Is this rude? Seating at restaurants.

Here’s the scenario: You are on a business trip and eating dinner at a restaurant that has seat-yourself service. You barstoolare eating by yourself, and after looking around you see that there are several open spots at the bar, and one empty table that could seat four. In this scenario, you hate (HATE) sitting on barstools because it’s just not comfortable. So you sit at the table that could seat four. Immediately after you sit you see a couple come in, look for a table, then sit at the bar.

What do you do?

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So what did I do?

I stayed at the table. I hate barstools—I have short legs and there is never anywhere to put my feet, which puts weird pressure on my back, which is just so uncomfortable. But as I was sitting there I was acutely aware of the couple sitting at the bar near me. I basically spent most of the dinner feeling very comfortable physically but worrying they thought I was a jerk. Sigh. It seems like it almost would have been worth it to have given them the table and dealt with the discomfort.

For the record, this is why I think most seat-yourself restaurants are annoying.

So, Readers, what do you think? Should I have given up my table for them? Or should I have not worried about it?


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  1. I’d have done the same as you as I don’t balance well, at my age, on a bar stool. If the restaurant feels the system works for them then you have done nothing wrong and shouldn’t even feel that it is a possibility. Your are not being selfish.
    However I would prefer to see people offer to share tables. You see it in mall food courts and many parts of the World have a communal tables within restaurants. I remember the House Of Nan King in SF before their expansion was a long narrow area with a row of about 10 2 top tables. There was a single space betwenthevtabkes and it moved back and forth as people left and arrived. It worked fantastically and in no time everyone just ended up going family style and sharing and tasting. One of my favourite US dining experiences.

  2. If the restaurant is at all crowded and you have a choice between a table for two and a table for four, you should take the table for two. (I understand that that wasn’t the question here.) But once you’re seated at a table that was reasonable for you to take at the time, it’s yours, and no one should expect you to move.

    I bet the couple never even gave you a thought. If I’d been a member of the couple I know I wouldn’t have.

  3. I’d have considered moving if there were only one seat available at the bar, requiring one of them to stand. If there were two seats together at the bar though, I don’t see any issue.

  4. I, too, hate the discomfort of bar stools. I’m 5′ 4″ and bottom heavy, so my height plus the feeling of having my circulation cut off mid-thigh doesn’t make for a pleasant dining experience. 🙂

  5. +1 to what Tim said. Travel should not just be about being open to new places, but also to people. Invite the couple to sit with you if they want, with a quick reference that you are uncomfortable on bar stools yourself. I travelled for a year on my own and had some really wonderful experiences in restaurants either being invited to sit with others or inviting others to join me.

  6. When I am eating alone, I much prefer the bar to a table. Many bars, especially those at nicer restaurants, seem to have good, comfortable stools these days. Anyway, if eating alone, i would not have sat at a table for four if the bar was available. I’m not saying you are wrong – I’m just saying what I would have done.

  7. Depends – was the restaurant busy? Was there another table leaving soon? Some restaurants have more uncomfortable bar seats than others. Sometimes people want to sit at the bar for the social aspect….nothing wrong with sitting at a table for 4 by yourself.

  8. It happened to me in Madrid. I gave them my seat. In my case, it was a little different because the couple would’ve been unable to sit together if I had not been gracious. There is no way I would sit there and eat and leave some young couple unable to sit together.

  9. I’d have done the same as you – you were there first. Quite often if I eat on my own I take a book or check my emails so I probably wouldn’t notice the people at the bar anyway!

  10. I’d stay at the table. I feel sometimes other people think a single woman at a bar is asking for company. I’m 5′ and my feet Never touch the floor from a bar stool. Women worry too much about what others think of us. (me included) A man would probably never give it a second thought.

  11. Well, today at Chipotle MULTIPLE tables for 4 were taken by sets of 2 people or 1 person! Right across my 3 children and I looked at tables for 2, and our only option was a tall table with THREE bar stools CEMENTED into the ground. So I had to stand with a bad neck and back. VERY RUDE and self-centered people in this world!

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