This Week in Kuh: You Don’t Own That Table

Getting to know Patric Kuh, the magazine’s restaurant critic.

You know what Los Angeles magazine restaurant critic Patric Kuh likes (and doesn’t like) at dinner. But do you know anything else about him? Unless you’re his editor or a family friend, probably not. Each week, we’re going to have a chat with Kuh to get to know the critic behind the critique.

Patric and I met near the coffee station at Los Angeles magazine headquarters this week, fresh out of a production meeting. Though I wanted to talk about restaurant ticketing systems (“I understand why restaurants are doing this, and I can’t fault them. But if it ends up that people know how to game the system, then that’s problematic.”), Kuh had a similar concept on his mind already.

“You know, it used to be that if you made a reservation and were sitting down for dinner with a guest or two, you ‘owned’ that table for the night. Rarely did the general manager have any right to ask you to leave after a certain amount of time. But I’ve since reversed my thinking on this completely. At a recent dinner at Goldie’s, I realized that things have changed. One is no longer regularly sitting down to lengthy meals. Everything is moving at a faster pace these days, including—and this is good for restaurants—table turns (how many times a table in a restaurant is used to serve a new group of customers). So I was surprised when, though I had a reservation, the hostess at Goldie’s couldn’t seat me and my guests for over 30 minutes past our reservation time. This would have been understandable if the restaurant was simply busy. But in this case, there were diners that had clearly finished their meal and paid, and were just on their phones or tablets, while a line of hungry guests formed at the door. I think restaurants are so afraid of snarky Yelp reviews or tweets that they just don’t say anything. But there’s a way to handle this, and restaurant managers should know how. That’s what management is, after all, it’s knowing when to make the hard decisions.

So you there, fiddling with your iPhone after signing the bill, what are you waiting for? Get up so the next diner can have a seat. Disagree with Kuh’s logic? Leave your take on the issue in the comments, below.