December 1, 2015 |

Commentary: Empty Tables, Angry Patrons

By Jeremy White

Jeremy White Editor-in-Chief Pizza Today

Jeremy White
Pizza Today

We walked into the restaurant after a 90-minute basketball practice. “Uh oh,” I thought. “Gonna be a long wait.” There was a crowd of about 20 customers waiting to be seated. The smiling hostess politely told us our wait would only be about 15 minutes. “Great,” I thought. “No problem.”

The other customers in queue didn’t share my understanding. The discontent was evident on their faces and in their body language. The snide remarks flowed freely.

“I guess that booth isn’t getting cleaned tonight.”
“Couldn’t we just have that table?”
“This is ridiculous. Let’s go somewhere else.”

You see, there were about eight completely empty tables scattered throughout the dining room. That’s seating for 32 for those of you who aren’t math whizzes — more than enough chairs/booth space for every waiting customer.

I understand. It was a Wednesday night. The manager prepared the staffing level based on an analysis of historical Wednesday night sales in the fall. And then a server or two called in sick or skipped out early and left the dining room shorthanded. I get it. But that’s because I spend my days talking to pizzeria owners and understanding their businesses and needs. The average Joe, on the other hand, just wants his food. He doesn’t comprehend that those tables were empty because there weren’t enough employees on duty to serve them. And he doesn’t care.

As I pondered the situation, ultimately I asked myself why the management hadn’t called in reinforcements. Surely they had more help that could’ve been summoned, right?

Maybe, maybe not. It seemed like a no-brainer to me. But then Tony Gemignani submitted his “Respecting the Craft” column for this issue and the empty tables immediately came to mind. Perhaps there’s a connection here. Or maybe the restaurant in question was simply poorly managed.

Are you having difficulty keeping staffing levels where they should be? Is good help currently hard to find in your area? Shoot me an e-mail ( and let me know what you’re experiencing. We’ll put your comments to good use in the future.

Lastly, this issue contains our 2016 Menu Guide. You’ll find scores of recipes from appetizers to pizzas to desserts and more. Here’s to hoping you find your next big hit while flipping through them and trying them out. When you test a recipe that sounds good to you, take a photo of it and give us a shout out on Instagram. We can’t wait to see your work!


Jeremy White, Editor-in-chief