From the LA Times:
You call a restaurant you’ve been wanting to check out (can’t be hard to get in on a Tuesday, right?) and ask for a reservation at 7.
“We can do 6:30 or 8:30,” the reservationist says. You take 6:30, though you really don’t want to eat that early. You arrive at the restaurant at 6:30, and the place is half-empty. You sit down and order. At 7, it’s still half-empty. By 8, it’s three-quarters empty. So why, you ask yourself, couldn’t they take me at 7?
This has happened to me more than once. And a corrolary: you show up at the restaurant without a reservation and they say it’ll take 20 minutes to seat you. When you finally do get seated, half the tables are empty.
The reason, it appears, is that restaurants want to do two seatings — the early crowd at 6:30 and a late crowd at 8:30. Twice as many tables, twice the business. But if a restaurant isn’t busy, there’s simply no point. Wouldn’t you rather have a busy-looking restaurant during prime dining hours from 7 to 8? Though this still doesn’t address the “wait 20 minutes to be seated in a half-empty restaurant” problem.
Kevin Drum is wondering if this only happens in LA. I can assure you, Kevin, it’s not just LA. Drives me nuts.