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The battle with hostesses over table space: have you had this experience?

I'm not an unreasonable guy. I understand restaurants wanting to save their four tops during busy periods to seat the maximum number of customers, but when the restaurant is not busy, I resent hostesses and servers putting us at a two top when there are plenty of four tops available. Many two tops barely have room for the plates, glasses, and silverware. When the food comes, major rearranging has to be done to fit all the serving dishes on the table.

I realize that this means that servers have to remove two place settings, but it is a small price to pay for making your customers more comfortable, isn't it?

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    1. re: wyogal

      Yes, I generally ask for a larger table. I'm kind of shy and I don 't like to cause problems, but this does irritate me enough so that I do ask. Almost universally, the hostesses or serving people are very nice about it, although it often throws them for a loop and they have to return to the reception area to consult with someone there or check the seat layout to what is not yet reserved.

      1. re: gfr1111

        So, you ask and are accommodated. What's the issue? Do you want them to automatically give you a 4 top? I don't understand.
        I've always been accommodated when I ask for a larger table.

        1. re: wyogal

          Wyogal, the thing is that it's a hassle. I am suggesting that the policy should be to always put you at a four top, unless the restaurant is busy.

          1. re: gfr1111

            I disagree. No hassle for me. Never has been. Maybe for you.
            When you open your restaurant, you can have that policy.

    2. Doesn't really seem like a battle with hostesses, or servers.
      They must be following the policies set by managers and/or owners, so isn't that whom you should be addressing the issue with?

      1. I also want to know if you make it a habit to ask for the 4-top?
        I also hate too-small tables for two. It says something about the cheapness of the restaurant if their goal is to smush as many patrons in at the expense of their comfort.

        7 Replies
        1. re: monavano

          Yes, I just answered Wyogal's identical question. I do ask for a four top (most of the time), but I hate all the hassle of being taken to the table, brought back to the hostess's reception area, sometimes asked to wait a few minutes, etc. The hostess or server are always nice about it. It is not a big deal, but it could easily be taken care of by a change in policy: seat patrons at a four top, unless it is busy.

          Then there are the restaurants where the hostess has a roomful of empty tables and asks me if I want to sit at a hightop in the bar . . .

          1. re: gfr1111

            I understand the bit of angst that comes with asking. I'm not a fan of high tops and would rather settle for the tiny 2 top!

            1. re: gfr1111

              Ok, so ask for a four top as soon as you go in. Problem solved.

              1. re: gfr1111

                Pardon, but this seems unreasonable. "unless it is busy" -- the waitress ought to be preparing for it to become busy, unless you're eating lunch at 2pm (at which point, the odds of a pile of people are next to zero).

                1. re: gfr1111

                  Then there are the restaurants where the hostess has a roomful of empty tables and asks me if I want to sit at a hightop in the bar . . .


                  if it's between peak lunch and dinner service, they may not have dining room servers on, or that server is just about to cash out. or they may just be trying to get the bar a little bit of extra biz in a dead period. or they may want to clean up and do noisy stuff like vacuum.

                  in some restaurants, many of the 4-tops actually pop up to make larger tables and they may be wanting to pre-set the room for reservations for large parties.

                2. re: monavano

                  gfr111 and monavano:

                  it appears to me that neither of you has any first hand, personal experience signing a ten year, triple net restaurant lease with a personal guarantee.

                  the two of you, please get back to us after you have personally had this experience.

                  1. re: westsidegal

                    {{Tipping my hat to you}} Well said!!!!

                3. You are always going to get the smallest table unless you ask, less for them to clean and reset, what's the battle?

                  1. You _resent_ them seating a party of two at a table for two? And expressing your preference for a larger table, and having your preference immediately accommodated, is a "battle"? I'm afraid I can't relate to this at all. I mean, I can imagine having exactly the same objective experience, and then forgetting about it 30 seconds later. Nothing worth complaining to the Internet about.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: DeppityDawg

                      No, I resent them making me less comfortable so that they save the horrendous effort necessary to clear two place settings. And you act like most tables for two actually accommodate two. They don't.

                        1. re: gfr1111

                          You seem to enjoy exaggerating. No, it's not a horrendous effort for them to give you a larger table (that's why they happily do it, if they can), but it's not a horrendous effort for you to ask, either. "It is a small price to pay for making your[self] more comfortable, isn't it?"

                          1. re: gfr1111

                            If I have a seating preference of any kind I just tell the hostess, whether it's a larger table, a booth, a window seat, upstairs, whatever. It's never been a big deal. It's not something I ever thought about until this minute.

                        2. Assuming the restaurant isn't busy, I just make my preference clear from the start. Sense of entitlement? You bet. I'm a customer in a mostly empty restaurant, and it's not just before a rush time like, say, lunch hour. If they balk, I leave. Simple.

                          1. We always ask for a larger table -- tables for "two" are generally no bigger than the plates, making the dining experience unpleasant and cramped. If they won't or can't accommodate we simply go elsewhere.

                            1. Just the fact that you used "battle" in your subject line makes me wonder. Where's the battle? The hostess is just an employee and has to abide by house rules; she's not doing it to tick you off. Ask for a 4 top. If she says no, either sit at the 2 top or kindly ask to speak to the manager on duty if it is that important to you. Simple.

                              1. ....but is it discrimination...?

                                (Think before you reply, folks. Thanks!)

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: ricepad

                                  Discrimination as in 2 people will tip less than 4 people? That's part of why some wait staff does not like having 2 people at a 4 top, but I don't see it as discrimination. Just practicality.

                                  1. re: ricepad

                                    Yes! The very existence of 4-tops is discrimination against smaller and larger parties of diners, not to mention take-out customers. I'll be contacting my Congresspersons first thing in the morning.

                                  2. I believe the issue is they have toile sure the servers are getting their fair share of tables. If wait and ask after They have brought you to the table then they need to go rework the seating.

                                    1. I just noticed you're from Florida, @gfr1111. I wonder if this is a geography-related subject. Beinfg from the NYC metro area where restaurant table space is at a premium and we are used to cramped spaces, sitting at a 2 top is not a problem for me. Maybe in Florida perceptions are different? (I haven't been to Florida since I was about 10 years old.)

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                        not that I've seen in close to 30 years in Florida, ttoommyy.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          Our most recent addition to the food Chain on the east coast of Florida is Cheddar's. And the smallest table they have is a 4 top. As a solo diner, I felt uncomfortable taking up the space. Since there were so many waiting in line.

                                          1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                            how's yours? the ones here are remarkably hit or miss.

                                            (I don't mind sitting alone at a 4-top - gives me the opportunity to unapologetically open up my newspaper)

                                      2. Beevod, thanks for making my point. At a two top, there is just about room for the plates and the rest of the table setting. There is no room for the serving plates.

                                        Ttoommyy, I've been to NYC (well, Manhattan) and I agree that the premium on space there is much higher than in Florida, generally. So the two top versus four top problem is exacerbated there.

                                        But remember what else I said. If a place is busy (or will be soon), I don't remark about the two top assigned to me. It's only when, clearly, the time and the population of the restaurant make it clear that a four top will not be used for a long time, that I object. For example, when it is 1:00 p.m., the lunch crowd has cleared out, and it is clear that the restaurant will not be busy again until 5:00 p.m., then is when I become unhappy. No one is using, or is going to use, those lonely four tops for the foreseeable future!

                                        DeppityDawg and Ttoommyy, you both remarked about how I exaggerated this problem (DD) or called it a battle (Tt) and yes, this is not in line with world hunger or nuclear disarmament. Blame it on my hyperbolic style of writing. Thanks for your comments and everyone else's.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: gfr1111

                                          Do you object when being seated at a two top, or do you ask first, before being led to a two top? I don't see where you say you've requested a 4 top. It just seems that you want the host to read your mind.

                                          1. re: gfr1111

                                            beevod really didn't make your point. They said "we always ask for a larger table." I and others said that we often will request a larger table -- your point that a four top is more comfortable for two people than a two top is unquestionably true.

                                            I think what bothered people was that you indicated an unwillingness to ask. It's really a simple question, easily answered. The fact that you referred to asking as a "battle," even if you were being hyperbolic, led to people questioning why you felt so adversarial towards the wait staff.

                                            Once a friend and I caught an afternoon movie. There was a restaurant in the area that I had wanted to try, so after the film we strolled up to the place and walked in the front door just minutes after they opened. The hostess approached us and asked if we had a reservation. I replied "no, I'm afraid not."

                                            She said she could seat us at the bar, but not at a table. I looked around the completely empty restaurant and said "you mean that every table is reserved in the next hour and a half?" She said that she was very sorry, but that's exactly what she meant. It turned out that the restaurant was less than a block away from the local symphony hall, and they had a performance starting at 7.

                                            You don't always know what reasons a restaurant has for making seating decisions. A polite inquiry is the way to go.

                                            1. re: JonParker

                                              He did say "Yes, I generally ask for a larger table. […] Almost universally, the hostesses or serving people are very nice about it". In other words, it seems like he handles this exactly the way anyone else would. But what for most people is a successful and totally mundane social interaction is a source of resentment and irritation for him. Another example of how you never really know what's happening in other people's heads. He admits to being "kind of shy"; I can see how being shy and uncomfortable about making requests, and at the same time having really specific, strong preferences about how things need to be, can be a recipe for dissatisfaction and anger. But in that case I think I would be angry at myself, not at the hostesses and servers.

                                              1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                I guess I just didn't understand this part, "... although it often throws them for a loop and they have to return to the reception area to consult with someone "
                                                Why are they not already at the reception area? Sounds to me like the "asking" is being done upon arrival at a 2-top, not upon being greeted in the reception area.

                                                1. re: wyogal

                                                  Maybe he wants to see the 2-top first to see if it's roomy enough after all. Maybe he needs that extra time for his irritation to boil over and motivate him to ask. Whatever the case, even if they have to go back to reception, it's really no big deal. It's a normal part of the host/hostess's job. It's not causing problems or throwing them for a loop, and I doubt they give it a second thought once you're seated. But who knows, maybe they are seething in anger and they can't wait for their shift to end so they can log on to CH to post about those two time-wasting, problem-causing, loop-throwing so-and-sos they had to battle with at lunchtime today.

                                                  1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                    Customer service is much like petting cats -- you always try to pet the cats in the right direction.

                                                    But no matter what you do, some cats just insist on turning around.

                                          2. I don't live in NY and I don't mind a two-top. I just don't see that it's such a big deal. If it were though, I would simply ask if it were possible for us to sit at a bigger table.

                                            1. Your expectation that they will read your personality to understand that you resent (in some way) having to ask is an unreasonable expectation.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: Karl S

                                                I'm just curious what the expectations are if a couple went to an empty chinese restaurant that had large round tables with the lazy susan... would one be upset that they aren't seated at the largest table?

                                                1. re: Blueicus

                                                  Well, from a different cultural perspective, that would look soooooo lonely. (Americans like that a lot more than people in some other cultures. We like the less-travelled, individual path that looks terribly lonely to people from elsehwere.)

                                              2. While dining out over the weekend, the 2 of us were seated at a 4-top in a restaurant that was pretty dead. As we approached, I was almost hesitant to sit there as it seemed a waste for just the 2 of us and also a bit "impersonal" if you know what I mean. This all ran through my mind and happened as we were walking to/being seated at the table; it was just a subconscious thing as this thread did not pop into my head until after we were seated and looking through the menu. What I learned from this without thinking about it is that I actually rather sit at a 2-top when it is just the 2 of us. I never really thought about it before this thread and what happened this weekend. Interesting. Just goes to show, different strokes... and all that. :)

                                                1. It is neither a battle or a "horrendous effort" to say to the hostess: "Do you mind if we sit at this table over here?", while motioning towards a 4-top.

                                                  In at least this respect, life can be as easy or difficult as you make it. This is a seething of your own creation.

                                                  1. I dislike 2-tops mainly due to the fact they are often set up against the wall....it it does not allow for much overall movement and shoulder space I have no such problems when the tables are at banquet seating or in the middle of the room. When seated at a 4-top against the wall, I will always sit in the aisle seats for the same reasons.

                                                    IO can also relate to the lack of space for plates....I tend to order more items, rather than less, for sharing or sampling and 2-tops do not afford the proper space needed to do so. I also like to eat my salad after my entree, so that also presents a problem.

                                                    In the end, I sit where I'm lead....or I'll simply request a larger table if possible. No rocket science and most problems are solved with common sense. All you need to do is ask depending on the circumstances before you.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: fourunder

                                                      We frequently order more than most four person parties because we like trying several different plates and like leftovers.

                                                      Asking for a bigger table is second nature to us if the place isn't packed. If they can only fit us in a two top, we ask them to pace the orders if possible and warn that we will have leftovers.

                                                      We find it funny to see the waiters taken aback by how much we order. But as long as communication and expectations are established, it's never a problem.

                                                      1. re: Jase

                                                        Generally, my experiences are the same as yours....but one not so much. There's a place that was a pretty expensive Italian restaurant that switched back to its roots and transformed back to a upscale Pizzeria with a Brick Oven. On a Sunday night with the Bar Patrons out of control during Football Season, they sat us at a 2-top right next to the bar in basically an empty dining room. During our entire stay, there were never more than 4 tables taken...or about 25% full. We ordered a bottle of Pellegrino, Beer and Wine. Bread was brought out....with bread plates. We ordered two appetizers, a family salad bowl and a pizza. Needless to say the waitress just put the order in all at once. The salad arrived which we started in on, only to be immediately followed by the two appetizers... We dis out best to fit them all on the table.....then you guessed it. The pizza arrived. The owner came by and apologized, took the pie back and said they would fix a new pizza......no such luck, the same when returned burnt black on the bottom. I took one bite and refused it.....after some disagreement the owner acquiesced and removed it from the bill. We didn't order another one and we couldn't get out of there fast enough.

                                                        1. re: fourunder

                                                          Sounds like that place had multiple issues. Probably better for you to have never returned.

                                                    2. I have social anxiety disorder (receiving treatment, BTW) and usually feel uncomfortable with certain simple (to most) social negotiations. But I make the negotiations anyway, as it is my choice to be out and about amongst my fellow humans, and it is therapeutically helpful for me to push myself when anxiety arises.

                                                      Not as big a deal as it was in times past, but I think many people do not realize that simple social graces such as appropriate eye contact and requests for what cannot be assumed (most hostesses aren't mind readers) can be difficult for some of us.

                                                      Taking a deep breath, smiling, and asking nicely and with sincerity always results in favorable outcomes for me and mine. but it is an effort, and I hope you good people can understand this. I know you do, as you all respond in kind with a smile... I am not speaking for the OP, but for myself.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: silence9

                                                        "Taking a deep breath, smiling, and asking nicely and with sincerity always results in favorable outcomes for me and mine. but it is an effort, and I hope you good people can understand this."

                                                        Yes, of course most of us do. I have diagnosed General Anxiety Disorder so I deal with a bit of what you are talking about also. I think those of us who may be on the defensive about what the OP has posted are doing so because of the the words he used in posting and responding to this topic. When one uses words like "battle" and "hassle" it sends up red flags.

                                                      2. I agree, as we often have many wineglasses on the table - depends on the restaurant.

                                                        Luckily, we are known at many restaurants, and they have special tables for us, and our wine glasses.

                                                        Farallon, in San Francisco, is a good example. We always get what would be called a 6-top, but they reset it for two.

                                                        After the second night in a Michelin 1-star, outside of Beaune, we were always seated at a 4-top, to accommodate our glasses. That held for the rest of the week.

                                                        When making reservations on Open Table, I try to communicate the need for a bit of table-space, due to the wine glasses. Some do not get it, but most do.


                                                        1. I completely understand this! I'm a 5'6 medium frame female. Average. However my boyfriend is 6'4 and the biggest frame available. The only time that I'm given a two top is if he isn't with me when I'm seated. I just politely explain that we'd be more comfortable in a larger table/booth. Immediately upon seeing the giant, they move us.

                                                          6 Replies
                                                          1. re: deputygeorgie

                                                            My husband and I are the same sizes as you too...that explains why we get a booth when he's there. Totally makes sense now! I guess the OP just needs a bigger dining companion :)

                                                            1. re: Hobbert

                                                              I always knew there was an upside to having a giant as my companion.

                                                              1. re: deputygeorgie

                                                                lol. cannot tell you how many host/hostesses and maitre d's i have seen try to smoosh giant-sized humans into too small of a space.

                                                                you must live in amazing-perception-land. :) OR? obviousville.

                                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                                  That was why I often invited Andre the Giant to dine with us...



                                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                    Maybe so. Most men in our area aren't as large as the giant and he is rather intimidating in size. I'm actually the more difficult of the two of us. My favorite is when they put us plus two kids in a 4 top or regular sized booth. The smallest in our group is 5'4 and 110 lbs... And is 12.

                                                                    1. re: deputygeorgie

                                                                      As my wife has two artificial hips, booths are normally out of the question. With a banquet table, she always gets the chair, though I then have an issues rising, when she leaves the table.

                                                                      Since we are winos, and most of our dining companions are too, a small 4-top can be an issue.

                                                                      Luckily, there are many restaurants, that know us, and accommodate us accordingly. Now, at a new restaurant, I try to point out that we will have many wine glasses. Some get that, but others do not.

                                                                      Many years ago, we did Sea Blue in LV (IIRC), and were seated at a very small 2-top, with the other tables right atop us. About the second time that the server's bottoms spilled our wine glasses, we were reseated at a 4-top, with replacement of most of our wines. The cleaning bill equaled the cost of the meal.


                                                          2. I've read through about half of the responses, and what I'm seeing is:

                                                            1. The OP don't like asking for a larger table.
                                                            2. The OP resents that the restaurant hostess is not reading his mind that he want a larger table without him asking for it.
                                                            3. But when the OP does ask for a larger table, he is usually accommodated.

                                                            So - the onus is on the OP to get over being uncomfortable asking for a larger table and ask when he walk in the door - NOT when he get walked to a 2-top.

                                                            The restaurant's policy is to fill tables and make enough money to stay in business. If they seat 10 couples at a 4-top, what happens when 10 groups of 4 people come in and they are unable to be seated, because 10 couples have taken up the 4-tops? (And please don't say "they can rearrange the 2-tops, because often that would require moving tables throughout the entire dining room - and that could bother other diners.) Nope - those people walk and eat elsewhere - meaning the restaurant doesn't fill the tables.