Queuing for restaurants [London]

Quick poll in our post-Bao, post-Som Saa, post-Pitt Cue, post-Bone Daddies world.

I won’t do it, but it seems almost par for the course in lots of new openings. Will you queue for a restaurant?

No. Generally speaking - not just London but anywhere in the country, of course.

There are exceptions. For example, the local Indian, which doesnt take reservations, may say “Hang on five minutes while we set up the table”. Or the place where you’ve made a reservation says “Hang on five minutes, the table’s occupants are just leaving”. I don’t see that as queuing as such.

But, generally speaking, if I’m going out to dinner I make a reservation. And I don’t generally go to places that don’t take reservations - why would I spend 30 minutes driving round the M60 to get to a place that may not be able to feed me in a timely fashion.

That does mean that there is the occasional place where I won’t be eating because of their lack of reservations and known queues. That’s their loss. Or, as they have queues, it’s actual not their loss. But then, I am noit this sort of place’s target customer - they are not generally catering to the "old git"markey.

We almost always book a table, even down here in the Southland. I hate to be disappointed by showing up somewhere and hearing there’s no table. In London, other than for a casual lunch at somewhere I know is probably not crowded, I always book ahead of time. I’m too old to stand in a queue for very long!

When I see large crowds waiting for a table, I often wonder what the restaurant is giving away. Heck, it’s only food!

Generally no. If it’s just 5-10 minutes waiting for a small local place, it’s alright.

In some countries, the restaurant will give you a ticket with a number so you don’t need to exactly stand there and queue. This is a better system but still annoying, since you need to estimate how fast the queue is going not to miss your turn.

For restaurants that don’t do reservations, I will arrive really early like 6pm for dinner. It’s a strategy that works most of the time.

I once lined up for a restaurant in Paris (Le Comptoir) for an hour queue. I think the meal should be graded as quite good, but with the frustration, I felt the meal was just average and won’t bother to return.

Luckily most restaurants take reservations.

I hate lines and like that most places in London accept (and expect) reservations, but I will wait for something I think is truly special. For example, I haven’t had great bao in London and miss it very much, so I’d probably wait in the Bao line if I thought it would be 20 minutes or so.

But I grew up waiting in the epically long lines at various pizza shops in New Haven, so my idea of a long wait has been warped from youth.

Things I am prepared to do: wait the the relative comfort of a restaurant bar for a maximum of the time it takes to make and dispatch a decent martini.

Things I am not prepared to do: wait in the street with a party of friends in British weather for a table at the latest on-trend destination. Be treated as a commodity that hangs around at their convenience. Wander the streets of Soho for anywhere that will take us on spec, like the doomed party of survivors that didn’t make it in the Poseidon Adventure.

This is fast blighting the London scene and is deeply annoying (at best) and discriminatory at worst (see previous comments on Hoppers).


Keeping in mind that I only visit London – I don’t live in the UK – and thus eat nearly all of my meals “out,” I tend to make reservations for dinner. Typically, lunch is another matter, although depending upon the restaurant . . .

If I have to queue, I will tend to eat early for dinner – that is, get there before it opens so the wait time will be minimal – or (if we’re talking lunch) I’ll get there late.

That’s what I do. If there’s a place I really want to try and you have to queue I’ll try lunch midweek and get there the minute they open.
If that doesn’t work I’ll wait 15 mins max , otherwise there are so many other places in London.
I’m not so bothered if you can rock up and wait in a pub for them to call you while a table is ready.

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It depends who I’m with. Family? No queue, always a table. More than a party of four? Make a reservation. (I make an exception for dim sum on the weekends - I grew up queueing for dim sum in Hong Kong, with anywhere from 2-10 people in our group.)

If I really want to try a place that doesn’t take reservations, I will generally go as soon as they open. Unfortunately, working in Camberwell means I can’t try lunch, but I will try to get to restaurants for 6pm, or noon on weekends. Queueing for more than 30 minutes really puts me off though, whether it’s outdoors or indoors. A really popular place that has 30 min+ queues usually won’t get my repeat custom, like Bao or Pitt Cue. (Barrafina is an exception - I get there at opening time and usually isn’t too bad)

Nope, don’t queue. There are too many great restaurants in London - why bother. If there is somewhere I really want to go to which doesn’t take reservations, we just go early.