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Table Turning in pubs


We had a nice afternoon in one of our favourite London pubs soured on Saturday when we were more-or-less asked to leave to free up the table for a reservation. When we queried whether it had to be our table, given that there were lots of others without reservation signs on, we got a very stroppy response from the bar manager.

The practice of moving people or hurrying them along to squeeze in a second sitting is annoying even in real restaurants, however sensible it might be from a business perspective. But the questions of whether you should be able to reserve tables in pubs at all is a sensitive debate for many British people — it’s a level of formality that seems somehow to undermine the very idea of what the pub is about.

People in Germany seem to cope with it, but maybe that’s because there the reserved signs appear (often with profuse apologies) four hours in advance of the booking, so you’ve got plenty of time to finish up, or just choose another table. In the Greenwich Union, we were given an hour — hardly enough time to eat desert and have another drink.

In the couple of hours we were there, we enjoyed cask conditioned Meantime IPA (7.5%, and not as good as from a bottle) and gained a new appreciation for the fruity, sherbety draught Meantime Helles (4.1%).

So, the Union continues to be both brilliant and annoying. God knows we love the beer, but it might be a while before we go back.

20 replies on “Table Turning in pubs”

This is what happens when pubs go too far down the road of turning themselves into restaurants…

The Young’s pub is ace but, on a sunny day my thoughts turn to lager, and Meantime serve some of the best and freshest in the UK at the Union.

Big shame this. A good beer pub even if it does have ideas above its station. (I really liked the cask IPA when I was there recently too)

You’re right, the advance warning system in Germany is astounding. I remember popping into my favourite little restaurant while out on a rare shopping trip, and while eating the waiter placing reserved signs on a bunch of tables, including mine. I got worried till I saw the time written on it. I had a good three hours to go. People came in and sat at the other tables knowing well that they could get a full meal in before the reserving parties arrived. Being asked to leave a table deserves a kick on the goolies, at best.

We are all agreed that it is very hard to run a profitable pub at the moment, we read it everywhere, every Tom, Dick & Harriet blogs about it, every trade publication writes about it… If the pub needs to make money by reserving tables so people can book to come in and eat, so be it. You state “When we queried whether it had to be our table, given that there were lots of others without reservation signs on”, why didn’t you go and sit at one of the other tables? It is hard enough to get people to come and eat in your pub, if you can’t guarantee them a table, they won’t come, people don’t chance it. Therefore, as harsh as it may sound the pub did the right thing and will live to fight another day.

Simple enough, boycott the place. Meantime beers are incredibly overrated anyway, they put too much emphasis on pretty bottles rather than quality beer. The brewers at Meantime should visit the US to see how good beer is brewed.

Beer Adventurer – welcome. Simple answer to your question – all the other tables were occupied. We were the only people being asked to leave.

As it is, they lost an extra ┬ú20-30 worth of business from us, and with less than an hour to go before the table was due to be occupied, it’s unlikely they’d get that from someone else. So not such good business sense, really. Especially if we don’t go back.

Further to PeterE’s comment: I don’t have a problem with Pubs trying to becoming restaurants per se, as long as they provide appropriate levels of food AND service. I have a real objection to pubs who think that a table cloth and a half-trained waitress allows them to charge like La Gavroche, and act like Marco Pierre White! FFS, a pub is a PUBLIC House!

The Czechs use the same system for table reservations. Many times happens, though, that staff will put “reserved” signs without times on tables just because they can’t be arsed to work, or they save those tables for the ┼ítamgasty, but whatever it is, at least you know in advance.

I’m hoping to visit there on Sunday to scope out the beers. I wasn’t impressed on my last visit, but we’ll see.

On the general point, “reserved from” is elementary common sense and customer service.

I can broadly agree with BeerAdventurer. Further, if the pub is so popular that it has to kick out casual people because others have had the foresight to book then although annoying, it just shows that generally the pub is doing the right thing.

It seems to me that most people in the blogoshire that complain about pubs in this manor are complaining about the ones that are doing well enough to have customers fighting over tables. I’m quite jealous of them, the pub that is. We never turn tables.

Did they handle it well, or pick on the right customers? Possibly not it would seem.

I really like the Blogoshire — very English.

I think we’re in complete agreement, Dave. The Union is doing well, deserves to do well on the strength of its beer and food, and I don’t mind reservations per se. But the bloke was rude, we didn’t get much notice, and the table selection seemed arbitrary.

So it’s the way you were treated, not the fact they reserve tables. Fine. Sounds a but unfair I must say. Unless you’d sat there nursing a beer for god knows how long, I can’t see why they felt the need to treat you like this.

You weren’t doing that were you? Please tell me you weren’t.

Course we weren’t — we were working our way through as many varieties as possible before we began to feel sick, and ate main meals, too. But, to be honest, unless we’d made a half of shandy last two hours (i.e. within reason) isn’t it our business how quickly we drink..?

Yes, but some people take the piss. I’ve seen people come in and order two soft drinks then pull out laptops and papers and start a business meeting. When asked if they’d like something else, they waved the barmaid away in an irritated fashion. So I went over and chucked them out.

PS. They were asked if they wanted something else after sitting with empty glasses for half an hour, not immediately! Thought I’d best make that clear…

I love Blogoshire. Haha! And, actually, Woolpack Dave is right, quite literally that people fight over tables there. Last time I was in the Union a shoving match started over a table! It is a very popular pub. But Stonch is right– it’s not that you were moved, it’s *how*.

Having been in customer service in the States I’m often shocked at how customers are treated here. It’s quite easy to do something potentially unpleasant (move you from your table) but offer some small apology to the customer to show they are valued (a token from the kitchen, or a taster half of something) or massive apologies, etc.

This is so disappointing as it’s exactly the kind of thing that puts me off a place, and I love the Meantime beers there.

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