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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How Do You Ask Your Customers to Leave at the End of the Meal?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 26, 2011 at 4:03 PM

skeletons_table.jpg

So not to dwell on one bad moment in a good meal, but I wanted to address the incident that happened at the end of my last dinner at Seven Hills:

Ten minutes after signing the check, as our conversation was winding down, the waiter leaned over. "I'm sorry," he whispered, "but my boss asked me to tell you that we have another reservation waiting. Would it be possible to leave?" We filed out, shaking our heads.
As far as I'm concerned, a great meal doesn't end with the signing of the check, it ends with everyone at the table sitting around, letting the conversation die off, feeling flushed and contented. (And frankly, that often takes more than 10 minutes, especially if you've spent some cash and made a night of it.) As a restaurateur, how you say good-bye to your guests is more important than how often you pour water or change the silverware, since it's the last thing they remember of your restaurant. But small restaurants also need to turn tables to survive. So how do you get customers out of their seats? 

The manager ― not the server, unless the table is having a great

rapport with him or her ― should come over and shower the table in

apologies. It's a small restaurant, these things happen, this group has

been waiting for a few minutes, etc. Then the manager should offer to

buy the lingerers a round of drinks if they can move their

conversation to the bar. A few of the guests will jump at the giveaway,

but most people, who've found themselves waiting for a table to leave, will clear out with no hard feelings. So you lose a couple glasses of wine. You also prevent Yelper's

revenge ― or a critic devoting a paragraph of his restaurant review to your error. And if you find yourself in this situation several times a night, then

you need to rethink your reservations schedule. 

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman

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