The Question You Should Avoid Asking At A Busy Restaurant

In both the service industry world and the realm of the casual Friday night diner, it's no secret that hosts are terrifically busy individuals. According to the restaurant point-of-sale system Toast, hosts are responsible for greeting customers (even the rude ones, even on bad days), seating them (with menus and sometimes water glasses, too), taking reservations, managing wait times and wait lists, facilitating takeout orders, sweeping, and sometimes bussing tables. And on a busy night, you can bet they're executing all of these tasks simultaneously.

When you enter a restaurant, a lot goes into getting you a table. Especially in larger establishments, the dining room is often divided up into sections, with each server minding a particular designated group of tables. It's the host's job to remember how many tables each server currently has seated at any given time, whether those tables need bussing, and whether the guests have just been seated or are finishing dessert. There's a flow to these things, and deviating from the flow might mean one server is burdened with too many tables at once, explains Webstaurant Store. There's also an entire list of un-arrived reservations coming in that might look invisible to you, but that your host sees very clearly and juggles with poise. 

With all of these moving parts, the last thing you want to do at your local eatery is ask a question that further complicates the process.

Don't hold your breath on that booth

If you step into the joint and see a lightly frazzled floor staff, a standing lobby of impatient diners, and a host with a phone sandwiched between their ear and shoulder, under no circumstances should the first line out your mouth be "Can we get a booth?" As longtime server Carlee Nichole Plumadore-Heath says, via The Odyssey, "Look, if it is a busy Friday and Saturday night and I have a table with chairs ready. Please sit there. The food doesn't taste any different." Unless a guest in your party has a physical mobility limitation that necessitates a booth (or if you're dining with a child who needs a high chair), requesting a booth at a busy restaurant tells your host you've either never worked a food service industry job before or don't care enough to notice their hard work. Hosting is a one-person orchestra, and the fact that you "really would prefer a booth" comes off as tactless or, at best, privileged.

Per Indeed career counselor Jamie Birt, hosting is often a part-time job, meaning the person behind the counter likely has more on their mind than finding you a booth when there are no booths to be found. If you do need (or just really want) a booth, give the restaurant a call an hour before arriving so the host can factor you in. Otherwise, be prepared to wait — and to leave a good tip for the accommodation.