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Wait Lists for Bar Seats in Restaurants


synaesthesia
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But here's the thing - and my major complaint. I spoke to the manager about it. Why can't the bartenders keep track of who is waiting for seats at the bar? If I'm standing and drinking and waiting for 30 minutes for a seat, and someone else walks in and happens to be next to someone who is just leaving, why do they get that seat?

Is it really that hard to keep a list of who is waiting for a seat to open up at the bar? They do it at Otto and many other busy places in NYC without a problem. It just seems kind of lame to me that the alleged reason is that they don't want to start any fights. Well, how do you start fights by keeping a list? And then when a seat opens up, telling whoever thinks they're getting the seat that someone else is ahead of them? I think it's pretty easy to do.

I have never heard of any restaurant in D.C. doing this. This is how most bars work. While it's a nice idea, I agree that putting something like that in place on 14th Street is asking for a disaster. There are a TON of places where I'd love to see something like that, but ultimately... it's the bar. Get over it.

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I have never heard of any restaurant in D.C. doing this. This is how most bars work. While it's a nice idea, I agree that putting something like that in place on 14th Street is asking for a disaster. There are a TON of places where I'd love to see something like that, but ultimately... it's the bar. Get over it.

Indeed, it's a bar...in a restaurant. Why bother even taking names for tables then?

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Indeed, it's a bar...in a restaurant. Why bother even taking names for tables then?

It's interesting that places manage to pull off the waiting list for bar seats. Do they have a specific employee responsible for that or is it just whoever is working behind the bar? If the bar is that packed, the bartender(s) is/are very busy, and keeping track of names seems like an additional burden when they're already doing a bunch of things at once. What if they don't notice who arrived or sat down first? The host(ess) who keeps track of names for tables is doing that as a major one of his/her dedicated duties and people aren't (usually) trying to sit down at the tables before they lead them there.

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It's interesting that places manage to pull off the waiting list for bar seats. Do they have a specific employee responsible for that or is it just whoever is working behind the bar? If the bar is that packed, the bartender(s) is/are very busy, and keeping track of names seems like an additional burden when they're already doing a bunch of things at once. What if they don't notice who arrived or sat down first? The host(ess) who keeps track of names for tables is doing that as a major one of his/her dedicated duties and people aren't (usually) trying to sit down at the tables before they lead them there.

How does this work in practice with different seats opening up at various spots aroound the bar? It seems unmanegable for all but parties of two.

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It's interesting that places manage to pull off the waiting list for bar seats. Do they have a specific employee responsible for that or is it just whoever is working behind the bar? If the bar is that packed, the bartender(s) is/are very busy, and keeping track of names seems like an additional burden when they're already doing a bunch of things at once. What if they don't notice who arrived or sat down first? The host(ess) who keeps track of names for tables is doing that as a major one of his/her dedicated duties and people aren't (usually) trying to sit down at the tables before they lead them there.

One thing could simply be the fact that while the 2 areas are of consumption, bar and dinning room, it is much easier to judge ones timing with tables in a dinning room versus a bar. i know how ansy people are when told of 15-20 minute wait for a DR table, but to judge when peopel are getting up to leave while sitting at a bar is so randomn. Some people are there for just a quick drink versus a full meal. some are wiating for a Dinning Room table, others may be waiting for guests to join them for a drink after work.

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It's interesting that places manage to pull off the waiting list for bar seats. Do they have a specific employee responsible for that or is it just whoever is working behind the bar? If the bar is that packed, the bartender(s) is/are very busy, and keeping track of names seems like an additional burden when they're already doing a bunch of things at once. What if they don't notice who arrived or sat down first? The host(ess) who keeps track of names for tables is doing that as a major one of his/her dedicated duties and people aren't (usually) trying to sit down at the tables before they lead them there.

At a place like Otto, there are 2 bartenders. They're able to do it and I don't even think they write names down - they just remember faces. Each time I've been in Estadio, there are at least 2 bartenders, iirc.

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It's interesting that places manage to pull off the waiting list for bar seats.

Waiting lists for bars in this town are practically non-existent. In the general case, this is one area where it pays to be a regular customer and know the bartender (it also helps to be solo).

Psst ... Don ... there's a seat about to open up on the end ....

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At a place like Otto, there are 2 bartenders. They're able to do it and I don't even think they write names down - they just remember faces. Each time I've been in Estadio, there are at least 2 bartenders, iirc.

That's absolutely fascinating to me. Other than controlled entry bars (like The Gibson or PX here in DC, or Death & Company or PDT in NYC) I have never seen bartenders or managers do that.

That being said, it can be frustrating, but if we've got more than 2 people we've always done the "spread out and snag ASAP" routine. :) If I'm by myself, I'll ask the bartender - usually they'll tell you who is about to pay up, etc. Or I'll eat chili and wings before I go.

(Sorry. Still recovering from Hard Times last night for dinner...)

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Cranberry slushito, tortilla Espanola, croquetas, patatas bravas, crema Catalana. Not a miss in that bunch tonight.

My date and I arrived at 6:30 and easily scored seats at the bar. Within an hour, the joint was jumpin'.

PS Maialino in NYC has a wait list for bar seats. I vacillate between thinking it's off-putting and wise.

How is it "off-putting?" Someone waiting for an hour gets a seat before someone who walked in 5 minutes ago - makes sense to me. Once again, we're talking about bars in restaurants here.

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The simple--and obvious--solution would be to have all restaurants assign a liveried manservant to each patron upon arrival. The manservant would then stake out any potential seat at the bar for his assigned patron. When a stool becomes available, the respective manservants would then strip to the waist, rub themselves with bear oil, and engage in bare-knuckle fisticuffs until one is knocked-cold, with the barstool going to the victor's lord.

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The simple--and obvious--solution would be to have all restaurants assign a liveried manservant to each patron upon arrival. The manservant would then stake out any potential seat at the bar for his assigned patron. When a stool becomes available, the respective manservants would then strip to the waist, rub themselves with bear oil, and engage in bare-knuckle fisticuffs until one is knocked-cold, with the barstool going to the victor's lord.

Or maybe the bartenders could just keep track and let those who have been waiting get a seat. :)

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At a bar where a substantial majority of the patrons expect to eat it seems that it would be a standard courtesy for a bartender -- upon being informed that a couple is hoping dine -- to keep an eye peeled for the next open seats at the bar. The details escape me, but I've seen this sort of system in action before and it hardly seemed complicated. Moreover, it would also be fairly civilized if customers, forced to wait because they were "closest" and not "firstest," handled the arrangement with good grace.

Obviously, when you're at a bar that is more dedicated to drinking, you're on your own.

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At a bar where a substantial majority of the patrons expect to eat it seems that it would be a standard courtesy for a bartender -- upon being informed that a couple is hoping dine -- to keep an eye peeled for the next open seats at the bar. The details escape me, but I've seen this sort of system in action before and it hardly seemed complicated. Moreover, it would also be fairly civilized if customers, forced to wait because they were "closest" and not "firstest," handled the arrangement with good grace.

Obviously, when you're at a bar that is more dedicated to drinking, you're on your own.

The bar at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in Vegas is built around the kitchen. It is definitely a part of the dining room, not a place for happy hour or waiting area for a table in the dining.

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At a bar where a substantial majority of the patrons expect to eat it seems that it would be a standard courtesy for a bartender -- upon being informed that a couple is hoping dine -- to keep an eye peeled for the next open seats at the bar. The details escape me, but I've seen this sort of system in action before and it hardly seemed complicated. Moreover, it would also be fairly civilized if customers, forced to wait because they were "closest" and not "firstest," handled the arrangement with good grace.

Obviously, when you're at a bar that is more dedicated to drinking, you're on your own.

But there in lies part of the issue. How is a bartender to know? Look, civilized or not bars tend to be gathering posts for the majority. Places like Vidalia, Palena, Bis, and Dino are definetly 'food' established bars. Whereas EatBar, Eventide, and even Liberty tend to be a mix of both, depending on the night. it would be something that a restaurant would most likely have to institute at the beginiing stages of development, switching gears mid stream for those places that have been in business for quite some time would most likely find themselves constantly having to apologize for new policies. I frrequent Tria up in Philly, the one off Rittenhouse, and upon entering I take that chance of seeing a bar seat open. Its just the nature of the beast. Thankfully the last couple of times there have slots open.

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Perception is reality.

And perception must be managed. I imagine that successful places use a number of different strategies, even at different times, to ensure their perception is maintained...so at dinner where more patrons may be eating in the bar, a reservation system may go into effect. Later, it is dropped, and in fact later still the majority of chairs may simply be removed.

In the case of the original poster (OP), expectations either weren't managed well or the OP was in the wrong place. If the OP went a 1/2 hour and were miffed that someone got a seat before them, then clearly that 1/2 hour wasn't managed well by the bar - ie, it felt like "waiting time" rather than "bar enjoyment time" and expectations weren't met (again, either through poor management, or the OP being a customer who didn't get it)

For me, I'd walk into a bar with no expectation of seating except by luck. If i want something to eat but all seats are filled, I'd simply ask - "hey, I'd like to get a bite to eat - what's the best way to get a seat?"

Note that bartender's taking a list has a downside, namely that now the perception is that the seats are more valuable and you're in more "standby mode" (literally) until you're called for a seat. That potentially makes everyone standing an "impatient future sitter" and that won't work for most bars IMHO. Further, it ruins the time-honed tradition of favoring regulars that tip. So what that YOU came in 30 minutes ago and Bob just walked through the door? Bob's dropped $20K in tips alone last year...and YOU could just order a tonic and hog the seat for the next 4 hours. Bob gets the seat. That's the deal.

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Perception is reality.

And perception must be managed. I imagine that successful places use a number of different strategies, even at different times, to ensure their perception is maintained...so at dinner where more patrons may be eating in the bar, a reservation system may go into effect. Later, it is dropped, and in fact later still the majority of chairs may simply be removed.

In the case of the original poster (OP), expectations either weren't managed well or the OP was in the wrong place. If the OP went a 1/2 hour and were miffed that someone got a seat before them, then clearly that 1/2 hour wasn't managed well by the bar - ie, it felt like "waiting time" rather than "bar enjoyment time" and expectations weren't met (again, either through poor management, or the OP being a customer who didn't get it)

For me, I'd walk into a bar with no expectation of seating except by luck. If i want something to eat but all seats are filled, I'd simply ask - "hey, I'd like to get a bite to eat - what's the best way to get a seat?"

Note that bartender's taking a list has a downside, namely that now the perception is that the seats are more valuable and you're in more "standby mode" (literally) until you're called for a seat. That potentially makes everyone standing an "impatient future sitter" and that won't work for most bars IMHO. Further, it ruins the time-honed tradition of favoring regulars that tip. So what that YOU came in 30 minutes ago and Bob just walked through the door? Bob's dropped $20K in tips alone last year...and YOU could just order a tonic and hog the seat for the next 4 hours. Bob gets the seat. That's the deal.

I 100% agree with this whether it is a bar in a bar or a bar in a restaurant. Communicating with the bartender that you would like to dine with him/her will help you gauge whether you will get their assistance in the next opening or not. Otherwise, it is every man for himself. Sometimes you get lucky and others you don't.

At "restaurants with a bar", our M.O. is to put our name on the list for a table, keep our expectations low and have bar enjoyment time while we wait. A quick "we put our name in for a table but would rather dine with you if space opens up, in the meantime though, I would like a [fill in the blank drink]" when you order can go a long way if the bartender is so inclined. If he/she responds like they could give a crap, then just enjoy your drink and wish for the best.

Cheery holiday thought for the day - keep your expectations low and then you will always be mildly suprised when good things happen!

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This is why I like going to the bar at 701, you can almost always find a seat, they have live music that is nice and relaxing and the bar food is good. No worrying about gauging who is leaving when. The bar staff at the lounge at Eventide is really good at helping you get a seat, too.

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Problem solved!

I imagine (and pray for) a future where guests will have their own pre-programmed expectations on a jump drive, plug it into their private robot wait-force, and get exactly what they want--no mind-reading, no surprises, no human fallibility, no vicious Yelps, no hysterical, dishonest complaints on Sietsema's chat, no endless threads on Don Rockwell...

This future also includes Farrah Fawcett arriving via pneumatic tube to have sex with me, by the way.

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Perception is reality.

I repeat this to my staff almost daily.

In the case of the original poster (OP), expectations either weren't managed well or the OP was in the wrong place. If the OP went a 1/2 hour and were miffed that someone got a seat before them, then clearly that 1/2 hour wasn't managed well by the bar - ie, it felt like "waiting time" rather than "bar enjoyment time" and expectations weren't met (again, either through poor management, or the OP being a customer who didn't get it)

What the OP did not mention is that the bartender that was working night was trying to give him a heads up on where the next available seat would be opening up and trying to direct him to that general area. OP also indicated that we didn't have a list because we don't want to "start any fights". That's not exactly what I said but I did indicate that sometimes it's more off-putting to remove someone from a chair that has secured it than it is to work with a guest who is trying to get one. Perception is reality.

Note that bartender's taking a list has a downside, namely that now the perception is that the seats are more valuable and you're in more "standby mode" (literally) until you're called for a seat. That potentially makes everyone standing an "impatient future sitter" and that won't work for most bars IMHO. Further, it ruins the time-honed tradition of favoring regulars that tip. So what that YOU came in 30 minutes ago and Bob just walked through the door? Bob's dropped $20K in tips alone last year...and YOU could just order a tonic and hog the seat for the next 4 hours. Bob gets the seat. That's the deal.

There was a two year period where I ate at 2 Amys once a week. In that time I only sat in the dining room once. Every other time I have dined at the bar . Scott, Debbie and Sarah all know me and what I do for a living but it gave me no competetive edge. They have never told a guest to move or that I have been waiting "longer" than them; they do let me know when someone is paying up or finishing dessert. That is hospitality. There is no sign that says "Check in with the person behind the bar" at their restaurant, so the expectation is: It's up to me to find a seat.

I believe(and this is my own belief) that a waitlist at the bar is pretentious, having said that I do think that it is up to the bartender to do what they can to help the guest...without compromising any other experience in the restaurant.

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What the OP did not mention is that the bartender that was working night was trying to give him a heads up on where the next available seat would be opening up and trying to direct him to that general area. OP also indicated that we didn't have a list because we don't want to "start any fights". That's not exactly what I said but I did indicate that sometimes it's more off-putting to remove someone from a chair that has secured it than it is to work with a guest who is trying to get one. Perception is reality.

Interesting that the "other side of the story" is here as well. And as I think the entirety of my post should indicate, I side with you. That is to say that you can do all you can to be hospitable, but if a patron walks in wanting/expecting a waitlist for the bar, they will leave disappointed regardless of what else you may do. Everyone will come in with a perception, the successful places will convert the majority of those perceptions to positive ones. But no place will convert 100%.

There was a two year period where I ate at 2 Amys once a week. In that time I only sat in the dining room once. Every other time I have dined at the bar . Scott, Debbie and Sarah all know me and what I do for a living but it gave me no competetive edge. They have never told a guest to move or that I have been waiting "longer" than them; they do let me know when someone is paying up or finishing dessert. That is hospitality. There is no sign that says "Check in with the person behind the bar" at their restaurant, so the expectation is: It's up to me to find a seat.

I believe(and this is my own belief) that a waitlist at the bar is pretentious, having said that I do think that it is up to the bartender to do what they can to help the guest...without compromising any other experience in the restaurant.

Agreed, 100%. I think the ideal place gives the regular what they need, while also giving a newbie a fair shake that also leaves them satisfied. I think someone else said it - it isn't a zero sum game, and it is possible to please almost everyone.

BTW, what is the definition of an endless thread? Are we there yet?

How about now?

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