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Are You Done Yet?

I go to a medium sized, family owned cafe every Thursday. It’s the end of my work week and it’s a treat for myself. I relish the “me time” that I get for about an hour or so.

I always order the same thing at the counter. So much so that the clerk knows what to order for me without me telling her. Sometimes I sit outside if it’s nice weather, but with the Texas wind I prefer a seat inside if possible.

Sometimes the cafe is crowded – like today – and other times there are just a few patrons there.

My routine is the same – order at the counter, find a small table, eat my lunch and dessert and then go back to the counter to order a coffee to sit and sip and savor my alone time. (The coffee is delicious and is my favorite part of this ritual).

Today the cafe was very crowded. There was only one table in the dining room available. I ate my lunch and dessert as usual and before I could even dab my lips with my napkin, there was a person at my table, glowering at me. She said, “Are you done?”. I was confused because I thought maybe she worked at the cafe and was asking this to clear my dishes. I wasn’t sure though, because I had never seen her before and know all of the cafe workers. Nevertheless, I replied, “Yes, thank you”. She then said, “Good, hey guys we can sit here.” 3 people appeared from around the corner and began to put their things on the table.

I said, “I’m sorry, there has been a misunderstanding. I meant I was finished with my dishes. However, I’m not ready to leave.”

They all glared at me and the woman replied, “Well it’s really crowded today and you are done eating”.

Before this invasive incident, my plan was to go order my coffee at the counter and come back and enjoy it. I realized right away that even if I explained I was still going to get coffee and the table wasn’t available, when I vacated the table to go order, they would steal it immediately with no recourse for me.

The owner, whom I know well and is beloved by all, walked by at that exact moment. I hadn’t seen her yet and her face lit up when she saw me. She said, “Hi there! How was everything? Are you ready for your coffee?”. I responded with a, “Yes, that would be lovely. Thank you so much”. I then pointedly looked at the crowd gathered at my table and said, “Sorry, you will have to find another table”.

They all left in a huff. The owner saved the day and I kept my polite spine on.    0426-18

{ 101 comments }
{ 101 comments… add one }
  • lakey May 10, 2018, 8:27 am

    Part of the enjoyment of eating in a restaurant is being able to relax and not be rushed. I’m like you, I often go alone. I take a newspaper of my Kindle and enjoy the experience. When I go to lunch with a friend, we talk awhile. Of course the owner or servers don’t rush you because they understand that this is why people go out to eat. If a restaurant is crowded and someone hasn’t the time to wait for a table, they can get take out.

    • lakey May 10, 2018, 10:28 pm

      of = or

    • Amberly May 11, 2018, 9:57 am

      Around here, servers do rush you. Once your meal is gone, the drink refills are cut off and the servers frequently drop by to ask, “Do you need ANYTHING else?” in a tone that clearly implies you’re dawdling. 🙁

      • staceyizme May 13, 2018, 8:47 pm

        You can dawdle strategically by leaving 1/3 of your meal on your plate and nibbling at it. Drink refills can be requested, if needed. (As can wine, coffee, dessert etc…) I don’t like being rushed unless it’s really a case of “you’re costing me money because there are people in line that would like to be seated”/ I sat down over an hour ago.

  • DGS May 10, 2018, 8:52 am

    Wow, just wow. The audacity of asking another patron, “are you done”?

  • JD May 10, 2018, 9:01 am

    I suppose some would think OP was rude, occupying a table when others needed it, but I don’t agree; OP is a customer and is allowed to sit until done, just as others with more people in their party are allowed to finish. I’ve never hurried anyone away from a table, and can’t imagine how that woman thought it was okay to do so. Why didn’t she ask management if there was something available? Could they have sat outside, perhaps? If a place is full, I always let the staff find us seating, I don’t take it upon myself to decide who needs to go so I can sit down. And if it is obvious there isn’t going to be seating for a good while, I find someplace else to eat.

    • Kali May 12, 2018, 7:56 am

      At the very least, they could have politely asked if the OP minded sharing.

  • Lerah99 May 10, 2018, 10:21 am

    When things were really tight, I was living without AC to keep the power bill reasonable.
    I was also working full time and attending school part time. So I often left the house at 5am and didn’t get home until almost 10pm Monday – Friday.

    Living in Florida, during the summer, the temperature inside the house would reach almost 100 degrees with 90% humidity during the day. At night it was still super hot. I’d open my windows and run a couple hurricane fans to try to cool off my bedroom. Every morning I took a cool shower to get off all the sweat and try to be a little bit cool while throwing on some clothes, grabbing my lunch and heading off to work. I still was usually drenched in sweat by the time I got dressed and got into my car.

    On the weekends I’d take my laptop to Starbucks, use their free wifi, and get a hot tea with unlimited refills. This allowed me to catch up on homework and stay cool during the hottest part of the day for about $2.

    One day it was very crowded all the tables were filled. It was the end of May, right around finals for both of the local colleges and the high schools. Many people, like me, with laptops working away. Other people sitting at tables and chatting. And tons of college students alone or in groups with text books open and papers strewn around.

    The drive thru line was wrapped around the building and there was a line inside of people who had parked and came in to get drinks.

    These two women in their early 20’s get drinks, suddenly realized there was no where to sit (I don’t know how they hadn’t figured that out while they were standing in line before placing their order), and threw a loud tantrum in the middle of Starbucks.

    “Um! Excuse me! We need a place to sit. We have to study. Is someone leaving so we can have your table?”

    No one responded.

    The same girl turned to the woman frantically fixing drinks and calling names as she placed the drinks on the bar, and said “Can’t you do something? We need a table!”

    The barista took a quick look outside and said “There’s a table open on the patio.”

    More huffing from the young woman “It’s too hot to sit outside. We just bought drinks. We’re customers. We need a table.”

    The barista said “They’re all customers too. We can’t kick them out just because you want a table. You’ll have to wait, or you can head to the Starbucks at (literally 1 light away on one road) or the Starbucks at (3 lights away on the other road). One of them might have a table.”

    There was much huffing and complaining and “This is so stupid!” and “We NEED at table!” from the two women.

    Finally one guy who had a bunch of stuff spread out at a table (a little square table with 4 chairs around it) studying said, “You can share my table.” and started moving his stuff so he only took up half the table.

    The girls refused. They wanted their OWN table. They had to study!
    Finally they complained that they should get refunds since there was “no place to sit!” and flounced out.

    I can understand it being frustrating when there’s no tables available.
    More that once, I had to hit up a different Starbucks or head to the library because there weren’t any open spots.

    But it’s not ok to demand someone else give up their table just because you need one.

    • Dyan May 10, 2018, 3:31 pm

      wow is all I can say…some people are so entitled, they were lucky that guy offered to share, much nicer than I would have been…spoiled brats is what they are

      • Lerah99 May 11, 2018, 11:40 am

        When cramming for finals things are always heightened and emotions run rampant due to lack of sleep, over caffeinated, and tons of stress.

        They may be lovely young women most the time. They just haven’t built the coping mechanisms to look at a situation like that and think “Ok, plan A is a no go. What can I do to fix this?”

        One of the problems with helicopter parenting is people don’t give their kids a chance to resolve issues on their own. The parents are always right there to pick them up, dust them off, and tell them to try again. And the parents are always ready to march down to the school to talk to the teacher or administrators to resolve things among the adults, rather than having the kid learn how to suck it up or resolve whatever the issue is on their own.

        Side note:
        There are ABSOLUTELY times when a parent needs to intervene. I am by no means suggesting you should send your kids off to be raised in the wild by wolves without ever intervening. Parents have it tough. They are in a spot where no matter what they do they will be criticized. In any given situation, if they don’t rush over to intervene now you’re the type of parent who is not involved and doesn’t care. Intervene and you’re the helicopter parent who is fighting your kids battles and setting them up for failure in the real world.

        But I do think lots of modern parenting means that when 18 year olds hit college for the first time, they’ve had almost no practice at being self sufficient. They’ve always been told to “go to an adult” or “ask an authority figure for help.”

        And that’s exactly what these two young ladies did. They had a problem. And instead of their first instinct being “How can I fix this?” it was “appeal to an authority figure to fix this for you”. So they turned to the barista as if the barista had some magic table hidden away in the back or could shoo away some of the people sitting at a table.

        I also think and unforeseen consequence of smaller families is that people don’t have a lot of experience compromising and having to get along. My mom was the middle of 5 kids. And that was a pretty average family size in her day (pre pill). She spent her whole childhood either running along after her older sisters or taking care of her younger brother and sister. There wasn’t time or money for her parents to say “What would you like to do this Saturday?” or “What would you prefer for lunch, sweetie?” etc…

        Now, families are a lot smaller. Lots of kids are single children or growing up in homes with only 1 other sibling who might be several years older or younger. This has a lot of benefits, more money to nurture the talents of each kid and explore things they might enjoy. More one on one time with mom and dad. More money for things like clothes, nutritious food, and rent in safe neighborhoods.

        But it also means lots of people growing up don’t have to learn to share, or compromise, or go along with what other people want to do on a day to day basis. I’m not saying that single children or kids with only one sibling are incapable of sharing. (I, myself, have only 1 brother who is almost 6 years older than me.) But I’m saying it’s not as much a part of day to day living.

        I know I learned a LOT about being a better person and less self involved and more considerate after a few years of living with roommates. (Though I also cringe to remember what a terrible roommate I was at 18 and 19.) Some of that was simple maturity. But some of it was also having to compromise to accommodate the fact there was another person living in my space who had their own wants, desires, and interests.

        So I think it also may have been years and year of not having to settle for “good enough” or “acceptable” rather than getting their own way that lead to them rejecting that one guy’s offer to share his table. Rather than accepting a compromise, it had to be what they wanted or nothing.

        Give those same two young ladies a couple more years, and they may have acted completely differently in the very same circumstances.

        Then again, this is all just my personal opinion based on being 37 and attending college classes with a bunch of 18-21 year olds. I don’t have any peer reviewed studies to back up my personal ideas about helicopter parenting or smaller family sizes. Those are just my own hypotheses based on what I’ve observed.

        • NostalgicGal May 13, 2018, 1:41 pm

          Night shift, college town, 24 hour restaurant. We were actually on the ‘funbus’ evening shuttle route stop for one of the three nearby universities. We had some booths in the back that seated four and six if a little cozy. And (mid 1980’s) had our famous cinnamon frosted or caramel plate sized roll for $1. So bottomless cup of coffee with that was about $1.50 with tax. Students would show solo, want a booth, buy a roll and coffee and spread out to study for four hours. On a slow night, no biggie. Nights we had a standing line four across and going out the entry door into the parking lot (about 200 in line at that point), some of those students still thought they could sit and study all night as their given right. No, two of them could not sit together either. They wanted a whole booth to themselves. Some had the clue seeing the line, and even got their roll to go and went back to the dorm. But. Manager would say throw them out. I told manager that was their job. WHAT? I said I’ll serve whatever’s sitting in the booth. You toss’em. So there was a list of ‘person with backpack’ and what time they were seated and what booth. Unless they ordered a full meal (could order some of our breakfasts for under $2 any time) they got 30 min. Full meal might get them an hour. The FITS some of them threw when told they had to either order some real food on a fairly regular basis during their time, or leave for dorm or their library, this was NOT a studyhall… and they’d do it every night. Even after they posted a huge sign at the register saying, Student with Backpack, 30 min. Management has the right to make you leave after 30 minutes. Still had wars. So the entitled are nothing new.

    • staceyizme May 13, 2018, 8:54 pm

      To me, this is kind of the other end of the spectrum. If your plan is to hang out, you should patronize the establishment at a reasonable rate of compensation. A $2 hot tea with free refills isn’t an open-ended place holder for tables. You’re taking advantage of the establishment’s resources, at that point. When it’s not crowded, it doesn’t matter if you linger. But if you’re not buying additional drinks or product throughout your stay, you do have to ask yourself if it’s fair to take the space for hours on end. (Although these two were pretty goofy to think that someone was going to magically yield their spot due to rude insistence! Equally nonsensical!)

      • Lacey May 14, 2018, 4:10 pm

        This. Go to the library if you just want to study and not buy anything.

        • Lacey May 14, 2018, 4:27 pm

          I sometimes go to Starbucks to work, and I think a drink buys you about an hour, so if you want to stay, order something every hour. They are a business and do need the tables for paying customers.

  • Annie May 10, 2018, 10:28 am

    Because you know my “me time” is more important…your words may have sounded polite, but your actions were a little more than smug.

    • rindlrad May 10, 2018, 4:04 pm

      No smug. OP’s time – me or otherwise – is just as important as the people who felt entitled to the table he/she was currently occupying. The OP was perfectly polite and within his/her rights to refuse to leave the table until he/she was ready to do so or until management asked him/her to leave.

      The tone of YOUR comment, however……..hmmmmmm……..

    • Kate 2 May 10, 2018, 4:40 pm

      Agree with rindlrad. OP is a paying customer too, and probably a better one than the jerks who demanded her table. She has a right to finish her meal, whether that’s with coffee or dessert doesn’t matter.

    • Melissa May 11, 2018, 10:47 am

      I don’t think OP sounded smug at all, and I think that’s the problem with situations like this, if you don’t comply with someone’s rude request, there are people who will label you as smug.

      • NostalgicGal May 13, 2018, 1:44 pm

        Or the rude will loudly label YOU as the rude, smug and entitled, because you didn’t meekly and immediately give them what they wanted. THEY aren’t the problem, the rest of the world is! Sheesh, isn’t that OBVIOUS?!?!?!?!?!

    • staceyizme May 13, 2018, 8:55 pm

      OP was there for a reasonable period of time and was about to purchase more product. I’m not sure I see the need for them to rush.

  • Ashley May 10, 2018, 10:30 am

    I don’t know… I don’t think that I would be able to linger like that at a table when people are waiting to sit. Regardless of whether it’s my routine or not, I probably would have just taken the coffee to go.

    • NostalgicGal May 12, 2018, 1:06 am

      The issue is that it seems that one of them accosted the OP about the table as soon as she finished swallowing her last bite. Literally. (glurp)-ARE YOU DONE? Then called the others of her party that started to take possession of the table before the OP even got up.

  • Melissa May 10, 2018, 10:44 am

    I think if I was in that situation and someone asked me nicely if they could have my table when I was finished, I’d be inclined to give up my table and have my coffee outside, weather permitting (I don’t mean that it would have been rude to keep your table though, you’re a paying customer and have a right to that table for a reasonable amount of time!).

    However, if someone was rudely staring at me as I finished my meal, and thought they could just take over my table before I even got up, then that’s another story. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar 🙂 OP I’m glad the owner saw you, because you’re right, even if you would have explained to the other group that you were just getting up to get a drink, they would have taken your table.

    • EB112233 May 11, 2018, 5:22 am

      This hits the nail on the head for me. I think a different ask and approach would have merited this a non-issue (e.g., I see you’re finishing up and we’re looking for a table, could you let us know when you’re done as it’s pretty crowded and we’re looking for space? Thank you so much).

      While this approach was clearly in the wrong, I also have to wonder about the size of the table. In a busy time in the cafe, should the OP be able to take a table of 4 as a solo? I’m assuming a table of 4 as she says asker and her friends plop stuff down. I’ve definitely glared at the single person taking up a table of 4 with no respect of the line of people waiting.

      • Devin May 11, 2018, 12:34 pm

        A lot of cafes in Texas having nothing but square bistro tables that can seat 4, so you either sit at a table for 4 solo or….you don’t eat there ever? I like to give the OP the benefit of the doubt that she sat at the smallest available table when she arrived. If all the two tops (if they had smaller tables) were occupied then the four top is where she sat. Nothing rude about that.

      • NostalgicGal May 12, 2018, 1:08 am

        Square or round, a lot of restaurant tables seat four. The single person, wouldn’t be able to help it if they are taking a table to sit at, it’s probably a choice of the standard table, or nothing at all. Just because the OP didn’t have three others with her, she still had a right to sit and use the table to eat and drink at.

  • Barensmom May 10, 2018, 10:44 am

    I’m of two minds about that – on the one hand, the cafe was busy, so it’s not quite fair to other patrons or the wait staff to linger at a table once one is finished eating. On the other hand, it was okay with the owner, and his opinion is the one that matters. So you weren’t being rude.

    I don’t think the woman and her friends were rude in wanting to snag a table they thought was going to be vacated. Once they found otherwise, then their attitude was rude.

    • EchoGirl May 10, 2018, 7:10 pm

      It also seems like the new customers swooped in at pretty much the split-second OP swallowed the last bite. Lingering for an extended period of time in that crowd might be rude, but there’s no social obligation to leap out of one’s seat as soon as there is no more food to consume. At least give her a minute to use a napkin, pick up any personal items on the table, etc.

  • Ermine May 10, 2018, 11:26 am

    These people were undoubtedly rude but I don’t think your behaviour is above reproach either. When a restaurant or cafe is really busy you should not take up a whole table for hours just sipping a drink. Many restaurants have razor thin profit margins and quick guest turnover is essential to them making money. Moreover if there are waitstaff you are depriving that person of earning additional tips.

    • Devin May 10, 2018, 4:22 pm

      The OP stated she was there for an hour or so. I think a lunch with dessert and coffee earns her that much time at a table without being inconsiderate to those waiting. If she said she arrives just before the lunch crowd and stays till dinner service, I would think the staff would get sick of her and the owner wouldn’t have been quite so accommodating. It also sounds like there is limited, if any, waitstaff since she was going to have to return to the counter to order her coffee, so no one is losing out on tips either.

    • Kate 2 May 10, 2018, 4:42 pm

      Your comment is an inaccurate representation of what actually happened. OP didn’t spend “hours just sipping a drink”. She had a meal, then dessert, and was going to get coffee when those jerks tried to throw her out from her own table. She is a paying customer and entitled to eat and drink at her own pace.

    • Melissa May 11, 2018, 10:56 am

      OP clearly says the entire stay at the cafe is about an hour, which is not an unreasonable amount of time to use a table for lunch, dessert, and coffee. There’s clearly not waitstaff, because OP says they order at the counter, and go back to the counter to get coffee after eating. I don’t understand why people criticize when they didn’t even read the story for comprehension. I regularly go back and check details of stories for this very reason.

    • NostalgicGal May 13, 2018, 1:49 pm

      In the trenches slinging the hash and pouring the coffee: A full meal (sandwich and fries, possibly soup or salad; dessert, and a cup of coffee AT THE END) entitles the average person about an hour, even if it s swamped. That is enough time to eat, drink, finish up; get your act together and pay. Some places want to turn over faster, and a lot of times someone ordering that much will get through it within half an hour.

  • sillyme May 10, 2018, 11:55 am

    I wish I could have sympathy, but as a firm believer in the ideals that we are sometimes a community of people and “we’re all in this together,” I have little. I’m reminded of people who take up premier parking spaces, or even handicapped parking spaces so that they can talk on the phone.

    You are consuming space you don’t really need, while others who need the space (it’s safe to assume they are on limited lunch breaks from their workplaces) are stranded without a place to eat during their rapidly dissipating lunch breaks. Should they eat standing? On the sidewalk? Brown bag it back to their offices (and not have time together) so that you can savor five more minutes of “me time”?

    Sometimes etiquette doesn’t mean the other guy(s) think about your needs, but that you think about the needs of the other guy(s).

    • Kate 2 May 10, 2018, 4:51 pm

      Your comment isn’t fair at all. It’s illegal in many places to use a cell phone and drive, chastizing those who park to make what is probably a needed call is a great way to encourage illegal and DANGEROUS behavior. Many people have been killed by drivers on cell phones.

      If you are not handicapped parking in those spots is also ILLEGAL.

      OP wasn’t doing anything illegal or dangerous, and for you to compare the situations looks silly and unkind, which I am sure you didn’t mean.

      You don’t know what those people’s situations were, you are making wild guesses, maybe they were vacationing and had all day to lunch. Maybe they work night shifts. Or only work part time. There are a lot of possibilities! Anyway if they are that desperate to eat, they should have picked a less busy cafe.

      • sillyme May 14, 2018, 11:07 am

        I want to clarify: I am not encouraging texting and driving. That kind of interpretation is a bit of a stretch. I am encouraging, that if you need a parking space to speak or use your cell phone, use a space that is not a “premier” space close to the building, where you don’t need to be, and deprive people who may be elderly (which does not qualify one automatically for a handicapped placard) or carrying heavy packages of useful spaces near the exits of businesses. I am almost sure that business owners would appreciate their spaces being used by paying customers, rather than as convenient, free “phone booths”. For some businesses, lack of parking means losing a customer. I stand by my comment: sometimes etiquette is putting someone else’s needs ahead of your personal convenience.

    • LRS May 10, 2018, 5:37 pm

      Well said. Your last sentence speaks volumes!

    • lakey May 10, 2018, 10:43 pm

      “I’m reminded of people who take up premier parking spaces, or even handicapped parking spaces so that they can talk on the phone.”

      I would view this as a safety issue. I think it’s safer for people to deal with their phone call before leaving the parking lot, than trying to drive and talk at the same time.

      • sillyme May 14, 2018, 1:41 pm

        Please see my earlier comment. I do not object to people using a parking lot for making calls. I am objecting to folks who park as close as possible to a building which they have no intentions of entering for that purpose, when there are ample remote parking spaces to be had.

      • sillyme May 14, 2018, 1:49 pm

        I was once unable to use a handicapped parking space near a store where I wanted to take my wheel-chair bound mother because another woman was using it to speak on the phone. When I asked if we could park there, she simply whipped out her placard and placed it on her rear view mirror. Keep in mind: prior to my request, this was a woman parking in a clearly marked handicapped space, sitting in the driver’s seat, using the phone without a handicapped placard. I had an elderly disabled woman in the car.

        My mother weight about 150-160 pounds, the wheelchair 20. Myself I have spinal issues. That we could not use the handicapped space so that she could be on the phone was not just a matter of inconvenience, but also some physical discomfort to me. It was this incident I was thinking of. If you reread my post, you will see I specified “premier” and handicapped spaces.

        But, yes, if the grade-school addage “finders keepers” applies to full-grown adults trying to maintain a civilized society, she was clearly in the right in exercising the “safety issue.”

        Perhaps you didn’t read my post thoroughly and realize that was one such type of situation implied by my statement.

        • staceyizme May 15, 2018, 12:19 pm

          My instinct in many similar situations is to want to inquire into the person’s use of the space. However, I resist. I’ve driven wheelchair vans for clients, helped stow, transfer and push regular wheelchairs, and felt quite grouchy when seemingly able bodied folks either couldn’t park so as to avoid making it impossible to offload in a proper handicapped parking spot or used the spot outright with no evidence of a placard. The caveat is that disability isn’t always identifiable. If they have the placard, that’s all they need. The incidence of abuse by friends and family members of the disabled who use them fraudulently is quite high. (Think, keeping the placard with the NOT-disabled person in their personal vehicle for their use instead of sending it with the people caring for the disabled person). But about the only defense is to shrug it off or complain to the management of whatever establishment you hope to patronize. With more people living to a greater age and other special needs facing somewhat fewer physical barriers in getting out, this demographic is a force to be reckoned with at the ballot box and in keeping clients happy. Sorry to go on at length. I guess the bottom line is that none of us knows if another person IS the disabled client and “first come/ first served” applies to parking spots as well as to tables (barring exceptional circumstances).

    • Melissa May 11, 2018, 11:24 am

      I’m sorry but etiquette doesn’t mean that you submit to any demand made to you. Personally, if they’d asked nicely, and OP declined, I’d feel a little like maybe OP should have given up her table because of the reasons you state. But they didn’t even ask, much less ask nicely, barely even let OP finish their food, and OP should have just tucked tail and let the bullies have their way? If you are on lunch break from work, you know places may be crowded, that’s for you to figure out, it’s not a problem for others to fix (also you just made that up, you have no idea if these people were on lunch break or not).

      And I say this as someone who probably would have left if I knew someone needed my table, but just because you or I may do something different, it doesn’t mean the OP was rude.

  • Dee May 10, 2018, 12:04 pm

    You did nothing particularly wrong, OP, but it’s difficult for me to imagine relaxing with that cup of coffee while there is a crowd waiting so long to be seated. Sometimes a person must change their routine just to accommodate others. If you are able to enjoy the perfect setting every week then maybe you have to expect it won’t be that way every single time, and you may have to sit outside with that coffee every once in a while?

    But you don’t want to accommodate anyone, fair enough, but then you will have to endure glowering looks or even that outright demand you did receive. Again, your ability to enjoy your space while all this is going on around you is what is most interesting about this story.

    • kingsrings May 10, 2018, 11:04 pm

      So now we’re supposed to come up with socially acceptable reasons for someone to stay or leave a restaurant table? How much time do we have?

      • JS May 11, 2018, 2:12 pm

        No — you’re supposed to balance your desire to relax against the fact that there are other people waiting for the table. Be aware that your actions have an impact on others and act accordingly.

        • kingsrings May 13, 2018, 12:01 pm

          Going by this logic, we’re all to eat and run when we’re at restaurants so that we can accommodate others who come to dine after us. Is it okay if we have soup? After all, that takes time to cool before it can be eaten. What about an appetizer or dessert? That prolongs the meal.

          • staceyizme May 13, 2018, 9:07 pm

            If your meal or snack takes more than an hour, you should be prepared to spend at a rate that substantiates your prolonged use of the space (if dining during times when tables are expected to be quickly turned over). If you want to linger, there are establishments at all price points that cater to that where you won’t have to compete for space. One option is to have that coffee or snack and move to a small plate, cocktail or dessert at a second establishment. (I’m not in any way trying to imply that such machinations are required, I’m merely pointing out that a little creativity and planning can enable you to customize your outing to your tastes, preferences and budget.

          • JS May 14, 2018, 1:01 pm

            Please note that I said balance against, not subjugate your desires completely to.

    • Melissa May 11, 2018, 11:42 am

      OP earned the ability to enjoy the space when he or she purchased a meal. Accommodating others shouldn’t mean that you don’t get to enjoy what you purchased. I am often eating in restaurants with other patrons waiting for a table, and while I wouldn’t just sit and socialize afterwards, I will most definitely eat my meal and enjoy it. If others who are waiting want to come to my table and give me a glowering look, they’re just going to look silly and rude.

  • kingsrings May 10, 2018, 12:06 pm

    As long as a patron is imbibing of the restaurant’s items, they’re entitled to the table as long as they’d like. Those people were just rude and taking out their frustration at the lack of tables on you.
    I will say that I hate it when patrons camp out at a table during busy times when other patrons are waiting for a table to open up. That means theyre done eating and drinking and are just using the table to socialize at. That is just being self-centered and inconsiderate. Go continue your socializing elsewhere. I wish there was a way that restaurants could put a stop to this, but they’re probably too afraid of being considered rude.

  • AS May 10, 2018, 12:47 pm

    Crowded cafes/restaurants can be frustrating for patrons waiting, and it is really annoying when someone has finished their food, and just dawdling around. It is fine when the restaurant has a lot of spaces available, or cafes where people often go to work, while getting some coffee and food; but otherwise, if you want to continue relaxing, or having the conversation (if with others), take it to some other place and let the others enjoy what the restaurant’s primary purpose is – to eat!

    BUT in OP’s case, he/she was not done yet! It is quite rude of the three people to just come and occupy the chairs. I have often *asked* people who look like they are almost done, if they are actually done or not; and then say that we’d like the table once they are done. Sometimes the people just get up and let us have the tables already (and I have done so too), so that the next group can start settling in. But you don’t just go and grab a table. It is good that you didn’t have to fall under the pressure of people wanting to occupy your table , and got to finish your coffee.

  • Devin May 10, 2018, 12:53 pm

    OP I totally empathize with you, dining out solo should not mean you have less ‘rights’ to your space. I, like you, love grabbing a leisurely lunch from time to time, and I love going to casual coffee shop/restaurant type spaces. Having all your service needs taken care at the counter means you can either dine and dash or really take your time and enjoy yourself. A lot of the types of restaurants have a lounge feel, where people sip coffee and read a book or catch up with friends at their own pace. It is tricky in these situations, and I’ve seen it happen before, where a solo diner goes to the rest room and a staff memeber busses their table not realizing they are coming back or new customers plop down thinking it’s an empty table that hasn’t been cleaned yet. This is when I employ the decoy book or scarf/jacket. It’s someth of small value that marks the space as occupied when I need to get up.
    I bet the owner didn’t just happen to walk by, but noticed these new customers hovering over you and intervened on your behalf. You’re obviously a valued customer and this action on the owner shows that he values your returned patronage and that he embraces customers lingering in the space he has created. Obviously it’s working since the place is packed. Way to use your shiny spine to hold your ground!
    On a side note, I hate when dining solo a hostess will automatically try to seat you at the bar. Many times if I’m just grabbing a quick bite or drink that is fine, but if I’m planning on a multi course ‘treat yo self’ meal, I want the full dining experience with waiter service. Not having people squeeze around while waiting for tables, or constantly interrupting so they can place their drink orders.

  • Sarah May 10, 2018, 1:57 pm

    Good for you!

  • lkb May 10, 2018, 2:10 pm

    Eh…I can see both sides on this one. Yes, the OP was there first (and as they say, possession is 9/10ths of the law) but was done eating. The kind thing would have been to take the coffee to go and find another quiet location just this once, freeing up the table for a larger group. I don’t think the woman was all that rude to ask if the OP was leaving.

    • Lady Catford May 10, 2018, 3:41 pm

      The OP had not finished ‘eating’ she was going to have coffee. I see no reason why she should take her coffee somewhere else. As a waitress in my youth it was most annoying for a party to not wait at the Please Wait to be Served sign and decide to hover around diners who have not finished eating. Please be patient, your turn will come. If waiting offends you, go somewhere else.

      • lkb May 10, 2018, 6:21 pm

        To the asking lady’s eye, it seemed the OP was done eating, so she asked. She didn’t know about the OP’s custom of going back for coffee: How could she know that? There was nothing wrong with asking. Unfortunately, the OP misunderstood who was asking and why — it was nobody’s fault.

        As another poster had said, it could very well be that the asker’s party was on a limited lunch break and so dove — perhaps too hurriedly — for the first seemingly open space in a crowded venue where there was likely heavy competition for the first available seating. (There was no reference in the post to “Please Wait to Be Seated” signage.

        Also, the OP could see that the place was crowded: it would have been kind for the OP to not take up a full table alone when there were larger groups clearly waiting. No, she/he did not have to do so, but it would have been kind. Isn’t that wait etiquette is about, being considerate of others?

        • KenderJ May 11, 2018, 6:10 pm

          The OP stated that there was only one table open when she received her food, so it’s not like she had any choice in the matter.

    • Melissa May 11, 2018, 11:47 am

      The question can be asked nicely or rudely though, and I’ve been in this situation and never had a problem asking or being asked NICELY if/when the table will be free. Staring at someone and saying “are you done” does not sound polite to me. “Excuse me, are you leaving soon? We’re just scoping out tables trying to snag the first free one”, said with a smile/pleasant expression goes over much differently. If that’s the story that was related here, I’d say OP would have been a little bit overboard to continue their claim to the table, even if OP would technically still be in the right.

  • Anon May 10, 2018, 3:20 pm

    I think this is a difficult situation…you have to balance your own interests with the valid interests of others. I think we’ve all been in the position of being hungry/tired, having a tray of hot food, and finding no place to sit. It sucks. Yes, I understand the OP likes to have a leisurely meal, but the meal was done. I would not feel great about leaving people with food to eat with no place to sit, just because I wanted to sip some coffee. Could you have offered to share your table? It sounds like it was a table for four…was there a smaller one you could move to, or maybe the bar?

    I was in a sort-of similar situation about six months ago, but on the other side of it. There’s a BBQ place where you order and receive your food at a counter, and then find a place to sit. It was busy. The tables were filled with people eating food, except for one. A single person was sitting there without food, and I asked her if we could share it (since we already had our food). She said no, because her friends were at the back of the (long) line and she was saving them a table. I sat down and said, “sorry you aren’t going to have food for at least 15 minutes and I have food right now. I’m going to use this table to eat it.” It was tense, and she didn’t like it. But just as I suspected, we were finished by the time her group had their food (and other tables were opening up as well). I think the establishment should post a sign that says “please order before sitting” or something like that. It’s just rude to take up space *for waiting* when people who have already purchased food can’t sit down and enjoy it.

    • Kate 2 May 10, 2018, 4:53 pm

      It sounds like the cafe people didn’t have any food though, OP mentions waiters and waitresses, so it sounds not like Starbucks, but like a full-service restaurant. Also OP wasn’t finished her meal, she was going to order coffee to finish it off.

      • Melissa May 11, 2018, 11:51 am

        OP says they have to go to the counter to order, there’s not any waiters/waitresses.

      • KenderJ May 11, 2018, 6:22 pm

        In my town we have a very popular bakery/café that sounds similar to the OP. Patrons order and pay at a counter. After the patron has ordered, they are given a number and they go find a table. Sometimes finding a table can be a challenge even though they just expanded to double the size about a year ago. This particular bakery/café uses real dishes, so they discourage customers from bussing their own dishes. Periodically, the people behind the counter go through the dining room and pick up the dishes. If you look finished, they will ask if they can take your plate. So, more than a Starbucks but not a full-service restaurant. In my area, this is a popular breakfast/lunch eatery model. If the OP’s café is anything like this, I could see why she was confused when the person asked if she was finished.

    • Eliza May 10, 2018, 5:12 pm

      We have a BBQ joint in Kansas City called Kansas City Joe’s that has this rule – no saving tables. If they had seen this woman saving the table for her group I think they would have all been kicked out.

      • Devin May 11, 2018, 12:28 pm

        Haha you are so right. That place is always packed and yet by the time you get your food, there is always a previous table getting up because no one is saving spaces. There is zero ambiance, so it’s not like people go there for a ‘relaxing’ lunch, you are literally eating in half a gas station.

    • Jelly_Rose May 10, 2018, 6:14 pm

      That kind of space saving makes me think of those people who stand in parking spaces to ‘save’ them while the driver circles around… maybe a wee bit less dangerous.

    • staceyizme May 13, 2018, 9:14 pm

      It’s a little forward to force someone to sit with you because you estimate that you won’t be present when the rest of the party arrives. This was a simple case of her having the forethought to save a table while her mates went through the line and the fact that you managed to finish your food and leave the table doesn’t undo the impact of having a stranger foist his presence on her. Your “win” came at the cost of her comfort and she was there first. The fact that you didn’t think that she was entitled to the space didn’t make it yours for the taking. If anything, your options were to continue looking around, wait for another table to open or appeal to management. Seating yourself because it suited your needs and didn’t cost her the ability to eventually consume her food later fails to account for your nullifying of her agency when the only rudeness she had committed was to have had the forethought to grab a table for their party when they were scarce.

      • Anon May 14, 2018, 6:40 am

        Stacey, here’s the problem with your logic. I was a paying customer, the other person was not. My “win” as you call it was simply being able to eat my already-paid-for food at a table that was not being used for eating. You call it “foresight” to take a table before you’ve purchased food, I call it “squatting.” How was she entitled to table as a non-paying customer? As with many of the discussions we have here on the board, I find it useful to apply this test: if everyone did it, how would it work out? Well, if everyone took a table prior to purchasing in a busy counter-service restaurant, you’d soon have lots of people sitting without food, and lots of people with food and no place to sit. It doesn’t work.

        • Lenniemonster May 15, 2018, 12:12 am

          Anon, you were both were paying customers. If people from a group are in line buying food, while one is waiting at the table they are paying customers- not squatters . Squatting is staying after a meal for an extended time, or not buying a meal in a prompt manner (having a good long chat first), or not buying one at all.
          Why were you more entitled?
          Her friends were in line getting food, the fact you think as you had your food first means you get their table is not correct, anywhere in a civilised food area.
          What would have you done if they were only 5 minutes, not the 15 or so you expected? Bet you would not have gotten up and found another table.
          If you did that to me, you would have found your food being placed in a bin. Honestly who do you think you are to sit yourself at a table I had already waited for? Just because you feel you are more entitled to it does not make it so. Wait for the next table, as I said I have already had to wait for mine.

          As part of this “rant” -My daughter has special needs, and it takes time to get her to a table and seated etc when dining. So my husband and I will split duties if together – one sits at the table with her, or if just one of us, we will sit her at at table then get the food (it is impossible to carry multiple plates and guide her at the same time). If I came back to find strangers had done that to us, or were just sitting with her as they thought they would just take the seats – hell would break loose. It would not be pretty. I would loose my etiquette big time.

          An open table is just that – open for someone to use – as long as they are buying goods from the premises. Doesnt matter if they get it before purchasing (which is the norm actually) or after purchasing, people are all there to do the same thing- hopefully eat in relative comfort, there will be another table along shortly.

          I will always ask if I see someone finishing up (ie wallet out, wiping mouth, picking up bags etc) and will not hound them by standing over them. Nor do I linger, in and out, there are others waiting 🙂

          • Anon May 15, 2018, 9:13 am

            Lennie, I think you have a perfectly valid reason for choosing a seat early, and I would not quibble with you. However, what you have is a special exception used by people who need it. I still think that the test “if everyone did it, how would it work?” is a good one here, and your situation does not disprove that. And I knew how long the line would take because I had just stood in it. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to stand there with a tray of hot food while someone with no food takes up a whole table for no good reason. Not going to happen. It was rude of them to occupy the table before they could use it, absent a situation like yours.

          • staceyizme May 15, 2018, 12:28 pm

            We’re in the same boat in my family, Lenniemonster, and in my circle. The reason that a table or parking space which one is in possession of should remain with the first patron is that no one wants to have to “quibble” with a stranger. Patrons who disagree with someone continuing to occupy space can do what others do at movie theaters, sports arenas and on airlines, appeal to staff or management to sort it out. The client who arrives second and attempts to assert a stronger claim based on their perception of some sort of moral high ground is likely to run quickly off into the weeds and may face some strong consequences. It’s true that adrenaline flows quite swiftly for caregivers, parents and others charged with assisting the vulnerable. Such a person might find themselves dealing with “mama bear” (or papa bear”) very quickly.

  • Zhaleh May 10, 2018, 4:56 pm

    I also like to eat lunch by myself and enjoy my alone time. But that’s why I specifically go to table service restaurants only for this. I get seated at a place convenient for the servers preparing for their typical lunch rush. Although, I’m inclined to go to less busy places.
    And I won’t lose my table because of a trip to the washroom or back up to the counter and my time isn’t interrupted. I feel the prices are basically the same as at counter places, I just need to tip.

    I can see some posters think OP should have given up the table and some don’t. So it seems like there’s no right or wrong, but as others have pointed out, it’s not unusual for customers to ask if someone is finished at a table when there’s no where else to sit, and the person was actually finished their food.

    They had no way of knowing OP had a coffee course planned. And if OP had gone up for coffee, wouldn’t the table rightfully have been someone else’s? It’s an honest question, as I said I don’t frequent these types of places at all. I don’t find them relaxing, especially if it’s busy and people are milling around looking for seating.

  • Eliza May 10, 2018, 5:07 pm

    We had something similar happen to us at a conference recently. There were more patrons than tables available so when it was near lunch time my co-worker and I put our stuff down at two chairs at a table that seated six and went to get our food. When we got back to the table we found that our stuff had been pushed off and 4 people were sitting at the table (without food yet). We started to sit down in the two empty chairs and a guy at the table said “sorry we have someone sitting there”. We proceeded to sit down, pick up our stuff that they had dumped on the floor and said “yep and it’s us”. They glared at us while we ate.

  • THE OP May 10, 2018, 6:26 pm

    I’m a bit surprised at the responses. I’d like to clarify a few things:

    I was not sitting in this cafe for hours on end. I had been occupying a table for less than 40 minutes.

    With coffee, my total time occupying a table would have been less than an hour. I don’t think this a gross misuse of the table. Not even a little bit.

    People are saying I should have left because the cafe was busy. I want to reiterate that I was not done. Coffee part of my meal and I should not have to skip it because entitled people feel they have a right to my table.

    The fact that anyone here is justifying the other patrons behavior shows me entitlement is an epidemic.

    • Melissa May 11, 2018, 12:11 pm

      I love when OPs comment! I think you were pretty clear in your submission, but a lot of people seem to skim and miss details, and rush to judge rather than double check any details they may have missed. It kind of amuses me that no matter what the submission is about, even when I think there’s no way there could be any controversy, some will do mental gymnastics to place blame where it’s obviously unwarranted. In this case, it’s “how dare you purchase a meal and enjoy it while others are waiting?”. As if people aren’t waiting for tables in restaurants all over the country during peak hours? That’s life!

    • lkb May 11, 2018, 1:12 pm

      Only you, the other group of people and the cafe owner and staff knows exactly how it went down — and they all have their points of view. Clearly there was a misunderstanding — you originally thought it was staff coming to clear away the table while the other woman was trying to find out if you were about to leave so she could claim the table for her group. Such misunderstandings are part of life and neither you nor the other lady were right or wrong from what I could see from what you originally described.
      The other woman had no way of knowing you were going back for coffee and that’s why she asked. In a crowded venue it is easy to become a little brusque and perhaps that’s what she did. Also, as others have said, maybe she spent longer in line that she expected and thus the group was short of time to eat, making her a bit brusque. Not saying it was right or wrong, but pointing out that it was understandable.
      While you did have the right to stay at your table and enjoy your meal and coffee, perhaps you could try to see it from the other person’s point of view — “At last, a table finally looks like it’s going to open up so I can finally set my food down and eat.” Perhaps she thought you were acting a bit “entitled” hogging a table as a single diner who had seemingly finished eating when there were larger groups who could not even find a place to sit.
      Please people, can’t we all just get along?

    • Bea May 11, 2018, 4:28 pm

      I find humor in the fact someone who thinks 40 minutes in a casual dining atmosphere is reasonable is calling someone else entitled.

      Neither of you were egregious in your bad manners here, it’s not that big of deal. We’re living in a busier world with many more people to consider in our day to day activities. Sometimes you need to be better at adjusting to that and you won’t need to huff and puff about the people who just want to sit down to eat their food.

      I hope you’re later to this establishment and need to hover around with your food while others take their time enjoying a beverage at the end of their stay. Try looking at things from other perspectives before judging so harshly.

      • Ergala May 12, 2018, 7:20 am

        Bea that is what I was thinking. When it is busy like that I wouldn’t order my meal in parts. I would order it all at once so that I’m not taking up extra time or space. If it was super busy like the OP says I imagine she would be waiting in line to get her coffee order in and then waiting for it followed by sipping the hot drink. That adds at least another 30 to 40 minutes. Why not order it all at once?

      • THE OP May 12, 2018, 11:26 am

        Since you seem to be the authority on how long patrons are allowed to lunch in a casual atmosphere, I would be interested to hear how long you think is reasonable? 40 minutes was too long, so 30? 25? 15?

        I would again like to reiterate that I had *just* finished my last bite when I was accosted. I was going to order something else and I was not finished consuming my meal. If I had been sitting there for a long time not eating or drinking anything then a POLITE approach would have been warranted.

        • Anon May 12, 2018, 12:39 pm

          OP, I don’t blame you for being annoyed. You felt rushed, the other group was displeased and made their displeasure felt. Their last comment at the end, about it being crowded, was ill-advised. But you’re getting awfully self-righteous and are completely lacking empathy about their position. They were hungry and holding hot food. You were finished eating and taking up a table for four people. Could you have offered to share the table? It’s a win-win, no? Also, you keep making a lot out of the fact that you’d JUST finished eating. But they likely did not see when you took your last bite. Rather, you had an empty plate in front of you, which you thought they were offering to clear. If they were scanning the room to see who might be finished, they were likely look at tables, not mouths. You felt rushed. They thought they found a “camper”. Feeling self-righteous and indignant is not the kindest or most civilized reaction in the situation.

        • sillyme May 14, 2018, 11:19 am

          Mr/Ms OP
          I am going to be blunt. Many commenters think you have a point, and I believe so. However, “accosted” is such a strong word, that it hints that you think your right to that table was “unassailable,” and a very “how dare they” attitude. I find myself having a strong reaction to that, having been genuinely “accosted” in the past, and very familiar with what exactly being accosted entails. May I share with you that perhaps you were not accosted, but a request was simply put to you to which you objected.

          Lunch hours are busy times, I refer back to my “we’re all in this together” philosophy. You were done eating, but had yet to start your coffee, a bit if a luxurious indulgence, which we all enjoy from time to time. I have no objections.

          However, having been the person whose inflexible work schedule ONLY allows for half-an-hour to eat, I’ve been that person with the tray and no play to sit.

          The question comes down not only to what is your Right to do, but also what is, as one commenter put it, the Kind thing to do. Having been in your position and the position of the other diners, I would not have deprived other diners of a table during a lunch rush on a weekday so I could enjoy coffee alone. I would have felt a bit selfish and unkind in doing so, and reminded myself to make sure that my sense of contentment and peace did not rise and fall on having a cup of coffee alone, and could perhaps be buoyed with the substitute of a kindness to others.

          You feel differently.

      • Dee May 12, 2018, 2:38 pm

        The world isn’t busier, Bea, it’s just that people expect to get too much out of their day. Going out for lunch isn’t a treat anymore, it’s a common, for some people everyday, thing. Buying products and services isn’t seen as a luxury like it used to and so we expect the same great service and products at low prices, same as we did a generation ago, but we expect it so much more often. And that leads to the potential for more conflict.

        If people could remember that they will encounter these kinds of struggles X% of the time they make an interaction with the outside world then they might be better able to handle them when they happen. For some people, like me, the seeking out of these services is not nearly as tempting because we know that the more we seek them the more we will encounter issues, and it’s not worth it. So we seldom seek out these kinds of interactions, and we’re pleasantly surprised how seldom we have problems.

        But if you’re looking to eat out, see a movie, travel a road, visit the grocery store, etc., during peak times then you’re either going to have to give a little/lot for all the others who will be joining you or fight for your right to your own space. And the latter is what happened to the OP and the other diners. If you aren’t interested in compromising – sometimes a lot – then you probably shouldn’t be trying to eat an establishment that is busy. Both parties needed to keep that in mind.

    • Leigh May 14, 2018, 8:42 am

      I also think everyone who seems to have a problem with you wanting to finish up missed the part of the story where you said the OWNER of the cafe recognized you and asked if you were ready for your coffee. Obviously, if the owner has no problem with you finishing up your meal as usual (and if anyone would “suffer” for your drinking coffee it would be the owner) then I don’t see why anyone else has a problem with you finishing your meal as planned. The people stalking your table were rude, not you.

  • EchoGirl May 10, 2018, 7:27 pm

    What really solidifies the rudeness of all this, in my opinion, is the timing. By OP’s description, he/she had just barely finished eating when the first woman swooped in, and she was already “glowering”. It seems like she expected OP to leap off her seat the instant there was no more food to consume so that Woman and her friends could get the table and became irritated when she didn’t; in that context, the “are you done?” seems like not a legitimate question but a passive-aggressive jab to let OP know that she thought he/she was not vacating in a “timely” manner. We can debate for eternity about the etiquette of taking up a table for a leisurely cup of coffee in a crowded establishment, but Woman didn’t know what OP was planning. It’s certainly not reasonable to act like someone loses their right to their table the nanosecond their plate is clean.

    • serryce May 15, 2018, 1:25 am

      Yep, this.

  • Erin T. Aardvark May 10, 2018, 10:00 pm

    This story reminded me of something that happened at Disney World with my sister. It was 2006, and my sister and I were on our first trip to WDW without our parents. We were at the Animal Kingdom at lunchtime, and we had opted to go for this dining plan they were promoting. Unfortunately, that meant we both had to order our food separately, instead of one of us ordering both meals and the other finding a table. It didn’t take her too long for her to get back, but when I got in line myself, it was a big longer, and it was taking forever, because people were sending their food back because it was cold. I don’t know how long it took, but it practically took forever just to get my food, and I was starving! Anyway, I go back to my sister, and I noticed to chairs were missing, and she told me what happened. The restaurant was beginning to fill up, and a couple of kids just started to stare at my sister while she ate. They didn’t say anything to her. She also didn’t want to get up to throw her trash away, because she knew she would lose the table (and I bet she was wondering what the heck was taking me so long). I don’t know if it was the parents of these kids, or the parents of another family who came up to my sister and asked her they could take the other three chairs at the table. She explained that I was still in line waiting for my food, but they could take two of the chairs, and leave the third. I don’t remember if she said the family thanked them or not. And we got there when the restaurant first opened. But this is Disney, things tend to fill up pretty quickly, restaurant-wise. I don’t know what’s worse, coming up to someone asking if they’re done with the table, or just staring at you, waiting to swoop in the minute you get up.

  • Ellie May 11, 2018, 12:15 am

    I agree that technically the OP had the right to remain at her table, but in practice I don’t think I’d be able to enjoy “me time” if I were surrounded by impatient people waiting for a table.

    UNLESS one of them rudely came up to my table and demanded to know if I was done. Then I’d probably eat twice as slowly just out of spite.

  • koolchicken May 11, 2018, 1:43 am

    I appreciate ritual. It’s something that’s deeply important to me, and I understand how being deprived of a much anticipated ritual might even be distressing. However, I’m reminded of the words of my mother “you’re one of many”. It’s a concept I grew up with and while it’s something my mother often said she said it because it was the way our entire community lived. The individual is important, but pales in comparison to the needs of the group. On this day OP, you were selfish. If you notice the cafe is particularly busy on a given day, could you have not at least gotten all of your order at once? If nothing else, it would have sped up the process and freed a table for others sooner. Perhaps you could have offered/asked to share a table with another regular. Who knows, you could come away with a new friend.

    The OP was seated, and until she vacates that table, it is hers. But having temporary possession of something doesn’t make it right to hog it. Being a gracious person means being able to consider the needs of those around you. On a slow day, go ahead, stay for hours. But when it’s busy, don’t linger. Consume your treat and move on in a reasonable time frame.

    • Reaver May 12, 2018, 2:39 pm

      The OP was LITERALLY putting her last bite of her meal in her mouth when these ladies stomped over and started GLOWERING at her to leave.

      She’s not HOGGING anything, she was a paying customer and was not done with her meal, she was not being ungracious for not bending to some entitled welps need for something RIGHT NOW.

      THEY however were being beyond entitled and ungracious for hovering over someone like table vultures, and the OP was clearly not a burden to the restaurant since the Manager themselves asked if they’d like their coffee…so that OP could stay in their seat.

  • MelEtiquette May 11, 2018, 9:33 am

    I usually do not like to linger long at a sit-down restaurant once I have finished my meal because I know that the managers and wait staff want quick turnovers to maximize on revenue and tips. In this case, however, even though OP occupies the table for a long time (perhaps long enough for a turnover of 2 or even 3 separate groups), it sounds like the owner and staff understand the importance of taking care of their regular customers. In the long run, the regulars who come back day after day will end up generating more revenue for the business than would be generated by a quick turnover of the table that OP occupies.

    In general, however, I find it rude when a single person occupies a table meant for a larger group of people. Sometimes that is the only option, yes, but I think in that case it is not appropriate to linger once one is done with their meal. If the single person is not ready to leave and there are larger groups waiting to be seated, the polite action would be to move to a smaller table if available. Neither the owner nor the OP made a suggestion to move the OP to a smaller table so that the larger group could take the bigger table, so I suppose we can assume that no other table big or small was available.

    • Katie May 11, 2018, 12:36 pm

      I definitely agree with your second point. I went to brunch with two friends at a very popular spot. So many 4 seat tables were taken up by a single student that had a cup of coffee in front of them and their books and computer covering the table. So instead of getting a table for four, we had to sit at a table for 2 with 3 people, no space whatsoever, because these students wanted to have extra space to study. I understand what that’s like, but it’s super rude to do it at peak business hours and take up the larger tables with books and a laptop.

      • NostalgicGal May 13, 2018, 2:04 pm

        As I replied elsewhere, in the mid 80’s I worked at a 24 hour, night shift, in a college town. All night campers ordering a bare minimum of food and coffee and studying for four hours was fine when we were slow, but the standing line four across and out of the lobby doors, a booth meant to seat at least four wasn’t yours all evening for a roll and coffee. Management finally put a sign about studiers could be asked to leave after 30 min. Still had wars. In the busy place, maybe they need to put similar, that during peak times please limit study time to (30 min) and you can be asked to leave. I’ve been on both sides of the book too… but I usually stayed home to study and went to public places with food for a BREAK and to do something like EAT. (corollary, you wanted to have your BF over, I’m there to get a degree and studying outranks partying. I told you the nights I won’t be there, those don’t change. Pick a night I’m not there.)

  • Rod May 11, 2018, 12:05 pm

    You’re all right in my book.

    You weren’t done, you keep your table. End of the story.

    Those that claim “should be considerate to others” sure, don’t dither but no need to rush. Their lack of planning shouldn’t inconvenience you. Otherwise were do you draw the line on what’s appropriate use of time at sit-down restaurant? No appetizers to avoid extending your stay? No soup that may need to cool down? No dessert? No coffee?

    If anything, the only thing that I’d change is that your answer (mistaken the patrons for servers) should have been “I’m still not finished, missing coffee and/or dessert”. But that’s minor compared to the rest.

  • pennywit May 11, 2018, 12:38 pm

    Not sure where I fall in general on this. I’ve sometimes been in crowded coffee shops or bakeries where it’s obviously lunch rush, and you’ll have a couple places where one person, obviously done with his food and beverages, is sitting at a table for 4 just pecking on his keyboard. This kind of thing can be frustrating if I’m there to eat my own lunch and get moving.

    • staceyizme May 13, 2018, 9:29 pm

      I know it’s frustrating and Starbucks/ Barnes & Noble and similar establishments are the worst in this respect! The best that you can do is to be proactive about when you choose to patronize these places and scope out the likelihood of successfully getting a table in a reasonable time before committing to staying for your meal, snack or drink.

  • KenderJ May 11, 2018, 6:49 pm

    I’m siding with the people who say the OP did nothing wrong. She had as much right, if not more right, to the table than the would be “table snatchers”. She was a paying customer who should have been able to enjoy her meal in any way she wanted. She should not have been expected to shovel her food as fast as humanly possible and take half her order “to go” as some have suggested. Once she was finished, then the next person could have used the table and enjoyed their meal. Sometimes we just have to wait our turn and understand that other people are allowed to exist too.

  • NostalgicGal May 11, 2018, 8:18 pm

    The swoopers were rude. OP had a right to finish up with coffee… or dessert, or both. It doesn’t sound like she was dawdling. Yes it might be stacked waiting and could be a wait for a table but. They don’t have the right to try to hustle someone off. Glad the owner came by when they did and sorted the boor-ons.

    I visited a large college town with some friends, and they were alumnus of the university, moved my way for a job, been away for a year. They knew all the good places. One was a tiny diner with a standing line outside. When you got inside, other than trying to keep a group together, they would collect however many would fit at the table or booth that opened up and seat you. Period. It was that busy. Those that frequented there knew this. My friends warned me. We were put in a four seat high backed booth, they could get six in there. The three of us were on one side. A couple and a single were across from us. We ordered, they wrote the tickets up as needed, and our food came out. Meanwhile we politely found some table talk until the food arrived then mostly just ate some (EXCELLENT) food. We all finished about the same time, four of us had dessert, and got our tickets and table cleared at the same time. Head for register and the booth was already being seated. BUT. That’s how the place was. You accepted it to eat there. I can say it was worth eating there.

    Most restaurants I’ve frequented or worked at, the servers would control the seating, free-wanderers would be shooed back to the register area (by the door) to await a table to be cleared IF it was full. Harass tables sitting, no. OP had a right to use the table in a timely manner and finish her meal, coffee and/or dessert. It also sounds like she wasn’t in a 7 seat corner or a 2-3 table open row instead of a booth (one of those will seat 10-14 or 4 per table and one on each end of the row). It is not a sin for a single to sit in a four-booth or at a four-table if that was what was available at the time, that’s a pretty standard table/seating size…

  • admin May 12, 2018, 7:15 am

    To those commenters who are taking the OP to task for using the table longer than you think she should, I refer you to the cafe owner’s perspective, i.e. the owner isn’t bothered by this at all and indeed asks her if she’s had her cup of coffee yet. So, back off of the legalistic condemnation and look at it from the business owner’s point of view.

    • Anon May 12, 2018, 12:41 pm

      Well, I do wonder about the owner’s perspective on the other customers who had food ready to eat on a tray, but no place to sit. I hope the owner found them a place.

      • Cheryl May 14, 2018, 2:48 am

        The OP didn’t mention food on a tray with these people, just that they started putting their “things” on the table which I took to mean personal items to save the table for them while they went and got food. Why would they have already gotten food when it was clear there were no empty tables?

  • kingsrings May 12, 2018, 11:49 am

    All those criticizing the OP for not giving up her seat – would it have been the same if she’d been in the middle of a meal? After all, she could have just boxed it ul to go and ate it at home so that the new patrons could have the table. Coming up with all these “rules” about when it would and wouldn’t be acceptable for a patron to stay at a table just opens up a big can of worms. That’s why it’s better to just say as long as the patron is imbibing of the establishment’s wares, they can stay there as long as they please.

  • staceyizme May 13, 2018, 8:44 pm

    This is one of those “either/or” scenarios. It’s fine to dawdle when no other patrons need the table. However, it’s courteous to cut it reasonably short if there is a clear need. The lady who interrupted you, however, and glowered into the bargain, wouldn’t inspire me to move quickly along. I’d probably have accepted the owner’s offer of coffee and let them sort themselves out. While it’s true that the needs of others should be kept in mind when using limited seating, it’s equally true that it’s rude to “steal” a table that is clearly still in use. If it’s a single second person, I’d probably offer to split the table. Even with 2 or 3, I might consider it if they’re reasonably quiet and polite. But someone so forward that they’d try to run you off before you’d finished (instead of asking politely if the table would be available soon) might not merit such consideration.

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