A Great Meal at Famous Dave's BBQ

Logo-Famous-Daves-BBQ last night I got to enjoy my first experience and meal at Famous Dave’s BBQ restaurant here on the south side of Indianapolis. This location’s address on the Famous Dave’s website says it’s in Greenwood, but I don’t believe that’s technically accurate as it’s still on the north side of County Line Road. and US-31S.

We ran into a bit of a snag initially as we were dining in a group of 12. My mother-in-law got there early and was able to snag a couple of tables with the promise of a small group sitting adjacent would be getting up soon. That wasn’t exactly the case as they decided to sit and chat after having completed and paying for their meal. The server said they’d been there well over an hour before we got there and it was pushing 2 hours now. A bit of a challenge for us, and for the restaurant as they were in a steady, standing wait for over an hour or more that we were there.

Having spent my time waiting tables at a Cooker Restaurant in Nashville, TN, I understand the importance of turning tables in a restaurant. As a server a table of "Campers" can kill your average tip for an evening. This is especially true with the case of a group that’s taking of a couple of your 4-top tables. It’s also important for the restaurant to turn tables to keep their overall and average costs down. This must be balanced with having a healthy wait for tables, which is also actually good for restaurants.

Getting back to our meal, the food was delicious. We did the BBQ meal for two, which came with ribs, beef brisket and Georgia cut pork (which we substituted for the half-chicken). Sides included corn bread muffins, thick cut potato wedge fries, cole slaw, corn on the cob and some wonderful BBQ baked beans. They also had what appeared to be some type of bread ‘n butter pickles that came with a spicy, somewhat wasabi horseradish kick to them. They were great!

Although I didn’t get any, the bread pudding for dessert also appeared like it was quite a tasty, sweet treat to finish off the meal.

Our family will be returning to Famous Dave’s at some point in the future for another great meal. I’ve got to, just to get some of my own bread pudding at least.

I’m curious though, what do you think about "campers" at restaurants. Should they feel obligated to move a bit more rapidly when seating is at a premium, or should they take their time regardless of anyone else’s needs? Should the manager on duty take any action? What would you do? What do you expect others to do?

Comments

  1. One benefit to a restaurant with a bar is that a manager can offer a (say) 10% discount to a camper table to encourage them to leave the table and head to the bar. It's a polite and relatively non-confrontational way to free up table space.

  2. I would agree that seating half of you on the guesstimate of the table next door's departure time was a fumble on the restaurant's part.

  3. The restaurant model is based on buying food, not renting space. The smart consumer can maximize their benefit by staying as long as possible and ordering only a cup of coffee; within the social contract of a restaurant, but lopsided.

    If restaurants really wanted to balance resources, their fees would be a combination of short-term table rental and the price of food. To satisfy other requirements, such as healthy eating and customer satisfaction, I'd suggest a reverse incentive: "Finish eating within 45 minutes of your food arriving and save 10% on your bill!"

    Restaurants have tried many interesting strategies to alter economic incentive. Here's a few fascinating links:
    http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07233/810938-46.st
    http://blogs.moneycentral.msn.com/smartspending/a
    http://www.cnn.com/2008/TRAVEL/04/01/flex.payment
    http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/005812.html

  4. I'm in line (no pun intended) with Scott's remarks about larger tips and paying attention to see if there's a line waiting to be seated.

    There is a courtesy we all need to adopt for the other customers as well as the restaurant itself. "Camping" is OK in a 1/2 empty restaurant. If no line, I will continue the conversation at my leisure.

    Another topic along this same line is when having a business meeting and each only ordering something to drink. These meetings normally last an hour, so I suggested a tip that would be comparable to that if you had a meal.

    When I have 2 or 3 meetings scheduled in a row, I choose a time when there most likely won't be people waiting in line for a table. I also let the waitress/waiter know up front that I'll be there a while and that they will be compensated appropriately. (The refills keep coming because they know I'm aware of their need for a turned table.)

  5. Thanks for sharing Scott. I think your tipping method would be appreciated. I know I would appreciate it if I were your server.

    Part of the problem that I didn't state is that the restaurant should have never sat "half" the desired table size on the expectation of another party being "almost done". That was probably the biggest issue of the night.

    I'm just different though. If I see people are waiting, I don't rush myself, but I also don't just sit and shoot the breeze either. If I'm in the middle of a meaningful conversation with someone I wouldn't rush the conversation or end it to open up the table. But I would be aware and would be thinking of other options that perhaps were available.

    I'm very interested in hearing other people's opinions on this?

  6. I've never thought about it from the restaurant manager's perspective before — just from the server's perspective.

    When I'm a "camper" (I learned a new term — thanks, Jason!), I always pro-rate my tip for the server based on how much longer I've taken up their table space. So, if my meal took an hour, and I'm there chatting for another half-hour after dinner's done, I would bump up my tip by 50%. I usually tip in the 20% range, so I'd be tipping in the 30% range in this case.

    Having never been a server, however, this could be the dumbest damn thing any customer did in the History of Dumb Customers. And, like I said, I've never thought of it from the manager's perspective. I guess she's losing money by not having that table free to sell more food to.

    The last entity I would take into account in this situation would be the other customers. I think it's polite to be aware of when people are waiting, but I don't think there's an expectation of getting out at a certain time. Like, I believe it's nice to do the right thing and leave in a timely fashion, but you're not a jerk if you don't.

    Maybe all restaurants should encourage their servers to wear shirts like those at The Village Deli in Bloomington, which proclaim, "EAT AND GET OUT!" 🙂

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