What’s Your Limit When Waiting for a Table?

Last night, I decided to grab dinner with some pals so we could catch up, and we decided to meet up at a ramen restaurant that was conveniently located so that our respective parties would have an easy time getting home. As I neared the restaurant I got a text from my friend that said: “90-minute wait!!!” Luckily, we had decided on an alternate plan just in case this happened, so I immediately walked 10 blocks to our Plan B restaurant, where, to our relief and delight, there was a zero-minute wait. Sometimes you’ll have to wait a crazy amount of time for a table in this crazy town, but it’s usually on a leisurely weekend when you can do your waiting at a bar down the street and hang out until you get a phone call. On a Monday night, though, when you’ve still got work to do later in the evening and will be getting up early to head to work the next morning, a 90-minute wait is out of the question.

Bourree Lam has a roundup of studies in The Atlantic describing the way restaurants encourage us to spend more money, and one of those studies says that we flock to crowded restaurants because crowds enhance “a restaurant’s reputation, suggesting great food at fair prices.”

Even so, we have a limit to how long we’ll wait for a table. This conversation — the “should we wait or go somewhere else; what do you think?” conversation — has occurred countless times, and our patience varies.

“We will not wait more than 15 minutes,” writes a commenter named GoTravel at Fodor’s. “Usually, we just eat at the bar and don’t eat at a table.”

“The longest I’ve waited was 2 hours and 45 minutes for Mi Nidito here in Tucson on a Thursday night,” writes a commenter names missvenuz at Serious Eats.

Back at Fodor’s, RubyTwo writes: “What annoys me is being told it will be 20 minutes and it ends up being an hour.” I concur — this is annoying!

Waiting is just part of the dining experience — especially if you’re trying to get a table at a place that has received glowing reviews (or if you’re going to one of those places where you put your name on a list and wait a few years). But when time is money, it can’t hurt to have a Plan B.

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