The "Bad" Table

Categories: Restaurant News

The Park Hotels, India
No one likes to walk by a bunch of empty tables to sit at the bad one.
It doesn't matter what restaurant you visit; there will always be the "bad table." You know which one I'm talking about. The one by the bathroom, by the service/bussing station, by the swinging kitchen door or the one in the corner where the restaurant's atmosphere is nonexistent. Don't let restaurants fool you, they all have a bad table or two.

My family and I like to refer to this table as the Dunn table. Without fail, about 90 percent of the time we dine at a restaurant, we are placed at the table nobody wants to sit at. You can guarantee this will happen if we make a reservation. We will be placed next to the bus station, the bathroom, the kitchen door or in close proximity to all three.

Although it is annoying to be placed at a crappy table, I always hesitate to ask to switch to a new table. Asking the host or hostess to switch tables makes me feel like I am causing difficulty and that I should just sit at the table I have been given. But, after dining out on Christmas Eve (with a reservation) and being placed at a table near the bathroom and kitchen doors, I began to wonder: Why does this always happen to me?

Over the holidays, we decided to go to Pappadeaux for dinner. We waited and waited for about 20 minutes longer than they had told us we would have to wait. During this time we scoped out the tables to see which one we would be given and decided it would be the table by the bathroom, or the table sequestered in another dining area. Lo and behold, we were correct, and were placed in the dining room farthest away from everyone in the restaurant.

Because the restaurant was extremely crowded and our stomachs were incredibly empty, we stayed at the table despite the fact that the atmosphere was lacking in our location.

Being separated from the rest of the diners made the rest of the night just mediocre. If the area you're in is distracting you from your dining experience, then the entire meal won't taste as good as it could, leaving you with a bad taste in your mouth.

Things like this have happened ever since I was a little girl. I remember walking into a restaurant, hoping we would be seated at a prime table where we could enjoy our dinner, the atmosphere and an overall pleasant experience. Yet somehow, some way, we were placed in a crappy location.

This probably happens to us because everyone else has turned down that table all night long, so it always has immediate openings. For some reason, hosts and hostesses push people to those tables first because they are available. I can understand why they would like to fill those bad tables first, but when I ask to move to a different table, at least put a smile on your face and take me to another spot.

I can't tell you how many times a host or hostess has taken me and my family or friends to the sequestered table, we have asked to move and they express their annoyance with the situation, as though we have ruined their day. Half of the time, I know there is another table available, because we passed through the entire dining room to get to Siberia. But, if all of the tables are taken, it would be appreciated if hosts and hostesses could tell us that we will have to wait a few more minutes to be seated with a simple smile on their face.

Unfortunately, the Dunn table curse doesn't just apply to the table we are given. I have had several experiences being stuck by the bathroom or the kitchen, but my personal favorite was the table sequestered in a corner with a screaming child kicking the back of my booth. Not only did my head hurt from the screaming, but I walked away with a sore back. Not exactly the night I had been hoping for.

Knowing my luck, I'd get stuck at the table in the right corner.
I do not understand how those who have made reservations get stuck in the corner or in an awful location as well. Why do restaurant hosts and hostesses feel the need to stick people who thought ahead of time to make a reservation and chose in advance to dine at that restaurant at those tables no one wants? Is it because they can secure that location so they can place other diners in better tables? If it is to ensure that that table will be taken, then restaurant hosts and hostesses ought to rethink that logic.

If you're going to fill the bad table, save it for those who show up to the restaurant during peak hours on a Friday or Saturday night without calling ahead or making a reservation; don't give it to people who made the efforts to plan their night ahead of time by making a reservation.

This problem happens way too often, and I know it doesn't just happen to me. So, I am asking restaurants to reevaluate their placement system. If a group makes a reservation, honor their efforts to think ahead and seat them at a good table. But, if you're booked during peak hours, then fill those bad tables last. Nobody likes those tables anyways.

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You write with tears about this; much too defeatist for me. Stand up for yourself.


I get this completely.  We are a middle aged couple who made reservations at Pappas Steakhouse days in advance to celebrate an anniversary.  The reservations were early by most standards - 6 p.m. - insert elder jokes here.  But we were getting off work and going straight there for drinks and dinner.  The restaurant was nearly empty when we arrived.  We had a drink at the bar then went to the hostess station at the appointed time.  Imagine my surprise when she flipped around and led us back toward the bar and away from the dining room.  So there's a small annex dining room behind the bar that has about 8 tables.  Four of those were occupied and three of them had multiple small children with them.  This is just not how I imagined this rare splurgy date.  Every word uttered in there could be heard by everyone else in there.  I politely asked to be seated in the main dining room.  The hostess was obviously unhappy, but she seated us after further conferencing at the reservations desk at a lovely table on the edge of the room.  We ordered whatever our hearts desired and treated ourselves well that night, tipping over 20%.  We felt extremely pampered and enjoyed our evening immensely.  The restaurant comped our dessert as they do for all celebrants.  But the question remains, why were we ushered into the kinder section when we have no kids with us and we made reservations way in advance?  I second your call for change.  


Maybe you should dress better or be more friendly with the host staff?  This seems a strange thing to complain about.  Asking for what you want is also advised.  What's the worst that can happen, they say "no"?  A smile and a nice request can go a long way with service industry folks.


This happens to me all of the time. It's really upsetting when I don't dine out at expensive places often and when I do I am treated as second class. If the dining experience was more enjoyable service wise, I would probably do it more often.


i've had it happen before, but it's not that often. and i've got no qualms asking to move. it's not a prison cell, i've got a say in where i eat my dinner.

FattyFatBastard topcommenter

Maybe it's you.  I honestly have never noticed this "problem."

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