Seat Guests at a Table That Matches
Table Size (Party Size)
As mentioned previously, never seat incomplete parties as they will not be ready to order as quickly as a full party, and ultimately they’d be eating up a seat that could be better off with a party who has been ready for a while. Swapping parties around like this is customary and usually only results in a few more minutes of waiting, anyway.
A very important consideration, however, is party size. Usually, restaurants can only handle a standard 4 or 6 person group, and sometimes specialize in 2-person seating arrangements (e.g. common date locations). These party sizes are easy to accommodate as most tables can seat them and you can usually squeeze an extra seat or two to an already full table, if needed. Two-seat arrangements can become four-seat arrangements, four becomes six, and so-forth.
Seating Guests with Purpose
When seating guests, you should have consideration for their needs as well as the needs of the waitlist and reservations. We’ll cover a few more tips for handling waitlist, along with a few accommodation concerns. For very special accommodation information, be sure to refer to our later topic titled Parties with Disabilities.
- If the place is very empty, such as the start of a lunch or dinner rush, place new patrons at the windows to show potential walk-ins that the place is inhabited. You’d be surprised how big a difference this makes on walking traffic!
- Once the place is picking up, be sure to prioritize seats that servers have easy access to. Depending on the number of servers and the size of the location, you may want to block-off some sections that may be unmanned by waitstaff.
- Depending on weather, consider outdoor seating first or last. You can always ask the patron’s their preference, of course, but you also have some sway if it appears one location is getting crowded over the other.
- Deprioritize bad locations, such as in front of bathrooms or kitchens. Just because seating exists there does not mean it should be used; plenty of accidents happen because of a table that is too close to where servers come and go.
Consider Active Seating
Naturally, if a party requires special accommodations, such as children or the elderly, be sure to seat them in places that are either closer to the exit, have comfortable easy to navigate seats, and so-forth. Wheelchair access should also be considered, as mentioned in a later topic.
There are a lot of factors to consider when prioritizing seating, especially on a not-so-busy day.
The real nightmare scenario, however, are parties greater than 6 and, moreover, parties that reserve a large part of the restaurant. Some places have reserved locations for such parties, but others might require party splitting. If you know these parties will require seating in advance, you can plan around this and warn waitlist patrons that there may be an additional wait.