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On the House: The Waiting Game

Here we have another installment of On the House, a regular weekly-ish column written by the owners and operators of LA's best food and bev establishments. Our resident proprietor is one David Haskell, owner of Bin 8945.

I've gone to my doctor's office and been told to wait, and I've waited for 45 minutes before. Did I walk in and yell or tell him I was going to post on the internet? At restaurants, why is it that people think we don't want them to sit down? Trust me we NEED you to sit down. Especially at Bin, we don’t have a lounge. We want you to get to your table as soon as possible. People think we overbooked the restaurant, but that's never the case. When people are out to dinner, they sit and relax. They take their time. At Le Cirque, we asked people if they would move to the bar and offer them dessert. If we had a table that was on dessert, and we were desperate, we'd ask them if they minded moving into the lounge. We'd buy them a digestif. This always worked. At Bin, it never works.

There are bloggers out there who say this practice is rude. Welcome to the “No win situation.” If you call and say you're going to be 15 minutes late, remember that that causes a back up for the table. And don’t forget about the table that wants to order one course at a time and sit with cocktails after dinner. It's not your problem, it's ours, but we're limited in what we can do. Sometimes I have to laugh when I go to the desk and let someone waiting know that it may be a few minutes. The people look at me in disgust, they think I’m the anti-christ?..and they tell me so. But you know, we are trying the best we can.

To diffuse the situation, I'll send champagne to people who have to wait. I’ve come up with creative ways to send champagne anywhere. If you're waiting, you'll most likely get a glass. All I ask is that you're nice to me and the staff. I’m not a manager trying to appease you, I’m the owner trying to keep your business. I once had someone wait up to an hour, and man I felt bad. I had the couple sit at the bar, and I opened a bottle of Krug Champagne. I haven’t seen them since. I also like to send a few small plates to someone who had to wait awhile, right when they sit down. I know hunger and anger go hand in hand.

Ultimately, I found the best thing to do is listen. The best satisfaction is when I have a table wait for awhile, then take care of them, and they them come back. On the return visit I make sure to write in the book (DON’T HAVE THEM WAIT). I block a few tables to make sure it won’t happen to them again. Still it’s funny how many people have to wait 15 minutes, we'll send them champagne, a few courses, and they never come back or say thank you. It's frustrating to do everything in our power, but there are customers who would rather leave angry then come back happy.

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