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Table Entitlement


Not About Food 15

Table Entitlement

Morton the Mousse | Oct 10, 2005 03:06 PM

A post on the SF board has produced a long thread on table entitlement that is not region specific and seems appropriate for this board.

When you eat at a restaurant, do you feel entitled to the table for the evening? If there is a crowd waiting to be seated, and you are done eating and drinking, is it rude to linger at the table? Or is it rude for the host to ask you to leave? I am not talking about a restaurant rushing you while you eat (which is inexcusable), this is after you're completely finished eating and drinking and you're just sitting around and talking.

From the restaurant's perspective, it is clearly important to turn over tables in the evening so that they can clear a bigger profit. If they allow their patrons to linger, they must mark up their food costs in order to make a comparable profit. The restaurant also needs to seat waiting patrons in a timely fashion, and lingerers make this difficult.

A lot depends on the type of restaurant. In a four star, you expect a long meal and feel somewhat entitled to the table for as long as you like. Of course, most four stars still do at least two seatings an evening, so if you're there for the first seating somebody is waiting for your table (and that someone may very well complain if they had to wait twenty minutes after their reservation.)

More casual, bistro type restaurants need to turn over their tables several times in an evening. When you go to a bistro, you sacrafice the frills of fine dining and this includes the table entitlement you get at a four star. A popular bistro will also often have a mob of people waiting to be seated, meaning that the longer you linger, the longer the hungry people outside have to wait.

Lastly, you have the whole in the wall. Places with incredible food, counter service and extremely limited seating. The restaurant can't afford the overhead to provide lots of seating. Meals tend to be fast: you sit down, you eat, you leave.

I feel that the only place where you're really entitled to a table is at a four star, during the last seating. If you're at a bistro, you're getting food at a lower price because you're sacraficing the amenities of a four star, and table entitlement is one of those amenities. Especially if you're at a popular bistro with a crowd outside, in which case table lingering is just plain rude. If you're at a hole in the wall, you have no right to linger. That table belongs to the guy eating pizza while standing up next to the trash can outside.

Of course, if a restaurant isn't popular, none of this applies. If there's no crowd waiting to be seated, sit around all evening, by all means. But if your lingering is depriving other hungry folks of good food, you have no right to that table.

So that's my opinion, how do other folks feel?

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