Earlier this year, the Loudoun County reader and her husband dined at a “very busy” Palio Ristorante Italiano in Leesburg, where she says they were seated promptly for their 6:30 reservation. “We had a cocktail, lovely meal and coffee,” after which “the waiter came to the table and asked us to leave, as he needed the table for another reservation. It was 8:45 p.m. To say we were astonished is an understatement. We made no fuss and left. We did not see anyone waiting to take the table.”
From Restaurant Critic Tom Sietsema's Column
Well of course the restaurant has the property right to ask someone to leave. But it comes with a cost, of upsetting customers. I have heard some restaurants well tell people up front how long they can have the table for. Seems to be a good solution. This is a case where norms (i.e. typical behavior) matter.
The story has an interesting ending too.
Most restaurateurs are loath to ask seated customers to free up their tables. “It’s not my style,” says Antonio Pino, the co-owner of Palio. He says the server in question is no longer employed there.