The restaurant policy of not being able to seat a group until their entire party has arrived is a highly controversial one. From a customer standpoint, I personally hate it. There is always at least one member of your party who likes to arrive “fashionably late” in order to avoid having to stand around waiting for the table. They think this is a really smart move, but in reality, the entire party just ends up having to wait on them because the restaurant refuses to seat them before the liability of their friend group arrives. However, from the perspective of the restaurant, it makes complete sense. Plenty of customers love to book a reservation for more people than they are actually expecting in order to get a little extra table room. Especially in Mexican restaurants, where no table seems to be large enough to have enough room for the vast amount of plates and bowls required for every party member’s meal. They might think they are gaming the system, but they are merely costing the restaurant money by taking up a table that could be filled with more paying customers.
Our friend, “Katie,” worked at a restaurant with one of these policies. On top of the seating policy, the restaurant where Katie worked took absolutely no reservations. Large parties could call ahead thirty minutes before their arrival, but this was the extent of any ‘reservation’ they would take. Naturally, this created some issues with customers. Most restaurants couldn’t get away with not taking any reservations, but Katie worked at a popular restaurant in her city with a nearly constant demand for tables. While this was great for business, it meant entitled customers would rather still go to the restaurant and cause issues as a result of the policies instead of opting for a different restaurant.
One day, Katie was working a double shift. She typically waitressed, but she would help out at the host stand during slow hours to help pass the time. During the slow hours on this day, she answered a call from a woman calling ahead for a party of twelve. Katie told her it was no problem at all as they had two tables inside designated for large parties and over half of their current customers were dining out on the patio. She took her name down, “Karen,” which caused Katie to think, “That’s an unfortunate name, she sounded like a nice lady.”
Little did she know.
Karen and a woman who appeared to be her mother walked into this restaurant around two minutes later. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for customers to call ahead from the parking lot; however, this was one of the few times Katie had seen this move pulled during slow hours. Despite thinking it was odd, Katie welcomed them and told them they were more than welcome to enjoy a drink at the bar while they waited for the rest of their party to arrive.
Karen and her mother walked over to the bar but then continued walking and seated themselves at one of the tables dedicated for a large party.
Katie thought, “Are you kidding me?”
Being experienced with handling all varieties of guests, Katie walked over and gave the typical, “I’m sorry, ma’am, but you cannot sit here until your entire party has arrived. Unfortunately, it’s against restaurant policy but you’re more than welcome to enjoy a drink at the bar until the rest of your party arrives.”
Karen laughed and responded, “Oh, I’m so sorry about that,” then immediately moved to the bar without any fuss.
After insuring Karen and her mother had moved to the bar, Katie began receiving a lot of calls from customers calling ahead as happy hour was beginning soon and customers began pouring into the restaurant shortly after. Since the restaurant filled up again, Katie returned to waitressing. She typically had one of the tables designated for large parties so she knew she had a pretty solid chance of serving Karen’s party and was actually relieved because she seemed pretty low-maintenance. But for some reason, it was still only Karen and her mother waiting at the bar.
“Only An Hour Late”
Around the same time, another large party showed up at the restaurant. Their entire party was present so they were seated immediately at one of the large tables in the section of another waitress, “Jessica.” Just as Jessica had approached the table to take drink orders, Karen came out of nowhere and began screaming at Jessica and the members of the party.
She shouted at Jessica, “How dare you serve people at my table!”
Then she turned her attention to the customers seated at the table and shrieked, “This is not your table! I had a reservation! Get up now!”
Katie, who was watching this newly-developing disaster from her section, was shocked to see every member of the party actually get up from the table and walk back to the waiting area. Even more surprising, Karen and her mother immediately sat at the table and demanded Jessica serve them.
At a loss for words, Jessica made a beeline to find the manager. As soon as Jessica disappeared to find the manager, members of Karen’s party actually began showing up and sitting at the table.
“Only an hour late,” Katie thought.
The manager went over to Karen and proceeded to have a loud argument with her about how she can’t scream at guests for being seated before her as a result of their entire party being present for around fifteen minutes. Surprisingly, Karen agreed to pay for a round of drinks for the party she had verbally assaulted to hopefully smooth things over.
Jessica, on the other hand, approached Katie and asked, “Will you please switch large tables with me? That lady is absolutely psychotic but she seemed to get along well with you earlier.”
Katie happily obliged as she had been working in the restaurant so long that handling over-the-top customers was entertaining to her rather than intimidating. Lucky for her, the entertainment from Karen was far from over.
“Taking Off Early?”
Katie walked over and greeted Karen and the rest of her party to take their drink orders as if nothing had happened. Karen and the rest of her party also acted as if nothing happened and the drink orders went off without a hitch.
Katie thought, “Wow she really knows how to control her crazy switch.”
Just as she had finished putting in their drink orders, the manager approached Katie with the bill for the other party’s round of drinks. Katie walked over and nonchalantly handed Karen the bill for the other party’s drinks to help her avoid any further embarrassment. Karen, who immediately turned bright red, didn’t seem to mind drawing further attention to herself.
Karen fumed, “There’s no way a round of drinks for eight costs a hundred and thirty dollars during happy hour! I’m not paying more than forty!”
Katie chuckled to herself and thought, “There’s the crazy switch,” then proceeded to turn around without saying anything and go find her manager.
Katie told her manager, “The psychotic lady is refusing to pay her bill,” then went back and served every other guest at the table as if nothing had happened.
As Katie was putting in another drink order, one of the members of Karen’s party walked up to her and asked, “Hey, can I go ahead and pay my tab?”
Katie responded, “Absolutely! Taking off early?”
The party member turned white and responded, “She said she wouldn’t do it again, especially because today is her and her boyfriend’s anniversary. She’s currently at the table doing her signature impersonation of Mount Vesuvius on the verge of eruption and I literally can’t take another secondhand public shaming.”
Then she paid her bill, left a massive tip, apologized, and speed-walked out of the restaurant. Just as she walked out of the restaurant, Katie saw her manager approaching the table.
Before Katie’s manager could even open his mouth, Karen exploded, “How dare you expect me to pay the outrageous drink bill for the people who stole my table,” then proceeded to loudly cuss him out.
“She has no idea how bad she just messed up,” Katie thought. Her manager was one of the nicest people she had ever worked for but he too had a crazy switch. It didn’t come out unless a customer or employee was really asking for it and by all accounts, Karen was really asking for it.
Katie’s manager looked Karen dead in the eye and said, “It’s not my problem. You forced other guests up from their table. You will pay this bill then you will leave or I will call the police,” talking to her as if she was a five-year-old being put in time-out.
Karen’s eyes went wide but her entitlement soon returned and she snapped, “I at least want the drinks and appetizers I ordered!”
Katie’s manager snapped back, “Sure, just pay your bill then get out of my sight!”
Katie quickly threw her appetizers and drinks into to-go containers and cups then carried them out to the table along with the bill. Of course, Karen slid the bill to her boyfriend, who sheepishly pulled out his credit card.
Katie’s manager gave him a grin and said, “Don’t forget to tip 20% for your girlfriend’s atrocious behavior to my staff.”
Katie burst out laughing but tried to cover it up with a fake cough. The rest of the now full restaurant did not even attempt to cover up their laughter. Karen snatched the to-go containers off the table and stormed out of the restaurant with her tail tucked between her legs followed by her equally embarrassed boyfriend. Every other member of their party decided to stay and have more drinks, including Karen’s own mother. Katie was tipped well over 20% by the remaining members of Karen’s party.
Thoughts From The Author
As someone who doesn’t work in a restaurant, I think the policy of not seating a table until their entire party has arrived is a massive pain. With that being said, I completely understand why some restaurants have the rule after reading this story. Karen trying to get a large table an hour before her party even showed up is an absolutely egregious move. Clearly, she was trying to sidestep the rules and secure a large table before the happy hour rush. If Katie’s restaurant didn’t have this rule, Karen wouldn’t have been publicly shamed on her anniversary and that’s a bad thing because she completely seems like someone who needs public shaming to keep her in check.
I don’t think I’ve ever identified with someone more than the friend who paid her bill early and got out of dodge as soon as she saw the writing on the wall. As someone with a Type B personality, I’m extremely low maintenance at restaurants to the point that even if my order isn’t one-hundred-percent correct I usually won’t say anything unless it’s something outrageous. Obviously, Karen was an extreme case but I actually don’t understand how anything that could happen at a restaurant could warrant a massive emotional response. It’s just food and drinks, it’s not that deep, Karen.
I don’t think anyone got more wronged in this story than Karen’s boyfriend. I mean sure, there was a table of people that were screamed at by some crazy lady but they got a round of free drinks out of it and a funny story. I don’t think I’ve seen a seemingly innocent bystander get dunked on quite like Karen’s boyfriend. Obviously, by not saying anything to stop Karen, he and the entire table enabled her behavior but as soon as Katie’s manager saw him pull out his credit card he decided it was time to choose violence. Hopefully, it was a step in the direction of Karen’s boyfriend deciding he didn’t have to subject himself to any type of public shaming as a result of his nightmare of a girlfriend. Poor guy.