The Empty Table Mystery

Have you ever walked into a restaurant without a reservation? You reach the hostess table and let the hostess know the size of your party 2, 3 or however many people you’re arriving with. Then you hear the words, “wait time is 1 hour”. You look at your party, roll your eyes and brace to sit down or stand up whichever case it might be. Some restaurant don’t even have a sitting place. You have to stand outside in the cold around the corner. Yes, it’s that bad in some places.

But as you inch your way into the restaurant warmth comforts you see that a table of 4 is empty, cleaned and set. You say to yourself and your companions in a sarcastic tone, “There’s an empty table, why are we still waiting?”.

Busy restaurant in Koto-Ku, Tokyo

Busy restaurant in Koto-Ku, Tokyo (Photo credit: dmeurer)

During times like this it can be frustrating to have to wait in line, specially when you’re hungry. But in reality there’s a reason why that table is waiting.

I will take a chance to say that 7 out of 10 times this phenomenon is caused on purpose. Smart managers will know what their restaurant staff and their ability are. Managers are not trying to cause you to be upset and angry, rather they’re allowing you have the best experience.

You see, your dining experience really starts when you sit down. It is worst to wait at the table than it is to wait at the door. Once seated the floor supervisors can take care of you. There’s only so many people a kitchen can serve at one time or per minute. Really good managers or Chef‘s will track this time. If 130 people get seated within 10 minutes apart then mayhem follows. I remember serving 200 people banquet style and that took 45 minutes with 6 cooks plating finished product. Imagine having to cook and serve per table on 130 guests. Nonsense. When the ticket times are reduced the managers will signal the hostess to sit different size tables. Sometimes it’s easier to serve 3 or 4 tables of two than 1 table of 4 or vice versa.

So next time you’re growing impatience at a restaurant foyer remember you can be growing impatient on your seat. For me I’d rather take my time at the door and be served quality while I enjoy my seat.

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