We've all been there. Whether we're the ones who were late or the ones doing the waiting, we've all contributed to or had to deal with one of the most controversial aspects of the restaurant business -- seating incomplete parties.
Industry experts all know that seating incomplete parties can create a logjam in the kitchen and cause a restaurant to lose out on potential profits.
As frequent restaurant diners, though, we all know great hospitality when we see it, and much of that means making us feel as comfortable as possible no matter what the situation.
The balance for restaurants, then, is between maximizing profitability during busy rush times and bending a "no incomplete parties" rule to be more hospitable.
For some restaurants, even a dining room full of empty tables isn't enough to change the rule. As Emmeline Zhao, manager of Little Tong's in New York City, said in a recent Skift Table article, "For a restaurant with just 28 seats, [waiting] can disappoint guests who have to wait longer than they should, and make a huge difference in our bottom line. It can also frustrate and turn away guests whose parties are complete and ready to dine."
Despite the annoyance of looking at a room full of empty tables, those tables can fill up in a matter of minutes. And as complete parties begin to show up, that's when the kitchen can face a potential backup.
The bottom line is a coherent policy that is enforced one way or another seems to be the best option to alleviate any ambiguity. But that doesn't mean hospitality can go by the wayside.
Diners and brunch spots can offer a complimentary coffee bar to waiting guests. A pleasant waiting area can lighten the tension. Or even better, what about suggesting incomplete parties experience some house-made hospitality at the bar?