The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2018

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A reliable source of annoyance for restaurateurs comes from observing people who linger far too long at their table. I'm sure you can picture them now: They're chatting and slowly sipping their coffee, oblivious to those waiting patiently at the bar long past their res- ervation time. These inconsiderate hangers-on are known as "campers," and they create serious headaches for man- agement. One such party can totally disrupt the carefully- planned flow of a restaurant's evening. There is, however, a clean and effective solution for this problem I discovered, oddly enough, during my recent trip to London: "time limits," in which restaurant staff tell patrons before they sit down that there's a prescribed length of time they can have the table. In London, diners are told—very politely, I might add—that they're allotted two hours of uninterrupted culinary bliss before they have to get up and make way for the next customers. To some, this system is perhaps a bit arbitrary and harsh, like the sword of Damocles is hanging over their heads as they tuck into their meal. In actuality, though, the time limit is flexible. It could be 90 minutes or two and a half hours—whatever helps make the restaurant's operation flow smoothly. You'll quickly realize time limits are not an onerous request if you time yourself in a restaurant as you dine out and see how rarely your experience exceeds two hours. Of course, it's the restaurant's responsibility to see that your meal proceeds at a reasonable pace, as long delays between courses are unaccept- able when people have been given a time limit: "Here's your dessert but, gosh, your time is up." And if you prefer not to formally follow this system at your own establishment, asking campers to bring their coffee or after-dinner drinks to the bar or a less-busy part of the restau- rant is totally acceptable as long as you do so in a courteous manner. In general, expecting patrons to observe a time con- straint should not offend—especially if their actions leave you high and dry with a line out the door. Anthony Dias Blue To Reclaim Your Space, Cut Down On Overly-Comfy "Campers" LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 4  /  the tasting panel  /  march 2018

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