It’s an important stipulant for many restaurants: that tables must be given back after a certain period of time, usually 90 minutes or two hours. From the restaurant’s perspective this is a reasonable request: it gives customers more than enough time to enjoy several courses and a bottle of wine while ensuring their business has the turnaround it needs to survive and profit in a very difficult industry.

Eating against the clock

However, an article in The Guardian last week by renowned food critic Jay Rayner, and the 1328 comments underneath, suggest asking for tables back is anything but a reasonable request. The article entitled “I’m Tired Of Restaurants Making Us Eat Against The Clock,” says: “I do remember the acute anxiety I felt the first time I came across a two-hour time limit at Yauatcha a few years back. I sat there worrying whether their failure to take my order for 20 minutes was part of the tick, tick, tick. After that, was I eating fast enough? I assumed it was a bizarre one-off. How wrong I was…..It’s just not very hospitable, which is a crying shame for the hospitality business.”

Reader responses

The 1328 responses from readers underneath showed overwhelming agreement. Here are some of the top rated comments:

“Took the whole family out once on Mothers Day, was informed they’d want the table back after 2 hours. I understood this to be a busy day for them and to be honest 2 hours would be fine for us I thought. However, although a lovely meal, service was slow so that on the 2 hour mark we had just tried to order desserts. We were informed that they needed our table to which I explained politely that if they had brought us the food quicker we would have left already. This was met with dull incomprehension about how time works.”

“Completely agree. I am SICK of feeling rushed. Quite often I will have finished my meal in 60/90 minutes, no rushing and zero resentment. But those few times I want to take my time, enjoy myself, make an occasion of it… well, they always seem to be at the restaurants desperate for me to go.

I had a particularly galling experience on Sunday where I was having a wonderful time, spending liberally and enjoying life. 2 hours later I’m asked to vacate for a previously booked table that hadn’t been flagged to me. Even worse, when we vacated and went to the bar, the table didn’t arrive for another 20 minutes.”

“No, just no! They deserve to be boycotted. I’d never frequent such places. Considering that we spend usually £90-120/person, in some restaurants more, I don’t see why I should leave my money where I am going to be rushed and thus made to feel uncomfortable.”

Is it fair to ask for tables back?

As a restaurateur, what is your opinion on this topic? Is it fair to ask customers to give their tables back after time period? Do you do this in your own restaurant?



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