My family and I stopped by the Metro Diner last night in Culver City (California).
It was about 7:00 (on a Sunday night). It was crowded, more crowded than it's ever been and we've been maybe half a dozen times.
Wife approached the counter and talked to the owner/manager. Said we were next and that several tables were "about to open up."
Okay, fine, we wait.
At one of the two tables, the party had finished eating as was waiting for the check. So, while they are waiting for the check, checking the check, paying the check and so forth -- another party comes down from the motel (the Metro is in a motel -- serves Serbian food) and talks to the owner/manager and I over hear the word "reservation."
Meanwhile, there is another table "about to open up." A man and a woman are sitting there and they've already paid the check. The leftovers are sort of sitting there and they are just talking.
The first "about to open table" opens up and we start to walk in -- we were next, right? Well, the owner/manager tells us to wait, then sits the party who, I guess, had a reservation.
He tells us, he's going to "kick that other couple out of their table" and for a second we watch him -- then he starts walking the "reservation" party to their table.
We just said "screw it" and left -- went for hot dogs, corned beef and onion rings around the corner.
My question is this:
How long is the right amount of time to occupy a table after your meal is done when people are waiting around trying to get seated? We stood around 10-15 minutes watching a couple who had finished eating and had already paid their bill just chatting.
Mind you, this is in a (I wish we had italics) diner. Not a fancy restaurant where one expect to linger over an after dinner drink. It's a diner. In a motel.
Granted, this particular diner has Serbian specials and attracts both chowhounds and foodies, but it's a diner. You can order a hamburger.
Without taking the time to query on the different permutations this might bring up, I'm curious to know what others think both generally and specifically about how long a table belongs to a party after they've eaten and paid while other people are trying to get seated.