As people who know me are well aware, I love to eat out. And when you travel, there is a built in reason to visit new restaurants and pretend a kitchen exists solely to store shoes.
After a recent trip to Seattle and hanging with a friend who is a Yelp ninja, I've been using the app more often. So, last week in San Diego on a lazy Sunday morning, we searched "Best Breakfast in La Jolla." A place called "The Cottage" came up 1st and had 4 stars.
We drove to The Cottage and it was packed in front, but after the hostess said that the last people seated waited 30 minutes and that my wait would be 25 minutes, I was excited. Although I'm not the most patient person in the world, it seemed like it would be worth it.
After 35 minutes I was told another 10-15 minutes. After already investing that much time, it seemed like a good idea to wait it out. What happened next was fascinating. We began to notice couples who came after us being seated. Supposedly they don't take reservations, so I was confused.
After 15 more minutes, I was told another 10-15. At that point I sternly said, "We were told 25 minutes almost an hour ago." The host then put his hand on my shoulder and said, "You'll be my next seated even though you aren't the next on the list."
Huh? Then why is there a list? We spent 5 more minutes watching him seat other couples who came in after we had, even though he'd patronizingly told me I'd be next to cut the line.
At this point, after more than an hour (hungry and angry) we just left and ate across the street at the bakery whose success may entirely depend on pissed off people leaving The Cottage (although their pastries looked amazing and the bacon was delicious). My confusion and, frankly, anger were both in high gear. Were they seating locals and just ignoring tourists? They either have no idea how to manage a crowd, were not seating people in the order they came, or have blatant disregard for people's time. Or a little of all. I was enraged and posted a very strident, yet accurate review on Yelp.
Here are a few good rules of thumb for any restaurant:
1) Be honest. If you don't know how long the wait will be, don't guess. Better yet, hire someone who understands how the restaurant business works.
2) Or take reservations. Understand the average time your guests stay at the table, turnover, and pace. These are very simple concepts of owning a restaurant and should be required learning for anyone before the first meal is served.
3) Don't make my time less valuable than yours. My purpose in life is not to wait it out just to provide you with the optimal scenario to make money. In reality, if you don't know your own crowd, how often your tables turn, and can gauge that, maybe you should be in another business. Or hire someone who understands how the restaurant business works. Or take reservations.
While I can't know for sure what went wrong, one thing I do know is that The Cottage lost a patron for life. This post could have been one raving about their food, service, location, and any number of things. Instead, I'm hoping restaurants will take heed that every patron counts and should be treated respectfully.