5/18/2012 03:53:00 PM

Restaurant Debates: Should Bar Stools Be Reserved Seating?

Real estate in restaurants is precious - and this week's debate is about the best way to use the bar in teeny spots. Most places let you grab a stool if you see it open up, creating a first-come, first-serve situation that may create some contention as people try to angle their way in. One editor think that these stools should be treated like any other seat in the restaurant - if they open up, the host should call whoever is next on the list. If you want to park your butt in a bar stool, should you have to sign up first? Check out our debate below.

Kelly: So I was out the other night at this tiny Italian place in Nolita. They told us the wait for a table was 20 minutes. The bar is right next to the hostess stand and the whole space is very narrow, so we said we'd take bar seats too if they opened up. But the hostess was like, oh, we don't keep track of those. I feel like that's annoying in a tiny place.

James: Nah - the bar gives walk ins a shot, plus they probably need it for people to wait for their tables to come up.

Kelly: There's nowhere to wait inside the place either so we would just have to stand there in the way in order to "pounce" on bar seats. If she was going to take my number to call when our table is ready that should include the bar too. Clearly everyone at the bar was there to eat.

James: Survival of the fittest in in NYC dining. I like that the bar is not included because it does give you a chance to eat earlier than the hour that you were probably told you'll have to wait. But, you won't always get to use that chance because it might be full, but at least there's hope.

Kelly: I mean it's so chaotic though. You told me last week you were a fan of reserved bar seating like at The Dutch. Flip flopper!

James: If you happened to have come in when a party of two was getting up from the bar, you wouldn't be complaining. And, I do like reserved bar seating at The Dutch, but it's kept completely seperate from the list of people waiting for tables. It's a different pool - and they do have some bar stools that are reserved for first-come, first serve.

Kelly: Well yeah they could have done that at this joint! I mean if you open a place with 30 seats in a space as wide as a sliver, you should have reserved bar seating! I would have happily been on two lists.

James: Also - keeping the bar open makes the wait go faster for everyone else. As people drop in and have a few, they decide to eat, and their names get crossed off the list for a table.

Kelly: It's the same thing either way. The hostess should be keeping track of bar seating.

James: Nah - the hope that the bar stools may turn over also makes the wait go faster.

Kelly: It's about accommodating people as quickly as possible, that's what the hospitality biz is about. Whether the hostess keeps track of the bar seats or not, they will turn over James. People inevitably leave bar seats at some point!

James: But, if you're standing there when they leave you should be able to take them - not have to stare at the empty seats when the hostess calls someone in to take them, that will be sitting there for another hour. I'm thirsty just thinking about it.

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