You are hungry. You pick a restaurant and head there at 7:30 on a Friday night. No reservation, no phone call ahead to gauge the wait. You just go. And you are unhappy when you can’t get past the podium without a pager and the promise of an hour wait.
“But I see open tables!” you say to the host staff. “Common sense would tell you we should be able to sit at one of them.”
The host staff tries to explain to you that those tables are booked with reservations You try to explain the “common sense” premise again. Stalemate.
You have gathered your five friends together on a Saturday night for a nice dinner. You made reservations more than a week ago and snagged the coveted 8:00 p.m. slot. You arrive and the place is packed. Walk-ins are three-deep at the bar, hoping those with reservations either don’t show or eat really fast. You, however, are immediately ushered to your table–a four-top and a deuce pushed together and set for six.
“You don’t have round tables?” you ask, making no attempt to mask your annoyance. “I like to sit with my friends at a nice round table so we can all talk. This table doesn’t work for me.”
The host politely explains that this restaurant doesn’t have any round tables for six available for several hours. You decide to take matters into your own hands. “Fine, then let’s rearrange these tables along in here to make it more comfortable. Take this one away, and move that other table from over there to here, and turn these chairs and place them on each end.”
The host is aghast. What you are asking is to rearrange heavy pieces of furniture that will have to be lifted over other guests’ heads–difficult in a tight area when the restaurant is empty; almost impossible on a crowded Saturday night.
“Sir, I just don’t know if we can do that. He looks around at the other guests hoping one of them will cave and say, “Actually, this is fine.” Instead, another member of the party comments, “Isn’t it common sense in the restaurant business to say ‘Yes’ to your guests? Do you comprehend the word ‘Yes’?”
At which point the host excuses himself to find a manager and two bussers to let them deal with it.
You approach the podium and ask to be seated in “Linda’s section.” You are told that Linda’s section is full, but you have another table in another area if you don’t want to wait.
“What does common sense tell you?” you ask the host. She keeps her polite host face on, but is confused.
“Um, well, do you want to wait? You are welcome to wait, it just might be a half hour.”
“First of all, I always sit in Linda’s section. So, yes, common sense should tell you I’ll wait.”
The host takes your name, her polite expression now a tad strained.
Over the past 18 months, I have heard more than several guests use the “common sense” ploy in three very different restaurant settings. It is a phrase at which I now cringe, and one I associate with a lack of understanding about how restaurants function–served up with a side of arrogance.
I get it that most people don’t fully grasp how restaurants balance open tables, reservations and walk-ins. It took me long enough to figure that out as a host! I also understand that sometimes people have very specific expectations about how their dining experience should progress–from the table type to the section they’re in to the server waiting on them. They’re paying for a nice evening out, they want it to be the best it can be. Fair enough.
But it’s the use of that phrase–“common sense”–in each of these and other similar incidences. It sets up an unnecessary, adversarial relationship from the onset and is clearly meant to demean the person on the receiving end.
I guess it’s partially the idea of the squeaky wheel getting the grease. I guess it’s partially pent-up frustration being expressed by people who’ve had a bad day before they even stepped foot into the restaurant. I guess it takes all kinds.
No, these folks are not, thankfully, the most common among us. They simply stand out more. Common sense tells me that.