"Hi, can you accommodate a party of thirteen tonight?"
"Yes, but I can't seat you all at one table. The tables will be in the same area but not touching each other."
"Let me call you back."
A few minutes later.
"I'd like to make that reservation for thirteen."
We set up the tables. A large round and two small squares. Eight at one, five at another.
When the people arrive I'm on the phone. I can see across the dining room an older man, pacing around, visibly upset at the arrangement. As I go to talk to him, he's crossing the room looking for me.
"Are you the boss?"
"Yes sir, how can I help you?"
"Our party is at two tables and we'd like to all be together."
"OK, let's see what we can do."
He tries to be conciliatory. "I think it's fine the way it is. It'll just make some of the kids happier."
"You old liar", I think.
The way these tables are placed, putting them together makes it very awkward for a waiter to serve, increasing the chance of a hot plate being dropped in grandma's lap. Plus, putting them together actually causes you to LOSE a seat, making the furtherest person even further away than under the original arrangement. The waiter wants to know what's going on.
"These people need to have the tables touching." I say with a bit of annoyance.
We push the tables together. I go to the front of the restaurant, then to the restroom. When I return one of the tables has been pushed away and there is water all over the floor. The helpful diners decided they didn't need both of the squares and spilled the glasses of water the busser had brought them. Our floor is the ceiling of a photo gallery. Our floor is also wood and the building was built in 1909. Occasionally when we have spills liquid travels to our downstairs neighbors. I'm even more irritated with these people.
I take a quick head count. Twelve people. I ask if their thirteenth will be arriving.
"I don't think he's coming."
"Well, if you're a party of 12 you can all fit on the one large round table."
"Oh, it's OK. It's all set up now."
I walk away, humming my song "I Hate People."
I realize I sound like Mr Crankypants Restaurant Owner but this was irritating on a number of levels. First, when you have a party of THIRTEEN, perhaps you should try to make arrangements more than an hour before you intend to dine. I really don't think a lot of people just dropped over and you all decided to go out to dinner. Plan ahead please.
Second, when you are told you will be seated at different tables and you agree to that, let the people in your party know.
Third, if you don't like the arrangements, don't move the tables yourself. Let the employees do that. You don't get up from your seat to carry the food from the pick-up window, nor do you bus your table. Yes, in some restaurants, like Vik's you do, but in a place with waiters and bussers you don't.
Fourth, if you make a reservation for thirteen people, show up with thirteen people.
So what is it gentle reader about the tables touching that strikes such a chord with us as diners? Is this some vestige of a medieval court table table? Is this some fear of being seated at a "lesser" table? Let me guarantee you something. The person at seat 1 of a long thirteen-top will not be able to converse with the person at seat 7 (the other end of the table) any better than if they were seated at separate tables.
Also, what is it about large parties that makes people lose their ability to do arithmetic? When we opened we were adamant about not putting a service charge on large parties, because we wanted to be friendly, welcoming and different from other restaurants. After close to a year, our waiters were begging us to institute a service charge because they were consistently getting stiffed, on a number of occasions not even coming up with enough money to cover the bill, much less a tip. Now, we've got 17% on parties of 6 or larger, which causes some people to say, "You just screwed yourself, because I always tip (insert larger percentage) percent." So, leave a couple more bucks big spender. It's not a limit on the upper end, just a minimum guarantee.
Above all keep in mind, we restaurant folk want you to be happy. We depend on you being happy and returning to us. Nearly everything we do is for one reason. To take care of you. Please let us do our job.