Best way to move out older table sitters?

Joined Aug 18, 2015
I am a hobby home cook and come here for the threads on cooking. However, I have a professional question on 'customers'.

Long ago, when I was a kid, old people would go to a place and park at a table and smoke cigs one after the other. Order, smoke a cig, food, smoke, first coffee, smoke... It was awful. They banned smoking about 20 years ago and that parking at a table seemed to go away.

Now it is back. I first noticed it a few years ago at breakfast places. Old people would get a coffee and milk the refills for a long time, hogging a table. Now I am seeing it at dinner spots, too.

I am in an area where we have a lot of union retirees, and they tend to be lazy and rude, so it may be just around here. I hope.

How big of an issue is it generally? What is a way to stop them from doing it?
Joined Jan 19, 2014
I own a small, breakfast-centric cafe with just 38 seats. Camping is a HUGE problem for us, especially on a busy weekend morning. I cringe when a group comes in toting gifts, or laptops and notebooks. There's not much you can do about it. I tend to walk the room wearing my chef whites, asking how people are enjoying their meals. When I see a camper, most get the hint when I ask if they enjoyed their meal, thank them for coming, and telling them to have a great day "out there". When they don't take the hint, I'll return to the table and ask if there is anything they would like to order, and tell the bus person in my best stage whisper, when these folks finally leave, set their table up as a 3. Usually works. Unfortunate, but its a must to get the turn to make any money in this biz.
Joined May 5, 2010
Happyhobby no, this is not just around your area. We have the coffee clutchers in small town America. At least we have some that will clean up after themselves.
Joined Sep 21, 2001
Ages and ages ago I worked at a small mom&pop place. It was a busy summer weekend and the place was slammed. A server came up to the window and was commiserating with the owner about campers at her tables. The owner was this old guy who said he knew how to solve the problem. So he'd go out and check the tables...and fart.
Worked like a charm.
Joined May 25, 2015
Not just old people. Another problem is when a dinner reservation is made for a group, they think they rented the tables for the night.
Joined May 25, 2015
The last restaurant that we owned we solved the problem by only seating each table once a night.
It was yours till you left.
But that's the problem. After desert and coffee they just sit around talking, maybe exchanging gifts. Maybe a few will order a beer or a drink but they are done generating revenue.

If you have a big place and aren't busy maybe you can do that. But when it's 7:30 PM, you have customers waiting to be seated and that party has been there since 5:00 you have to turn those tables over or you are losing money.
Joined Feb 26, 2017
Interesting topic for me. One level my son is opening a pizza restaurant it will only Have fifty seats and will require flow. we talked about WiFi and outlets that there phone chargers need. we are required to have x amount of outlets in each room we are thinking about locating them in harder to access areas. Kids like to order the cheapest thing on the menu and hang out where power is. He will not be a budget minded pizza place so it may not be a big issue but a high school is close by. The hipsters and teenagers can hog up valuable space just like mentioned as well. Homeless people yet another battle.
myself I own two automotive shops people ditch there cars and don’t make decisions for long periods. This really is counter productive here in a tourist trap where property costs and labor costs are high. Some places charge storage fees. Its a touchy subject just like hinting to a customer camping at a table.
going to follow this thread and maybe glean some good ideas.
Joined Sep 5, 2008
Fascinating topic for me too.

Here in France, a restaurant would never use the same table twice during the same service. If you've reserved a table for 11:30am, it's yours until 3pm / or whenever the restaurant closes. If you've reserved a table for 7pm, it's yours until 1am / or whenever the restaurant closes. If you reserved a table at 7pm and are done at 8pm (very unlikely), the table stays empty until the end of the service. If you reserved a table at 9:30pm, the table stays empty, waiting for you until you arrive at the restaurant.

For customers here, going out to a restaurant means taking the time to enjoy sitting together with friends and/or family and not feeling hurried in any way. It always seemed quite rude to me when back in the U.S. you would feel the pressure to leave sometimes before having the chance to order dessert only because the restaurant was trying to seat one more party.

I remember going to a restaurant in San Francisco once, fine dining-ish: $25 to $30 an entree. The couple seated next to us is about to finish their entree. She still has a bit of food on her plate, he's almost done and taking the last of his food with his fork. As he lifts his fork from the plate, the server comes and picks up the plate. He didn't even have a chance to put the food in his mouth. You should have seen the look on the customer's face. That was downright rude on the server's part, even by U.S. standards.

Different cultures, different customs.
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Joined Dec 18, 2010
Assuming that the OP is asking as an annoyed fellow customer rather than a proprietor... best way to deal with it is to beat them at their own game. Go early enough to get a table before the table campers get there!

Ive noticed that some local places don’t seem bothered by it. Dog-eat-dog situation for the customers. “Work it out” is the approach. When alone I have no compunctions about telling them that there is no place for me to sit and ask to use one of their empty chairs, if there is an empty chair. Rarely do I find jerks who say ‘no’. Mostly it’s women who need a separate chair for their pocketbook. And it even, sometimes, moves them along. For me the most annoying is when the proprietor sets up shop and hogs the last remaining table.
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Joined Aug 18, 2015
Update: A friend is a waiter at a local upscale place in a posh suburb. They have a rule you can't leave until your last table leaves.

They were slow Sat, so he had one last table. As he told it, two women came in, small plates and BS. They were getting ready to leave, so was he. Then the hubbies come in and order a round of drinks and sit for another hour. $15 for two hours.
Joined May 25, 2015
One way to deal with this is to limit group reservations both in size and number of reservations during dinner hours when you get walk-ins. This would, of course, depend on the number of seats you have available. Nothing pisses off customers more than walking into a restaurant and seeing all the available tables with "reserved" signs on them and the hostess saying I have nothing for you. Customers like to at least be told that there is a 20 minute or so wait. You don't want to turn customer's away.

Another way to deal with the squatters is to just be honest. After a reasonable amount of time the server should tell them that I see you folks are finished eating and we do have people waiting for your tables. Perhaps you would like to continue at the bar, we'll be happy to buy you all a round on us.

Hate to say it because I guess I can be considered an "old person", but one of the problems with them hanging out is that it "sets the tone" for your restaurant or cafe. That kind of thing tends to attract more and of them who sit there for hours and only buy a cup of coffee. Eventually your place becomes known as an old peoples place and doesn't attract the younger and family clientele that you need to generate revenue.

So, other than places like McDonalds, when I go into a cafe or restaurant for lunch and see it's empty except for a bunch of old people sitting around drinking coffee, I figure that business is on it's way out.

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