How long will you wait at a restaurant?

I’m always amazed at the lines outside certain chain restaurants (Olive Garden, Outback, Red Lobster, etc) - even moreso when I hear the wait at some of these places could be two hours!!! Honestly, I can’t think of a single restaurant where I’d be willing to wait that long to be seated. On a busy night, I might wait 30 minutes if I really don’t feel like driving around to find another place. Normal night - 10-15 max.

One time, a group of 8 of us went to a popular fish camp. We were told it would be an hour because of the size of our party. We decided to wait since one couple really, really wanted to eat there. After the hour, we checked again with the hostess - and we were informed it would be at least another hour. We left and went to a steak house where we were seated in 20 minutes. I’ve never gone to that fish camp again. I’ll get my greasy fried seafood elsewhere.

How about you - what’s your limit?

45 minutes if I’m late (ie, it’s 6p or so), as I’ve got the cahones to show up at the busiest time of the day; I’ll give them the time. 20 minutes any other time.

At my favorite Italian place (411 West, in Chapel Hill, NC)? Up to two hours on a weekend night, since it’s a smaller place and doesn’t have much seating. At an Outback, Applebee’s, type place? An hour, since the where cities where I normally go out to eat at (Wilson and Rocky Mt. NC), have a limited number of “casual-dining” places (4 or 5 at max), so we don’t have much choice on the weekends.

45 minutes is my upper limit, unless there are truly no other options.

I hadn’t really thought about it until I read this thread, but it’s true that the longest wait times I’ve ever seen have all been at chain restaurants, even some which were surrounded by better, non-chain restaurants. Weird. I guess when the TV tells you to go to Olive Garden, nothing else will do.

I figure it will take about 15 minutes to get back in the car, pick another restaurant, and get there. Add another 15 minutes to get seated and served.

So, if the wait is 30 minutes or less, I usually stay put.

I’m with you, FCM. Half an hour is about my max. unless, as Giraffe says, there’s absolutely no place else to eat.

BuckleberryFerry, you consider 6PM late?

30 minutes, generally. It depends on what facilities the restaurant has. If it has a bar, I’ll wait longer. What really amazes me are the people that will wait outside in the freezing cold in order to get into a Red Lobster.

At least these days more and more restaurants seem to allow call-ahead, so you can time your arrival to keep the wait down to a few minutes. It amazes me how few people use call-ahead.

Gah…I didn’t mean to say it was late…I meant that 6p is busy. At least, from my experience it is. If I’m at their restaurant at their busiest time of the day, I think I can muster up some patience and wait the extra 20 minutes or so.

Forgive my slip.

Hmm… longest I can remember waiting is about 45 minutes… anything longer we left. Actually a little longer once, but we didn’t have a vehicle at the time and the nearest restaraunt was more than an hour away for us (walking or bus) with anything nearer being McDonald’s. We didn’t want fast food that day though and when we did get in it was a great meal!

I remember once going from Red Lobster to Olive Garden to some other place before we found a wait less than 2 hours.

If the place takes reservations, I’ll make one. If I still have to wait when it’s time for my reservation, I’ll wait about fifteen minutes.

If the place doesn’t take reservations, and if I’ve arrived at a busy time, and if I don’t feel like going anywhere else (thinking of Bearflag70’s guidelines), and if they have a bar, then I’ll wait an hour, tops. But only in the bar; not in line.

About an hour if I’m in a large group or 30 minutes if it’s just me and the SO. Mostly, the time it takes to drive to another restaurant is greater than the time left to be waiting at the restaurant I’m at.

An exception to this would be if I was at a busy commercial area with multiple eateries, such as Colorado Blvd. in Oldtown Pasadena or Candlewood St. in Lakewood, CA.

Less than 10 minutes, unless I’m with people who really want to stay, and then only if there is a bar.

An hour for Outback.

Everywhere else, 30 min or so.

Outback does call-ahead, so there’s no need to wait an hour unless you want to.


I had My Most Horrible Dining Experience Ever at an Outback once. I’ve called it the Outhouse ever since.

Seriously, though…I am lucky that my favorite restaurant (since I was about 5) is not only huge, but is not a national chain. It seats about 270 comfortably in the restaurant (non-smoking) section. If I’m with my family (don’t want to go to the bar), I will wait up to 2 hours for a seat in the crowded lobby. I’ll wait no more than ten minutes anywhere else.

However, the restaurant also has the benefit of a huge bar…that seats about 270 more. Of course, this is the smoking section. It is always packed. However, it is unusual that I never have to wait for a seat either.

I will wait for 30 minutes, but not longer. Incidently I work for one of the places mentioned. I’ll just say that if I gave you the famous biscuit recipe they would have to bury me under the lobster tank.:wink: Yes, people do wait a long time to get in. We don’t take reservations or call ahead seating. But some places do, you can always call and ask. If you do call ahead seating you stand a greater chance of not waiting as long as the person that just walked through the door to put their name on the list. I wish we did that. I personally hate long waits just as much as the guest does. Usually the guest is ill by the time they get to the table and even more ill when they have to wait another 45 minutes to get their main entree. But hey, I really can’t blame them either I would be too. Which is why I won’t wait over 30 minutes.

It depends on how hungry I am, and what else we have planned for the evening. If I’m just starving to death, or we’re going to a movie afterward or something, I don’t like to wait more than thirty minutes or so. By the same token, though, if I’m too hungry or hurried to wait very long, I’ll just go to McDonald’s or put a pizza in the oven.

Most of the time, though, we’re in no big rush and can happily spend an hour or more waiting. We sit and talk and enjoy being together, which is exactly what we’ll be doing after we get seated and after dinner, anyway.

Oh, I forgot to add my obligatory rant about people who willingly wait 45 minutes or more for a table, then bitch when it takes 10 minutes for their food to get to them. These folks were the bane of my existence when I was waiting tables, and I really and truly wanted to bash them over the head with a tray.

I won’t wait. Ever.

I believe I waited a couple of times…perhaps 15 minutes each time. But anyway, waiting at a restaurant is pretty uncommon over here (and as a result there’s no accomodation for people waiting. Restaurants don’t have bars). People usually call ahead when they know they’re going to eat in a restaurant which might be full. Well-know restaurants are very often fully reserved every evening. And since people stay for a long time in restaurants, and no self-respecting staff would ever ask the patrons to leave after they finished their meal , waiting is often not an option. The two last time I went to a restaurant which was full, the staff didn’t tell me “you’ll have to wait for X minutes” but “sorry, we’re full, come back another day”.