When dining out last week (at the Spice Table in DTLA, for you LA Hounds), two questions of etiquette came up on which I would be interested to hear others' opinions. The set-up: I had made a reservation for 7 PM on Thursday evening for myself and two friends. I arrived at the restaurant right on time, but both of my friends were running late.
Question #1 - I checked in with the hostess and explained that my friends were late. I said that I'd be happy to be seated at our table or to wait at the bar, whichever worked better for them. She asked me to wait at the bar - it was full, but she pointed out a party that was just wrapping up, and said that I could take one of their seats as soon as they left. When they did, a few minutes later, I took a seat and ordered a drink. After I received my drink, a different hostess (or manager, I'm not sure) came up to me and said that another party had been waiting for the seats, and basically, would I please leave. I politely told her that the other hostess had told me to sit there. She consulted with the first hostess, who came over to me, somewhat embarrassed, and told me that the other party had come in after me but that they were ordering food, so they took precedence. I don't like to make a scene, and I felt a bit at fault since it was my friends who were late in the first place, so I gave up the seat - but it seemed odd to me.
Question #2 - At 7:15, my friends still had not arrived, and the hostess or manager explained that they couldn't hold reservations past 15 minutes. I knew my friends were only a few minutes away, so I asked her if she could tell us when she needed our table for the next group. She said 8:45, so I asked if she would hold our table for a few more minutes if we promised to be out of there by 8:45. She agreed and seemed very grateful for the offer. When my friends arrived, I explained the situation - and they thought it was very rude of the restaurant! Personally, I thought it was perfectly fair since we were the ones (collectively) who were late - but I would have thought it was rude if we had been on time.