How Long Is Too Long to Wait For a Table at a Restaurant?

Categories: Bites & Dishes

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New Yorkers are certainly no strangers when it comes to obscene wait times for meals, but, hey, it's different in the Valley. So whether you have reservations or not, is waiting for a table at a popular restaurant worth it in the end? I asked Valley chefs and restaurateurs how long they would stick around, and here's what they had to say:


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Joe Johnston, owner, Joe's Real BBQ, Joe's Fresh Farm Grill, Liberty Market, Agritopia

If I am alone, I will wait about 15 minutes. If I can have a social beverage to take the edge off and am with my wife and friends for company, I can wait 45 minutes. My longest wait was for Pizzeria Bianco at 2.5 hours, but we were having a great time at Bar Bianco playing cards, and we expected a long wait as a part of the experience.


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Eddie Matney
Chef and owner, Eddie's House

If you have a reservation, then hopefully no more than 15 minutes past your reservation time, unless the place is really busy -- then, perhaps, 30 minutes. Without a reservation, 30 to 45 minutes may be a standard wait, but if I'm hungry, I might look around and see what other options are available.


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Amy Binkley
Owner, Binkley's and Cafe Bink

If I have a reservation, I expect to be seated no longer than 20 minutes past my reservation time.






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Chef Eric O'Neill
SmartKitchen.com

Waiting for a seat or waiting to order can be a painful experience. In my mind, if I do need to wait, I'm waiting for a dish that I can't live without that day, and usually, in the end, it's worth it. If it's worth it, I will wait up to 30 minutes. Nothing past that time.




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Giovanni Scorzo
Chef and Proprietor, Andreoli Italian Grocer

I would never complain about a wait as long as the food is good.



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10 comments
Ingwemalmsteen
Ingwemalmsteen

How long a wait is too long? Five minutes. An hour plus at Hula? Why do that when Maizie's, Windsor, St. Francis, Aiello's, G+D are within five minutes' walk? Two hours at Pizzeria Bianco? Hah!   Butch up, kids! Life is too short! This is America! We don't wait!

guest
guest

Enjoy that growling sound coming from your stomach. Restaurants = they feed you. Restaurant + me hungry for too long = fail / do not return

stillhungry
stillhungry

By the time I've waited 2+ hours at Biancos and had three glasses of wine on an empty stomach, I could fucking care less what I'm eating. At that point I'd eat Alpo and be happy about it.  And that kids is why I've been there precisely twice.

Steve D.
Steve D.

Enjoy the 2 for $20 combo menu!

Reality
Reality

Five minutes to be seated. Period.   

Steve D.
Steve D.

You can make reservations for parties of 6 or more at Bianco, though in the busy months of February to April they might not take them. I do see your point on the Bianco wait related to the driving issue though. I live close and use a cab or public transport, but if you're waiting in temperance while thinking about the long drive North or East I'm sure it seems like forever. Yeah, I don't understand the comments on waiting for a reserved table...you make a reservation, you expect the table ready at that time. Maybe some flexibility if the previous guests are lingering, but certainly not 30-45 minutes.

RickC
RickC

If a restaurant is asking me to wait, there better not be a bunch of empty tables because then I feel that the restaurant is trying to force me into ordering drinks.  If I had wanted drinks I usually will go into the bar area on my own to order them.  I will usually leave and go somewhere else - there are too many good restaurante around.  To me this is poor service and could take a restaurant complete off my radar.

David
David

It amazes me how out of touch some of these restauranteurs are with their customers.  First of all, if you have a reservation, anything more than 5 minutes wait should result in an apology and a complimentary cocktail or glass of wine while you wait.  i don't know many people that would wait an hour for an ordinary restauraunt (ie. Houston's, Good Egg, Fleming's).   If you decide to go to a restaurant that normally takes reservations and have to wait, then that is your choice and no fault of the restaurant. Probably most of us have waited 2+ hours at Bianco's, but few do it twice.  When the wait is double the time it takes to enjoy the meal, something is really wrong.  I have never understood why he wouldn't take reservations and eliminate the one huge negative that is almost unanimously mentioned by everyone.  Some might find it fun to sit in the bar next door and drink for 2 hours, but if you have to drive home and have to limit your consumption to one or two glasses,  or if you don't drink alcohol, it feels like 4 hours.  Sorry, but no pizza is worth 30 days in tent city. Try going to France and seeing the reaction of the average Frenchman being told to wait in the bar for 45 minutes for his reserved table. On the flip side, you are very seldom able to get a table at a restaurant in France as a walk in. 

Steve D.
Steve D.

Like Chef Gross said, "it depends." I don't mind waiting up to an hour for a table but it depends on what your plans are for the rest of the night, the reasons for the delay, the atmosphere, and sometimes even the company you're with.  It also depends on the options you have to spend your time while you wait.  When you're standing around a crowded waiting area with no bar or very limited service so you have to light a flare to get noticed, getting bumped by people as they pass through, 15 minutes can seem like an hour (looking at you, Hillstone).  When you're in a pleasant, separate bar area having a drink and good conversation with your friends, an hour can just fly by.  It's for that reason I don't mind the occasional 2 hour wait at Bianco that much...first off you know what you're getting into so you kind of make dinner the plan for the night, and Bar Bianco is very welcoming and comfortable particularly in the cooler months. A lot of people complain about the wait there but I think it's designed as a relaxing experience rather than a typical, one-hour, in-and-out restaurant experience. Of course, it's for that same reason I couldn't stand waiting longer than 15 minutes at Barrio Cafe, stuffed in that the cramped bar area reacting like Pavlov's dog whenever the host picked up a couple of menus to seat someone. 

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