Recently I walked into a restaurant with two companions. I smiled as I approached the host stand. The nearest person, who happened to be female, smiled back and said firmly "I'm sorry, we're fully reserved until 7:30pm." I looked around the more than half empty dining room, it was 5:30, we had gone to a matinee and were hungry for an unusually early dinner. Then I smiled back at her and said "That's fine because we have a reservation." She was flustered and I was annoyed. What ever happened to hello?
She was apologetic and we shook it off and had a perfectly lovely dinner. It was a very interesting experience though. When you're turned away like that, before you've even opened your mouth, it's a bit mystifying. You wonder if there's dirt on your face or if your clothes are ripped or otherwise sub-par. Apparently someone behind me had held up three fingers, to indicate that there were three of us, and she took that as a sign that we were looking for a table. Of course we were, it being a restaurant and all, although we did have the foresight to book in advance. We weren't going to, because we knew that it was a an off time that usually isn't busy, thankfully the New Yorker in me insisted on making a reservation.
It made me think about service and why she wouldn't have said "good evening" and started a dialogue before rejecting us at the door. Is the city so big that restaurants can afford to turn people away like that? I understand the delicate balance of seating a dining room and not overloading the kitchen. I also understand that restaurants are in business to make money. It seems to me that if a place is practically empty you might want to employ a bit of diplomacy in sending people away, even if the room will be full in short order. Just a note, we were there for a good 2.5 hours and even though it did get quite busy, they never did fill up all those empty tables.