Restaurant Seats Us, Then Kicks Us Out For Being Late

When you’re late for your restaurant reservation, it’s well within the establishment’s rights not to seat you at all, or to make you wait until after customers who actually showed up on time are settled at their tables. Steven writes that he showed up late for his reservation on Valentine’s Day, but restaurant staff initially seated him and his companion. When they were about to order, a restaurant employee came and asked them to leave the table, since they had really forfeited their reservation and the restaurant had seated them by mistake. Steven didn’t just leave the table, he left the restaurant and dined elsewhere–and now isn’t sure how to follow up on the experience.

I made reservations for two at a sushi restaurant here in California for Valentines day. We showed up 17 minutes late (I checked), but after asking for our reservation, the staff said they still had our table for us, under my name. We were promptly seated and started looking at the menus. However, after a few minutes, we were interrupted by one of the waitresses (maybe the manager). She proceeded to tell us they had made a mistake in seating us, as our table had already been given up since we were later than their 15 minutes reservation “grace” period. She then asked us to leave our table so they could give it to whomever was next on the reservation list. I was pretty stunned, as we were already seated and getting ready to order. I simply told the waitress we would take our business elsewhere (I had no desire to wait in the large line, especially after being essentially kicked out) and we left.

Obviously, we were late and I have no problem with them canceling our reservation for that. However, the fact that we were told they still had our reservation and actually seated us, then embarrassingly asked us to leave our table thanks to an error on their part seemed fairly poor taste, to say the least. What should I do? Email the manager and complain? Should I have made a scene there instead of leaving right away?

Making a scene is never a good idea: standing up for yourself in a firm and polite manner is much better.

The question to ask oneself in situations like this is: what do I want from the restaurant? A coupon, a heartfelt apology, or something else?

This is a tricky situation. Violating policies on any busy night is one thing, but doing so on a super-busy night like Valentine’s Day is much worse from the restaurant’s point of view. Mistakes do happen, but customers can be won or lost depending on how people deal with them. If the manager or owner wasn’t aware of the situation that night, he or she will want to know that waitstaff were kicking out already-seated customers.

What do you think the restaurant should have done?