The waiting game

No reservations? I have some.

I hate waiting. Unfortunately though, it’s part of eating out. And I like eating out. But I’m not talking about just any old waiting, no. Waiting has changed. It’s not like the olden days – the kind you’ve come to expect in years of going to restaurants were you could feel so self-assured in turning up, giving your name at the door, ready to go through the tasty motions.

But let’s look at what you already do as a punter in a restaurant. You wait for the waiter. You scan the menu, speedily make your choice, but keep reading anyway while your guest reads the whole thing out loud to you. And all I’m thinking is please don’t ask about the specials. I’m really hungry. You use this time to survey the place. You take in the smells and aromas, earmark what looks shit based on how intently diners are “mmmmm”-ing, who’s eyes are bulging with enthusiasm and at what, and which dish is having the crap complimented out of it every six seconds.

Then there’s the wait for the food. Now you’re on a stakeout, waiting patiently for them to pop out of the kitchen with the merch. You respond with wide eyes and an ‘ooh’, almost as if you forgot why you were sitting there in the first place. You eat. You chat. Maybe you decide you want dessert, but only after 20 minutes as you wait for stomach space. Then the most important part of the experience is over. You wait for the bill. You wait for the bus, the tube, the taxi. Whatever.

Sorry for the miniature rant, but we already wait so much when we eat out. So what’s with restaurants deciding it’s a great idea to add more time to this already waiting-laden experience? What do you MEAN you don’t accept reservations? Walk-in only? This isn’t the goddamn NHS.

It’s odd – we love getting on our phones. We peruse menus on our phones, check in on our phones, Instagram the entree on our phones and upload it for the whole world to ignore. But actually using it for something useful? Nah.

This feels like being smacked in the face with your new favourite dish, leaving punters out in the cold on the off chance they’ll have the staying power to make that seemingly privileged entrance into the new kid on the block. But hang in there, Twitter says it’s worth it!

Maybe we have somewhere else to be? More often than not – and I’m sure I’m not alone here – dining out is not always the main event when it comes to an evening out. Nowadays you’re deluded if you’re trying to nail that classic combo of dinner (in a great new place!) and a movie or theatre, unless you leave the house hours earlier to try and guarantee if ‘turn up and see’ works in your favour. Meeting up with a mate next week and want to try a different place? Sorry.

There has to be some logic behind it. I’d rather be disappointed on the phone than turn up to glare through the window like a sad dog for a couple of hours, mentally placing bets on which table will be free next and if it matches my party. Maybe they just don’t like cancellations, or worse, the no show. So they get you to turn up. And wait. And wait a bit more. Until you can’t stand to wait any longer.

But you continue to wait. You’re at the event horizon of around 45 minutes thinking “well we’ve waited this long”. And it becomes all the more worth it as you clock satisfied punters doing that little half-run out of the place, probably wondering if they’ll catch the next showing.

Maybe restaurants know that even if you give up and go somewhere else, it doesn’t matter – what’s a better advert than a queue? And because every other place is doing the same, you may as well stay there, right? Unless you actually also missed lunch, and it’s either Burger King or your elbow. In which case, you’re not worthy, you weak-willed pleb.

The irony is that when you eventually get inside, everything seems to move so fast and efficiently. Because you know, there are people waiting.

 

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