Is your entire party here?


Say you walk into a restaurant and ask for a table. If you have a medium or large party, perhaps four people or more, there’s a good chance they’ll ask you a simple question: “Is your entire party here?” Answer “Yes”, and they’ll seat you promptly. Answer “No”, and they’ll instruct you to wait around and check back with them once everyone in your group has arrived.

It makes perfect sense why restaurants do this. The last thing they want is to seat a few people, and have them sit around for 15 or 30 or 45 minutes waiting for the others to arrive. Such a group would be consuming a scarce resource — table space — without contributing much in revenue during that time. Granted, they might order a few drinks or an appetizer, but I guess it’s not enough to make up for the regular, non-delayed party whose table they’d be taking up.

But there’s one kink in this approach: the math only works when the restaurant is nearly full. If there are plenty of tables to spare, why relegate the incomplete parties to a waiting area? Wouldn’t it be better to just seat them in a table where they can get settled and order a few things? The answer seems obvious to me.

If you think about it, virtually every restaurant has certain days and times when business is slow. During those times, asking “Is your entire party here?” is just silly. Try restricting the full-party question to busy periods only, and I bet customers will use that extra table time to spend more money.