I have a tip for people who prefer to dine out: BUY A WATCH.
There are two main reasons for this.
(1) This little device will tell you which times are prime for dining in a restaurant. (No, that’s not true. But I will, in a second. And a watch will help you execute my instructions.)
(2) If aligned with the rest of the world, it will keep you posted on how many minutes you have left to wait.
It’s a genius invention, really. I often wonder who came up with it.
Anyway, allow me to elaborate.
You know how when you were little, mom had breakfast waiting for you when you woke up in the morning (or slapped a microwaveable breakfast sandwich in your tiny little paw as you scrambled onto the bus)? And then, a few hours later, the nuns and teachers would herd you and your friends down the tiled hallways to the cafeteria where you would commence your daily attempt at trading your carrot sticks for Jenny’s Butterscotch Krimpets? And then after school, you would arrive home and mom would again have a meal waiting for you as you finished your homework?
Admittedly, some of us had slightly altered experiences, but the take-home point is this: We have all been conditioned to eat at the same times.
Think about it.
We don’t often stop to think about why, but we’re usually hungry in the morning after an exhausting six hours of sleep. Later, our stomachs begin their grumbling between the hours of 11:30 and 1:30 (ish) and eventually we’ll even reluctantly cease our riveting tasks to relieve the pressure. Finally, I don’t know about you, but when I get out of work or class, I’m walking straight to my fridge and whipping myself up a bit of anything I can find that’s even remotely edible.
And is it any different on the weekends? Nope. We’re conditioned. We eat at roughly the same. time. every. single. day.
Which brings me to my first point.
DO NOT GET PISSY WITH ME WHEN YOU WALK INTO MY RESTAURANT AT 7:30 PM AND FIND A WAIT.
Guess what. You aren’t the only person whose stomach operates on this schedule. In fact, we can count on a religious cycle every single day in our restaurant: From 6:30 am until 8:30 am, there is barely anyone at the tables. Duh. Then, 8:50 am brings in a few ambitious folks and until around 10 (on the weekends), we have a slow but steady flow. The calm continues until around 11:45 am, when
The lunch rush begins.
If you want to EAT at a popular restaurant in DC around lunchtime,…. Don’t go to a popular restaurant in DC around lunchtime. Sorry. That’s all I can give you. You will wait. It may be an “off” day and you’ll only have to wait 15-20 minutes, but trust me– you will wait.
Same goes for dinner. We can count on basically no customers between 2:30 pm and 6:00 pm, but once the dinner rush begins around 6:30, there’s no goin’ back. You will be waiting. If you don’t want to wait, play it smart and come in before the rush OR after 8:45 pm, when the rush dies down again.
(Keep in mind, it is ill-advised to eat after 8 pm).
On that note, folks, a 15-minute wait is not even considered a wait in the restaurant industry. It’s literally enough time to grab a busser and have him clean off the table for you. So do NOT give the host grief when s/he tells you it will “just be 15 minutes”. This is not your kitchen. If you have a problem waiting for your food, DO NOT GO TO A RESTAURANT. Stay at home and make yourself a sandwich. Once you enter our territory, you’re on our turf and you play by our rules. Which means waiting for us to clean off a table. For you.
So, the moral of this part of the story is: Choose your dining time wisely.
Do not go to a restaurant during peak hours expecting to be seated immediately. It is NOT going to happen.
And don’t throw a hissy fit at the staff. They’ll move you down on the list.
PART II: I’ll make this one short and sweet.
If a host tells you “The wait is going to be about 40-45 minutes”, they are not lying.
According to their seating/waiting chart, there will be at least a 40-minute wait. Now, granted, some people may have decided not to wait, in effect moving you up on the list, but as far as you’re concerned, you’re in it for the long haul if you stick around.
That said, do NOT commence “hovering” after 6 minutes.
And absolutely do not get frustrated after nine.
The host told you your wait time. Look at your watch and react accordingly.
If it’s been 47 minutes and you were told 40, patiently approach the host and ask how it’s looking. They should have the decency, though, to let you know beforehand if people aren’t moving. (See: “Camping“.)
I have so many people begin getting angry when I’ve given them a 30-minute quote and they’ve been waiting for less than ten minutes. I understand that time flies when you’re having fun, but dear Lord let me do my job in peace.
If it’s that bad, leave and try it again some other day.
But beware of the time before you do.