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Would you change tables in the middle of a meal?

Would you change tables in the middle of a meal?

Dec 1st, 2007, 06:30 AM
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Would you change tables in the middle of a meal?

I had an unusual experience eating at the Altsteirische Schmankerlstube in Graz (a Fodor's recommendation) - at least it's never happened to me before. Not only was the restaurant hot and full of more foreigners than I'd yet seen in town, not only did they get my order wrong, not only was the food mediocre at best, but as I reached the end of my main course and wine my waitress reappeared and conveyed that they wanted my table (I was alone at a table for two) and the one next to it for a group of four. The two women next to me had spent most of my meal trying to get their bill, and had finally succeeded and left, and a couple had been seated at a four-top across the way, apparently against their wishes. Now the hostess (in a different room across a passage) wanted to me to join the couple.

I had already decided to skip dessert, and asked for my bill instead of moving. It arrived with remarkable promptness, together with the four men in need of a table. As I left I wondered what I would have done if I'd been in the middle of a course, which for all the hostess knew could well have been the case. Then I wondered what other Fodorites would have done?
thursdaysd is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 06:46 AM
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I would have done exactly what you did, since I was ready to leave anyway, left. I don't see what other choice you really had if you were ready to leave.

It doesn't sound like such a great restaurant anyway, so you'll find things like that happening anywhere. Sure, it was not acceptable as they should have just told the other party they had to wait for someone to leave, not try to move someone there. I can understand what they were doing, though -- it's just kind of an amateurish thing to do, not something a good restaurant would do.

I think the waitress didn't know you were finished as you might have wanted dessert or coffee, but you yourself said you were finished with your main course, so it does seem she knew that, if you was looking at you.

Christina is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 06:54 AM
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I was OK with this scenario until you said she wanted you to join the other couple at a four top. I'd have done what you did.

More than once I've found the two of us between two empty tables and I'm observant enough to see that there was a group of four waiting. So I've called the host/hostess over and asked if they'd like us to move over so they can accommodate the foursome. It isn't an issue to me, but I've been met with overwhelmed surprise by the host/hostess for offering to do this. (Incidentally it's usually met with a free dessert or other perk -- but that's not why I do it).
NeoPatrick is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 07:26 AM
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We have not traveled that extensively in Germanic countries, but once we stopped at a restaurant & asked for a table for 3. The waitress just said to sit at any table - perhaps at a table already occupied but with 3 chairs vacant. Luckily we found an empty table for 6 & sat there. Almost immediately, another couple joined us at our table. We chatted with them for a bit & found out that sitting with others was a common practice in that region of Germany. This was a regular ole retaurant - not a diner or beer house.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 08:07 AM
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I would have joined the couple and maybe got a free glass of wine.
BTW, this is the funniest restaurant report that I've read for a long time.
It shows that strange service is not confined to Europe
Josser is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 08:28 AM
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Even in a more rustic place like that Schmankerlstube, it would not be considered "normal" to be moved from one table to another in the middle of your meal.

I would say that the waiters and staff were just stressed out by the situation - not an excuse, just an explanation.

P.S. I had to smile a bit when you mentioned that the Schmankerlstube was "a Fodor's recommendation" and, later, somewhat critically remarked that it was "full of more foreigners than I'd yet seen in town" ;-)
Cowboy1968 is online now  
Dec 1st, 2007, 08:46 AM
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>Would you change tables in the middle of a meal?


I have even walked out when asked to change tables before being served.

ira is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 09:04 AM
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Nothing looks dorkier than moving from a table after you have already settled in -- unfolded napkin, whatever.

If it were simply a matter of sliding over on a banquette, I would be less self-conscious.

But generally -- and I consider myself INTENSELY considerate of staff and fellow diners in a restaurant -- there would have to be a pretty compelling reason for me to change tables in the middle of a meal.

Indeed, I cannot think what circumstance would move me to comply.

And I would never agree to join strangers, unless it were Brad & Angelina or Pierre & Marie Curie or....
tedgale is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 09:44 AM
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I would have SCREAMED NO! Then I would have thrown a dish at the hostess.

People in restaurants who displease me usually end up in tears.

marginal_margiela is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 09:45 AM
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You definitely did the right thing!

FWIW, if you dine in Graz again, LoVin is a lovely restaurant/wine bar www.lovin.at and the service there was excellent...I can't imagine them asking someone to move after they've been seated.

Thanks for the heads-up...we certainly won't be trying this restaurant.
BTilke is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 10:42 AM
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Generally I don't mind sharing a table, provided the other occupants don't totally ignore me. But this couple already seemed unhappy. What really annoyed me, though, was the idea of moving in the middle of the meal.

Since the hostess was in another room, across a passageway, and I hadn't seen my waitress in a while, I don't believe they knew whether I had finished my main course or not. Since the incoming group arrived with my bill, I could have wound up eating with them standing over me! (The room was crowded.)

Throwing things at the waitress? Not tipping is usually as far as I go in expressing displeasure....

BTilke - I loved Graz, and hope to go back. But I did wonder if this was a Graz custom? The next night, in the Taj Mahal restaurant, I saw a couple asked to move at the read-the-menu stage. (I'd have been willing to do that.)

thursdaysd is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 01:02 PM
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We moved tables once at our own request, being seated next to a party of 8 men all of whom were smoking cigars. Gasp! The serving staff (this was in France) came over, lifted our table and chairs, and marched across the room with them to a secluded and mostly smoke-free corner.
Underhill is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 01:05 PM
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Often in Bavaria a restaurant will have a large table for people willing to share a table. It's called the "stammtische".
About 30 yrs ago I sat at one, soon joined by a travelling German who, it turned out to be, was a curator of the German collection of Nazi records for the area. During the course of conversation he disclosed that he was one of the undiscovered plotters against Hitler when the bomb was placed in a suitcase under his conference table. Another fellow eventually came who, when he discovered I was an American, went into a broken English tirade about the bombing of Dresden. When he stopped for a breath, I asked him, "who started the whole bloody war, anyway?". End of tirade
tomboy is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 05:22 PM
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Not unless someone came in with a pack of screaming children.
nytraveler is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 08:10 PM
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If I were dining alone and occupying a space which could possibly seat four AND it was a crowded night, yes, I would move. I'd feel embarrassed sitting there occupying all that space while others were clearly standing around waiting for a table.

I've had the most interesting conversations with people who are unexpectedly met.

How do you know that other couple was not Angelina and Brad in disguise?
easytraveler is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 09:12 PM
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Actually easy you reminded me..I was in SF and staying at the Villa Florence. I had breakfast as usual at their Kuleto restaurant. I was seated as usual in a large booth. I was having my usual several cups of coffee while waiting for my breakfast. There was evidently a convention group staying in the hotel because suddenly Kuleto's was crammed with people waiting for tables. I told the waiter that I would be happy to move to one of the small tables so they could seat a group of four of six in the booth wheren they had seated me.
I received a beautiful Mimosa as a "thank you". I am not sure I needed a Mimosa after all the coffee and before breakfast but it was sure good, lol
LoveItaly is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 09:54 PM
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Ah, LI! I can picture you now - happily floating away into Union Square on a sea of coffee and mimosa - LOL!
easytraveler is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 10:09 PM
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The only time I've seen people move around like that is in beer halls in Prague. (much less formal than the restaurant you were at!!) Tables get reserved for certain times, so if you are sitting at a pub table & the time comes for someone's reservation, you must move to another table. Seems weird, but the Czechs are used to it, and often just end up all sharing a table anyway.
amp322 is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 10:19 PM
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There are good and bad ways of accomodating customers - asking someone to possibly change tables can be either. The manner and intent decide that one for me.

When I was in the restaurant business we would occasionally ask for a move (at a convenient junction) in order to accommodate a large party, rather than have them wait indefinitely. Then we'd make the movers feel very happy about it.

In Paris with a group of 8 we entered a wonderful casual restaurant near the Sorbonne. Quite busy, but a few empty seats. Fortunately one couple among us had been there two nights before and made an impression on the owner (a good impression). When we suggested we'd be happy with two tables for four, she would have none of it. She asked another party to move so she could seat us together. The trick: she asked regular customers (it was clear) who were completely unphased and jolly about it.

To never be willing to move is a rather stiffly formal attitude, to me. I want to be in a convivial place - even if it's dressy or has a bunch of stars - where we're not too bent out of shape by any relaxation of the protocol. And I would typically volunteer to move to the next table if it was apparent that it would be the jolly thing to do.

On the other hand, I wouldn't happily move from a nice table to a crummy one just so someone else could have it instead!

I have a couple of friends who frequently have "miserable" experiences in restaurants (and make miserable ones for others) because they are so aware of service "infractions" that they take personally. My advice is to judge on a case-by-case - sometimes these little inconveniences are jarring, other times they lead to the most memorable evenings and new friendships.
tomassocroccante is offline  
Dec 1st, 2007, 10:52 PM
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Uhm easy, after all of the coffee, the wonderful Mimosa and the fantatic breakfast you are right, lol, I and my credit cards did indeed go floating up to Union Square where I bought a beautiful pair of Italian boots and also wonderful Italian loafers. You know me to well!!
LoveItaly is offline  

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