Seating Times

Someone named Sydney brought up a good point about my review of Lucia.  Sydney says we shouldn’t stay as long next time we go because the restaurant needs to turn its tables to stay in business.

So, what is appropriate?  Never having been a server or managed a restaurant like Lucia, how long do you allow?  We were there for a private event on Friday.  That makes it different from a regular night, open to the public.  But, how long do you slate someone in on the reservation book before you expect to seat that table again?  How do you shuffle the guys who just want pasta and the people who want all four courses?

Just curious…

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11 responses to “Seating Times

  1. Liz (dalaimama)

    I think as long as you are in the process of dining, a table is fine – four courses and wine to go with it should not have to be rushed. The problem is people who are finished with their meal and are not ordering drinks or anything else and decide to camp out.

    We were so sad to miss the Saturday preview – the one day I decide to sleep late!

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  2. She did send that email early in the morning!
    I was kind of thinking the same thing about staying at your table. As long as you’re spending money, that’s one thing. Just sitting there talking is another.
    I still don’t really understand the art of making reservations, though, from the inside. I understand my part, but what about the reservationist. How does it all work?

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  3. You are correct when you say the process of taking reservations is an art. As a cook it isn’t one I am personally practiced in. I have seen it described by others as selling real estate versus selling food and wine. Seats are what restaurants have to sell and they need to sell them for as much money as possible and as much as they can. For instance taking a reservation for 3 is much less lucrative than for 4. 3 people will occupy a table meant for four and one seat goes unsold.

    Juggling table turn times really depends on the style of the establishment. I have also seen restaurants forewarn diners when reservations are made that the table is theirs for a specified amount of time like 2 1/2 hours. If you make a reservation for 6pm the restaurant expects to sell that table again that evening. So there might be an 8:30 reservation slotted for that same table. Also the bigger the party the longer it will take. a 2-top might only take 2 hours to dine but a 6-top might take 2 1/2 – 3 hours.

    That being said, when was your reservation? 8? 8:30? At that point they certainly aren’t expecting to turn your table.

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  4. good point kevin

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  5. I have worked at a lot of restaurants, and in my opinion, the customer is always right. If I’m going to spend money to eat out, I’ll stay as long as I care to.
    That is a separate issue from what is the “right thing to do”. I understand that tables need to turn, but that is not my concern as a diner, although I would never just drag it out forever. My point is that I won’t be rushed.

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  6. I do not make reservations often but when I do I go as late as possible knowing I am a notorious lingerer. When you commandeer a table for too long it robs the waitstaff and the restaurant of an additional turn. Being last has its rewards. That and a big tip.

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  7. I’m with Hubbard. I’m not there to support somebody’s lifestyle. I’m there to eat reasonably priced food that tastes good. I’d rather go somewhere that isn’t full and doesn’t rush you, or go late and take the extra 30 minutes post meal to chat if I feel like it. If I want to give people money I’ll give to the NTFB or Toys for Tots.

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  8. Went to Lucia last night, and appeared they were seating at 6:30 and 8:30. Didn’t appear to me that any of the 8:30 folks had to wait long for their tables (except maybe the lady who made a reservation for 2 and showed up with 3– even though she acknowledged she knew in advance that it was a small restaurant–and then told Jennifer that they would go somewhere else if Lucia couldn’t accommodate the 3 of them. Really?!?).

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  9. Hi Margie! I have worked at a place like Lucia! Time allowed for tables of two is one and a half hours. Parties of three or more get two hours. With few exceptions, that is sufficient time. Problems arise when people arrive late and think that they can linger as long as they like. No one wants to feel rushed, but the rules benefit everyone. The few who complain about not being allowed more time, are generally the ones who are most upset when their table isn’t ready due to others lingering. Restaurants must have set time allowances to maintain order and make the reservations system work.
    If Lucia took only one seating per table, per night, they could not survive and getting a reservation would be next to impossible.

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  10. In response to George’s comment that a 2 top gets 1.5 hours, that’s hardly enough time to A) Look at a drink list for Aperitif’s, order and drink them (vs. chug-a-lug), while drinking; peruse the menu and discuss appertizers, salad course, main course, side’s, and a dessert that might need extra prep time… Oh yes, and we’ll look at selections of wine after we decide on our meal and often have 1/2 a white and a bottle of red or one bottle of each and we usually give the extra that hasn’t been consumed to our server to enjoy before s/he leaves the restaurant; servers enjoy a little drinkiepoo before heading home – tired and sometimes still hungry…

    So George, you think we (2) can do all that and consume all that in 1.5 hours? I certainly hope you will never be our server. After we have plunked down $2-3-400 dollars for dinner, I wouldn’t enjoy you looking over my shoulder in an anxious manner! It is easy to spend big in a nice place, today a bottle of wine goes for $75, and I will enjoy every drop I wish to drink.

    Last time we dined at Abacus we had – I think it was – a 9 course Chef’s menu degustation with cocktails (scotch on ice-ball Wow!) 3 wines, and we could not have eaten that meal, drank that much wine – nor would we want to do so – even if we could – in 2 hours. Think we spent about $4-500 and tipped lavishly for outstanding service – we just had one issue with a large party near us being overly loud (does this mean they had too much to drink???) It took longer than either of us imagined and we would not be rushed, each course outdid the previous one… Might be the 2nd time we have done that there because it is luscious.

    We didn’t decide to have that feast until we looked at the menu… they could not have prepared for us to leave in 1.5 hours!

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  11. Dear Coco1101,
    I am not a server, but I am familiar with the policies of more than a few restaurants. Clearly, if you’re sitting down to a nine course tasting menu, you would not be expected to finish within an hour and a half. Obviously, restaurants will follow different guidelines, depending on the menu. Unless you sit down for an aperitif and nine courses at every meal out, I suspect you can make it through dinner quite easily in 1.5 hours. If you don’t, you must have a very interesting dinner partner or, more likely, be absolutely enraptured by the sound of your own voice. Regardless, I hope I never have a reservation for the next seating at your table.

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