QUESTION: We have observed that a certain restaurant habitually, for years, tries to seat people at the least desirable tables (near restroom and kitchen) first, even though there is plenty of available seating. When it happens to us we request seating elsewhere. We believe their reason is to spread the customers among the wait staff.
However, we also believe early arrivals should get preferential seating, or at least not the worst. Are we being unreasonable? How do you all see it?
CALLIE'S ANSWER: I think that if you would like to sit somewhere else in the restaurant you should ask to be moved. If other people do not like where they are sitting they will say something if they would like to move as well. I don't think you need to let this bother you. Enjoy your meal!
LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: If there are plenty of open tables, then I don't see a problem with asking nicely to move to a different one. The other tables may be reserved, or the restaurant may have a policy about where it sits early guests, but until you ask, you're not going to know. In the end, though, it's probably not worth making a huge deal about where you sit. You're there to enjoy the food and your company. If seating is a priority, then call ahead and ask those questions in advance.
HELEN'S ANSWER: Restaurant owners probably have a seating plan about the areas they would like to fill up first. Maybe it looks better if the far tables are filled with people. However, if you don't like where they are taking you, and it might be a booth instead of a table that you might like, speak up in a friendly tone. The maitre d' probably does not care where you are located.
Also, when people make dinner reservations, it is possible that the seats up front are already spoken for at a certain time. Always check to see if reservations are required. And if you call ahead, state your seating preference.
GUEST'S ANSWER: Jane Jayroe, former Miss America and television news anchor: I love this question because it is a reminder of our personal power over circumstances and attitude. Restaurant owners have the right to establish policy regarding seating arrangements. As consumers we have the freedom to request a change or chose a different restaurant. The most important choice in this scenario, however, is one of attitude. I seldom ask for a different table but many people I dine with prefer a specific location and request it. When they politely asked for a different table, it usually works out. When the restaurant representative or the customer becomes personally offended during this exchange or acts disrespectful, then everyone loses. Many a beautiful evening has been ruined before the napkin has been laid on a lap by a sour attitude or souffle size ego.
In my opinion if you go to a restaurant early with plenty of empty tables, you should be able to sit where you want. But if that is inconsistent with the restaurant policy — go elsewhere. Oklahoma City has so many wonderful places to dine with excellent service, don't waste a dime where you're unhappy.
A tasteful meal in a lovely setting is the perfect backdrop for sharing time with someone you treasure. Table location shouldn't spoil your evening ... alter the placement, if possible, but don't let the circumstances alter your joy.
Callie Gordon is twenty-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. To ask an etiquette question, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more 20-40-60 etiquette, go to blog.newsok.com/partiesextra.