It’s no secret that I love dining out. But it’s about the whole experience, not just the fact that I’m not preparing my own meal or even serving it. It’s the setting. And, for me, a big part of that setting is where I’m sitting. The right table can make a meal one to remember – or one to forget. Obviously, then, from time to time, I request a different table than the one I am first offered. In fact, I did so two nights ago while dining at Scarpetta, a very well-reviewed and busy Italian restaurant in Manhattan’s trendy Meatpacking District. The place was almost entirely filled at 7PM (on a Wednesday!) and, as someone who has been a hostess, I could see I’d thrown a tiny monkey wrench into the front desk’s well-oiled seating plans. However, they were quite gracious in accommodating our request. We happily waited at the bar, and in just 20 minutes we were presented with a perfect table (at which we enjoyed a wonderful meal).
Of course, my instincts aren’t always correct. I once switched tables twice in the same evening (from one table to another – and back again), much to our server’s great chagrin. I don’t recommend doing this, unless you want to drive the front-of-house staff crazy, but after settling in to the first (and better, in hindsight) table, my friends and I ordered two bottles of wine and several courses each. Had we been unhappy with our seats, we probably would have spent far less on food and wine and never returned. Now, that restaurant has become a familiar favorite.
I wondered how restaurateurs view “picky seaters” like me, so I asked one. Rob Wilder, CEO of ThinkFoodGroup, whose Washington, D.C. area restaurants include Café Atlantico, Jaleo Bethesda, Jaleo Crystal City, Jaleo DC, Oyamel, and Zaytinya, reassured me, “Switching tables is never an issue! The only problem is when we don’t know and can’t fix it — leaving the guest unhappy. A good table to one diner might be a bad table to another and vice versa. And, once we know our customers preferences, we can make a note in our Opentable system.”
The next time you want to switch tables, use these tips to make sure things go smoothly.
- Be polite when requesting another table.
- Let the host know – tactfully – why you don’t like the table (so you don’t wind up with an equally displeasing table).
- Don’t demand a specific table. Even if it’s empty, it doesn’t mean it’s available.
- Be patient. You may have to wait a while until a more suitable table opens up.
- Grab a seat at the bar. A cocktail can help pass the time and you can probably order an appetizer if you’re starving.