Common Restaurant Complaint Number 7: “We had a party of 10 and it took forever to get us a table!” and other waiting complaints.

Top 10 Complaints Heard in Restaurants and the Reason They Aren't as Bad as You Think

Imagine this: You are starving and go to your favorite restaurant only to be told by the bitchy host there is a 30 minute wait for a table. By definition a wait, usually, means that there are not enough tables in the restaurant to seat all the people coming in the door. In those situations, the restaurant is forced to stop seating people because, literally, there is no table for them in the dining room.

Waits in a corporate restaurant is an unfortunate reality. It has to happen occasionally, especially on busy weekend nights. As a consumer, being waitlisted is disappointing and frustrating. Suddenly it feels like you’re back in elementary school patiently waiting your turn in the milk line. To grown adults, this reversion is not a welcomed one. Restaurant patrons are typically starving, so waiting an additional 30 (or more) minutes to get to the point when you can actually order your food seems like an eternity. What to do? In my experience, most people wait the thirty minutes, begrudgingly. To the millions of people who patiently wait for a table, I thank you. I know it’s hard and probably the last thing you want to do on an empty stomach. Number 7 of the top 10 complaints heard at a restaurant (and the reason they aren't as bad as you think) is dedicated to the select few who never really learned how to wait patiently.

In the interest of fairness, there are moments when the restaurant is to blame for a wait. People screw up and the majority of hosts (or the people who seat the tables), especially in corporate restaurants, are college age girls. For many hosts at the Steak House, hosting was there first job EVER. What always killed me about this was the fact that hosting is one of the most important jobs in the restaurant business and management decides to allocate the least experienced worker they can find to fill these roles. Why is hosting so important? Without getting into the specifics of the job, think about what I said in reason 8. The corporation wants to control all the environmental elements it can in the “dining experience”. The temperature, music, etc. are all micromanaged by the parent corporation. How can a business put this much thought into the “environment” of the restaurant and then put total incompetence at the front door? I have no idea. The first thing a guest sees is the host! If the host screws up, I promise most patrons will never return. So, what deserves more attention? The hiring practices of hosts or the music volume in a restaurant? But I digress.

Having said that about the hosts, most of the time they are simply doing their job when they tell you there will be a wait for your table. Here are three tips if you find yourself in this situation.

1) Look at the time. If a host tells you that your table will be ready in thirty minutes, be ready to be sat in 15. Don’t go anywhere. Have a drink at the bar or find somewhere to relax (if possible). Check out the menu and get your order ready. Waits sometimes move a lot quicker than the hosts might think. It is extremely difficult to gauge how long people take to eat their meals. This is, truly, what you are waiting for when your name is placed on a wait. You are waiting for another table to get up and get cleaned by a busser so you can sit down and order your food. Simply stated, relax! You are at a restaurant to enjoy yourself! You could get stress at home.

2) Understand that if your party is larger than three of four people, the wait might be (a lot) longer. 70% - 80% of tables in many restaurants are three or four “tops”. In other words, most restaurants are geared to handle a large volume of three or four person families. Five, six, and up sized parties require larger tables which are not as readily available in most restaurants.

3) Finally, remember that, just because you see an open table, doesn’t mean the wait isn’t justified. One of the biggest complaints hosts receive revolves around this scenario: A hungry customer walks into a restaurant and is told by a frazzled host there is an hour wait. The customer looks around the restaurant and sees a few open tables. The customer proceeds to say something like “I see open tables … why can’t we sit there??!” While this question drives hosts and servers crazy, on some level it is a logical query.

Here is the answer why you “can’t sit there”.

First, let me say this situation never occurs on a Friday or Saturday. Typically, the Steak House was insanely busy on these days and there were never open tables to be pointed to by an angry, hungry customer. Also, the restaurant was adequately staffed to handle a large volume of customers on the weekend. This problem usually reared its head during “slow” times like mid-week lunch shifts for example. To fully staff the Steak House, you needed to have twenty-two servers on the “floor” with three or four tables each. Good business sense tells you there is no way the restaurant will bring twenty plus servers to work a Tuesday lunch which is traditionally a slow time without a lot of business. On such occasions, when a lunch shift is much busier than expected, it is very possible that a restaurant and its staff will get overwhelmed. A handful of servers can be working as hard as they possibly can, waiting on five and six tables each, but 50% of the restaurant’s tables will sit empty. It is in these moments that hosts are forced to start a wait, despite the fact that there are empty tables. Empty is the not same thing as available. The restaurant simply does not have the personal to handle your order at that moment.

You, as a customer, can blame management for not staffing properly, the hosts/servers for not working hard enough, or the corporation for not having a better way of dealing with these situations. Your anger in these moments says a few things about you. You are hungry, you want your food as soon as possible, and you know nothing about the restaurant industry. My advice? Go someplace else and try the restaurant on a different day. The hosts would love to seat you, they just can’t at that moment. Don’t take it personally. It is not a conspiracy against you and your lunch. Restaurants in these moments are running on the brink of disaster with angry servers and stressed out hosts. That is a recipe for getting your food spit in. Take your business elsewhere and save everyone (including you) the stress.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

You made a great point in this one!

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