my dining companion and I found the perfect solution. It was a Japanese place with a couple of small private dining rooms separated by sliding walls from the main area. Even though there were only two of us somehow my friend convinced the hostess to let us eat in a small private room. Now that was amazing!

              2 Replies
              1. re: givemecarbs

                "Dining out sometimes feels like rolling the dice...." lol, so true. Off topic, but since this is "Not About Food" that is exactly why I like the boarding process on Southwest Airlines. I know people who shudder at the thought of no assigned seats, and talk about "cattle calls" - but at least if you see/hear a crying baby you can choose not to sit nearby.....

                To get back on topic, I try and check out who is where when I enter the restaurant. Then if I see some situation I obviously want to avoid, I just ask to be seated elsewhere......

                1. re: janetofreno

                  With SW, we always buy the "Business Select," or similar syntax, to get to pick the seats first.

                  In some restaurants, one never knows who is at the next table, for a few moments.

                  Tough call.


              2. It all depends on the type of restaurant...

                it is OK to change table when a table is too noisy or doing too much disturbance that will prevent you for enjoying your meal.

                When changing table, it is always (if possible) better to ask the wait staff before doing so.

                1 Reply
                1. I think asking the waitstaff to move you to a quieter corner would have been appropriate. Offending the other noisy group at the other table would be the last thing on my mind. They didn't care enough about you to speak in their indoor voices, did they? :-)

                  1. Secretly, I love messing with the bloviated blowhard.

                    ; )

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Beach Chick

                      Watch out, that "bloviated blowhard," might be me... [Grin]

                      Some years back, we were seated upstairs at Galatoire's, as we had too tight a schedule to allow for standing in line. All was good, for a bit. Then, two couples were seated behind us. They were 125 dB over the top. Our server stopped by, and informed us that the loudest male at the table was the most successful developer in New Orleans, and that we should recognize him. He, and his "posse" was so very loud, that we should have moved, and far, far away, but they were full that night. Unfortunately, our entire night was ruined, as those two couples screamed, laughed, and shouted, all night long.


                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                        <Our server stopped by and informed us>

                        Huh? I'm not sure who I'd have been more aggravated with...the loudmouth developer or the server who told you that you should recognize him.

                        1. re: latindancer

                          It may have been that the server was trying in a subtle (too subtle?) way to let Hunt know that they really couldn't (or didn't want to) do anything to get that particular customer to quiet down...

                          hubby tells the story about being a very quiet romantic place, and having his romantic dinner ruined by a very loud, drunk table nearby. He asked the server if there was anything that could be done and was told no: the server pointed out that there were no empty tables out of earshot of the offenders, but more importantly (from the server's point of view), the loudest and drunkest was the local representative to the state's legislature...

                          1. re: latindancer

                            Good point.

                            In that case, the server was likely trying to apologize, or cover up for the other diners.

                            Galatoire's is sort of a special, and also an odd place. Many families have had the same server for generations, and they are often "passed down" to younger generations.

                            To us, we do not care if that obnoxious diner is the President of the United States, the Governor of Louisiana, or just some "big shot." If they are "over the top," they need to be reigned in. At least IMHO.


                        2. My wife and I were at dinner at a mid-price restaurant. It was still early when we arrived and the restaurant was not full, but we still asked to be seated in a side room because we thought it would be quieter. As we were being seated, I took note of a setup for what looked like a large party, but I figured we would be gone by the time they arrived. However, right before our entrees arrived, a few young ladies arrived at the table, then a few more, and then a few more. Turns out it was a bachelorette party and they were armed with bottles of wine (the restaurant is a BYO). I grabbed our server and asked if we could be moved to another table. Everything was handled smoothly, and we finished dinner and dessert in the main room.

                          1. It is *always* OK to change or, at least, to ask to change.

                            My usual reason is something to do with the furniture - a table or chair that wobbles; a type of chair that isnt as comfortable as the ones "over there". I can only recall one time when we've asked to move because of the neighbouring diners - one of the pair had a very loud, whiney, intrusive voice that just irritated the hell out of me within a couple of minutes.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Harters

                              I agree with you 100%. Assuming there's another table available, there's no reason to not change locations if something is bothering you where you're seated.

                              A few weeks ago, I was having dinner with my husband and our daughter at a fairly casual Italian place that was pretty busy. As we began to look at our menus, I became uncomfortably aware that a woman seated at a table next to ours had a shrill voice that literally made my ear drums vibrate. We asked our server if there was another table available, and when one was, we were moved. It would have been unpleasant to remain where we were. Asking to have our table changed was no big deal.

                            2. For crying out loud, it was a nearly empty pizza joint. Pick up your stuff and move. What's the worse that can happen? The blowhard gives you a dirty look? I suppose some here will suggest you should be sure to tip more since you may have caused a server to go to all the trouble of wiping off the vacated table.

                              1. I SO soso wanted to move tables Sunday evening... we were out after a long day on the road and the table behind us had a couple guys who were downing beers at a rapid rate and talking nonstop really loudly. unfortunately the restaurant was packed. oh well.

                                in your case, or if the place we were at Sunday had been empty, I would have simply asked the server for another table. no biggie. :)

                                1. Noisy fellow-customers is certainly one cause for moving. Another was identified in another recent thread about servers who smoke on breaks and reek of cigarette smell while working. That would certainly cause me to ask managment for another table using another server.

                                  1. I'll change if the table is too close to the bathroom, kitchen or main aisle with waitstaff running back and forth.

                                    1. I think it would have been fine to change tables. If you offended them, so be it. I've moved because of badly behaved children.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: wincountrygirl

                                        "If you offended them, so be it "

                                        Exactly! Are they going to come over to where you've re-situated yourselves and ask WHY you've moved?? I think not.

                                      2. It's simple. You pay to have a nice lunch. You get to sit where you want. TS if another patron is offended. They aren't buying your lunch

                                        1. The alpha male just wanted an audience. The best thing to do with types like that is to not give him one. You should have moved.

                                          1. I absolutely will change tables / locations with no qualm about it. Even after the food's arrived. If I'm seated by a hostess, I'll discreetly ask our waitress if we can change tables for whatever the reason. If the answer is no, I'll ask for the manager.

                                            I've refused seating from the hostess before. For whatever reason we were heading into the "crying children zone" on a hungover Sunday morning. Um, no. I LOVE kids but there's a reason ours were not in tow at the time.

                                            1. I think it's always okay to change tables or ask to have your table changed if the party next to you is loud, obnoxious..etc. After all..your time, money and experience is important too. You have as much right to an enjoyable experience as the next person!

                                              1. You pose a very good question.

                                                Two years ago, we were dining at a French Bistro, in Mayfair, London. They were full, and we were seated upstairs. This has happened a few times, over the years.

                                                There was a very, very loud table in the corner, opposite from us, who were shouting, and I mean SHOUTING. The women were from the US, and possiblly Texas, while the men were from the UK, or OZ?

                                                There was a table of four, who were seated next to them. As any table emptied, they immediately move to that, then the next, and then the next, until they were immediately abreast of us. When the one, offending table left, I approached them, and apologized for not offering MY table, but applauding them for their various moves, to escape the noise.

                                                Some diners should never be let out of the "compound," as they just cannot interface with other humans. That is highly unfortunate.


                                                PS - I would have moved, and moved, and moved.

                                                1. In theory, I think it's 100% ok to either change your table or request to change table at any point of the meal as long as it's done politely and understanding that there may be reasons such as reservations preventing such a move.

                                                  However, personally I am far less likely to move once food has been served. If just drinks have been served, then I'm more proactive about moving - but once food has begun to arrive I get more personally bothered by the fuss it would cause to move.