Hospitality Chronicles

Deadline Dining

Latest trend in restaurants: A table with a time limit.

By Kathryn Robinson December 13, 2010

Countdown to dessert!

Last Friday night my husband and I had dinner at Kisaku in Wallingford, one of our favorite sushi bars and plainly, judging from the crowds, one of Seattle’s.

We had reserved a table for 2 at 6pm, but arrived on the early side. “No problem, it’s open,” the host told us pleasantly. “Just as long as you’re done by 7:40.”

Uh…o-kay.

We followed her to our table, ate sumptuously (they do such a great job with mackerel here), enjoyed terrific service, and made it to our movie on time…well before our restaurant-imposed deadline.

Indeed, everything about the night was on target. Except the nagging feeling that we were dining with a big herkin’ timer on our table.

Nothing uniquely against you, Kisaku—this is the third time this has happened in as many months, at restaurants busy and not-so. What’s going on?

Times are tough, we know that. You have to turn tables to make a profit, twice a night per table at least, if not more.

But making your nut is your problem, not ours. Sound harsh? Perhaps. But the fact is, every restaurant trend that has developed in the last few years has been to suit the restaurant’s convenience, not the diner’s.

No reservations policy? That’s about you. Communal table? You you you. A la carte dining? Ka-ching, ditto, ka-ching. Charging for bread? Say it with me now.

All of which might be fine—if this weren’t the hospitality business.

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