Is There Such A Thing As Staying Too Long At A Restaurant?

American diners abroad in European countries with a more relaxed dining culture may struggle to get the attention of waitstaff who don't rely on tipping (via Insider). However, there are several benefits to dining across the pond, and one of them is having the luxury of lingering at the dining table long after one's meal is finished. When dining in Paris, for example, it is considered rude for a server to bring customers the bill before they've asked for it because, according to Insider, the waiter isn't trying to turn as many tables as possible as the restaurant pays servers a living wage. Diners are even turned away when the dining room is full and a certain hour has passed.

In America, the dining industry is a different ballgame from the rest of the world, as most servers make their living almost entirely on tips. Restaurants expect and hope to turn many tables — thus, staying too long after a meal is not kindly looked upon, particularly by the waitstaff.

Restaurant etiquette in America

In popular American restaurants, it's not uncommon to be promised a table, with the assumption that the diners will vacate the table in a certain amount of time. These expectations are rooted in a mathematics of table turning, where restaurants expect a table to see two to three sets of guests a night — roughly 1 hour 45 minutes for two diners and 2 hours for four (per Travel and Leisure).

Each restaurant, of course, is different, and there is no hard and fast rule for how long one can remain at the table after their meal is finished, especially if there is half a bottle of wine left to drink. Yet it's important to stay vaguely aware of the time, even while enjoying a night out with friends. If the server is, according to Food & Wine, emptying your wine bottle, clearing the table of finished plates and glasses, conspicuously not recommending dessert, or asking if anything else is needed, it's time to look your server in the eyes, take the hint, and move on.