Waitress at Bern’s Steak House in Tampa
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Stupid Tip of the Day: Review a Menu While Waiting For Your Table

T ravelers eventually have to eat; and the usual choice — other than those which include but are not limited to room service; preparing your own meal in the hotel room; or food which is taken out or taken away — is to dine at a restaurant…

…but depending on where you travel, customs at restaurants could be different than those of where you are based — and that could include when a restaurant is most crowded.

I just returned from dining out at a restaurant; but I arrived during the busiest time on a Saturday night — and there was a crowd of hungry patrons awaiting their turn to be escorted to a table and enjoy a hearty dinner.

“The wait is about 30 minutes,” the maître d’ advised.

Options include leaving to find another place to dine; or wait around until a table is ready. As 30 minutes is not all that long of a wait, I decided to stay.

Review a Menu While Waiting For Your Table

“May I have a menu in the meantime?” I asked.

“Of course,” responded the the maître d’, who then handed a menu to me.

After reviewing the menu at my leisure and deciding what I want, I gave back the menu and looked around at all of the other people who were waiting. Not one of them was reviewing a menu. Instead, some of them were chatting with each other; some were entranced by whatever was going on with their portable electronic devices while unaware as to what was going on around them; and some of them sat quietly and patiently to be called to their table.

Not long after I was finished perusing the menu, it was my turn to be escorted to a table; and when the waitress arrived, I informed her that I did not need a menu, as I already knew what I wanted to order. She smiled and happily wrote down my order, as this apparently saved her an extra trip to my table and allowed her more time to service the other tables. Meanwhile, I saved myself some time because if I was not yet ready to place my order, I would not know when she would be able to return to my table.


Time is valuable and precious. It is the one commodity which once it has passed, it can never return and be used again. I believe that we should all be able to choose as often as possible how we want to pass our time — and in order to do that, we must attempt to take as much control of how time affects us as often as possible.

You cannot do much with regard to waiting for a table at a crowded restaurant; but you can use the time to your advantage and do something which you would eventually need to do anyway: peruse a menu to decide what you want to eat…

…which seems so obviously simple that I never would have thought to offer it as advice — until my observation at a restaurant earlier tonight — and yes, I did leave the restaurant earlier that I would have had I not looked at the menu. This could potentially mean serving more customers sooner at the restaurant — similar, I suppose, to turning around airplanes at gates at airports for airlines to be able to offer faster service and squeeze in a few more flights during the schedule of a typical day…

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

  1. I’ve done the same at busy joints I’ve been to. Definitely saves time as long as the wait staff are on the ball.

  2. You looked around and not a single person was reviewing the menu while waiting. Perhaps some or all of them had already looked at the menu before you arrived and were not judgmentally waiting for a table while mentally chiding everyone else for not saving time.

    1. Had you ended your comment at the word “arrived”, I would have completely agreed with you, J Abad.

      Ironically, the remainder of your comment is in and of itself quite judgmental and chiding…

  3. I really get what you’re saying and I have done it many times myself. However, I don’t get people’s eternal obsession (in general) with fast service at a sit down restaurant. I do it if I have some reason to get other stuff done, like getting back to the hotel on a business trip. Other than that, dinner is not a race. If I have to worry about the extra menu minutes or waiting for the server to get back then I’d probably be doing takeout to begin with.

    1. I actually agree with you, FreeTravelGuys.

      I do not mind if the service is slow — as long as it is good service.

      I do not mind the food taking a significant amount of time to be prepared — as long as it is prepared to my liking.

      I do not mind waiting for the check to arrive as I digest my meal — as long as I enjoyed it or I do not have anywhere else where I need to go at that moment…

      …but I just simply do not count waiting in the vestibule of a restaurant to be seated as part of the leisurely experience of dining out, as I would rather use those thirty minutes enjoying my food at my pace at the table — or using those thirty minutes elsewhere at my pleasure.

      The simple tip of perusing a menu while waiting for a table to save time need not be a rushed experience. In fact, I did write in the article that I was “reviewing the menu at my leisure” — no rush, stress or pressure at all.

      Of course, the easy solution — if one’s schedule is flexible enough — is not to dine at a restaurant during peak hours.

  4. Wel always do this since we are most often dining with our small children. You never know when the kids will decide that the time for dinner is over.

    1. I had not even thought of that, Erica; and you are correct about never knowing when small children will decide when dinner is over. Waiting for a table can certainly tax their patience.

      As I mentioned earlier here in the Comments, I said that I do not typically mind when dinner goes slowly as long as I am enjoying myself; but I must admit that if I am in a restaurant longer than three hours, I usually will want to leave as well.

  5. Just as a comment rather than a critique, if I were with business colleagues I would never do this as it might appear I’m more worried about what I’ll be eating than the reason we are actually at the restaurant. Or even if I were on a first date for the same reason.

    Otherwise, with family or friends I’ve done this plenty and is a great time saver if you want to minimize your wait time!

    1. I completely agree, EJ — but of course, being with either business colleagues or a date are situations where consistent human interaction is important if not critical; and the time waiting for a table can potentially be productive.

Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!