In restaurants, my husband and I are repeatedly ushered by hosts and hostesses to the far back corner to a tiny booth, sometimes next to the restroom or servers’ station, when there are clearly other more desirable tables.
This happens to us all the time at various restaurants around town. We’re not teenagers; we’re approaching 60. We’re not loud talkers. We are reasonably well-dressed. We are excellent tippers.
I said something one time and was lectured about how they have to divide the tables evenly between the servers. I know this is true, but I sometimes feel that if they could usher us out to the alley they would.
It’s getting to the point of being ridiculously comical as we follow the backs of their heads on our walk of shame to the corner.
What would Crabby do?
Sincerely, Everybody Puts Baby In The Corner
Dear In the Corner,
A question first: Might there be a legitimate reason they want you out of the way?
You’re not loud talkers or total slobs, but are you carrying live animals that might be dangerous? Like a wolverine or a venomous snake? Do you both smear yourselves with rotten fruits and vegetables before going out? Are you on fire? Being on fire can be a distraction to other diners, and that’s something hosts always have to consider when seating people who are on fire.
No? None of that either? The lack of an obvious reason for your frequent mistreatment makes answering your question trickier. If you were smearing yourself with rotten produce, for instance, I’d just advise you not to do that right before dining out.
Since that’s not the problem, I had to do a little research. I read a few things about bad tables in preparation for answering your question — both from the perspective of the aggrieved diners and from the perspective of hosts and restaurant managers — and it seems are a lot of factors at play.
The distressing thing I learned is that some restaurants seat fancy, beautiful people at the best tables as a matter of unwritten policy. As an unfancy, unbeautiful person, that really irks me. But much more frequently, according to the restaurant industry people interviewed in these pieces, it’s a matter of bad luck or bad timing mixed with the subjectivity of “good table” versus “bad table.” Your “sequestered in a far-off corner,” for instance, might be someone else’s “tucked away in a cozy nook.”
Though I don’t know many people who want to be right next to the servers’ station or the restroom, in a broad sense I can buy that explanation. Some people want to be right in the middle of the room; others want to be near windows. Some want to be close to the bar; others want to be far from the bar. (Still others — me — want to be crouched behind the bar, sneaking sips of exotic liqueurs and small-batch bourbons until the bartender gets back from the restroom and calls the cops.) To each their own.
All of which leads to my advice on how to deal with the issue: When you first speak to the host, politely ask for a table that meets the criteria you want. You can’t demand a specific table, but it can’t hurt to ask. Just something simple like, “If it’s possible, could we get a booth near the window?” They may or may not be able to accommodate you, but they’ll at least know what you want.
And if they still stick you next to the kitchen, where you get hit in the back with a swinging door every two minutes, you can always come back later on fire or with a wolverine.
Hope that helps.