Who Doesn’t Choose the Booth?

restaurant-booths-and-tablesA few nights ago, I went out to a restaurant for ramen. When the host greeted us, he asked, “Would you like a booth?”

It’s a fair question, but I realized as he asked it that I don’t think there’s any situation with 2-4 people when I wouldn’t choose a booth. Does anyone ever say no to the booth?

A booth is like a restaurant’s way of giving you a hug while you eat. It’s an experience you can’t get when eating at home. There’s a sense of intimacy in a booth–it focuses your attention on the people closest to you. You have someplace to put your coat. And the padded bench and back of a booth feel great.

There’s no doubt in my mind that a booth is superior in every way to a table, particularly for 2-4 people.

Yet hosts and hostesses always ask this question, so at some point in history, someone must have asked for a regular table over a booth. Who was that person? Was it you? Tell me the truth.

Who doesn’t choose the booth if it’s available?

UPDATE: Someone pointed out on Twitter that larger people may not be able to fit into the booth, which I should have thought of.

16 thoughts on “Who Doesn’t Choose the Booth?”

  1. In the Seattle area, me and my wife often do not take the booth. We find that the wait time in booths is usually much longer than getting a table, especially if you can get a full service table in the bar area.

    Then again, when we are eating out, we are usually not wanting to waste that much time out. We are either grabbing dinner right before a movie or otherwise getting food quick before going home or going to another event.

  2. There is one particular restaurant in St. Louis where the “booth” is sub-par compared to the tables with separate chairs. This specific restaurant uses a window bench to create a hybrid booth, where the people on the opposite side of the table sit in a normal chair.

    The first time I was offered the “booth” at this particular establishment, I fell into their trap and accepted the seat… only to realize that a booth sitting against a window is not only a chilly spot, but also not so great for actually eating as the window bench is elevated a good 3-4 inches above the chair height, making me feel like a giant and sitting at a position where it felt like my legs were crammed into the underside of the table top. Even trying to remove the seat cushion and just sitting on the hard wooden bench still left me sitting higher than the person at the other side of the table.

    When I visit this restaurant, I always choose table over booth…unless my dining companion really wants the “booth,” in which case, I take the normal chair while they learn the hard way that they should have gone with the standard table.

    • That reminds me of a restaurant that was in Bellevue, WA for a few months before it went under. Their booths were half-booths. One side was in a booth while the other sat in chairs. To make matters worse, the chairs sat a lot higher than the booth side. So much so that the people in the chairs had to lean down to reach the table.

      I am endlessly amazed by how many restaurants screw up the basics of a good experience.

  3. Two considerations of which I am aware in Booth v. Table are 1) those that are mobility impaired and 2) those of greater girth. There’s almost a 3) those who like more control over the distance between them and the table.
    1) for some people, getting into and out of a booth just isn’t easy or comfortable.
    2) for some people, the prescribed distance between immovable chair and immovable table just doesn’t make for a comfortable eating situation.
    3) my wife, Melanie, loves sitting closer to the table than whatever the “norm” is. If the table can be scootched closer to her, she’ll do it. In a booth, I am sometimes left sitting further from the table than I like, though I’m willing to be inconvenienced because I, personally, prefer booths that much.

    • Chris: That’s a great point about the mobility impaired. And I can see that about sitting really close to the table–booths don’t always give you that choice.

  4. Going to have to second the idea on the person not getting a booth idea, and it mainly comes back to being a larger person. In places where the booth and table are fixed its hard to get in and out of the thing and can be squishy. Whereas most places where the table can move even just an inch its fine. I did have the unfortunate event of getting into one a while back where the seat moved and disrupted the group in the booth next to ours.

  5. At a certain point in my pregnancy with twins, I could no longer fit into booths. I would get odd looks when I asked for a table or maybe it was because of my size.

  6. As a couple thing… a booth can be really nice for my wife and I. Intimate and quiet dining is really appreciated as we rarely get to have a night out, as we’re parents of young kids and our work schedules don’t jive very well lately. If the booth has been well designed and isn’t beat up and worn it is nicer than being at a regular table. With more people… our kids or family & friends… all the aforementioned things come into play. Some people we eat with need the extra depth that some booths just don’t provide. Also, young kids can be very fidgety and are excellent at letting things like crayons or toys fall onto the floor, which leads to fishing around with one hand for what seems like an eternity in order to retrieve them from under the table. Lastly, with the advent of non-smoking establishments and the inevitable mid-meal bathroom visits… The person on the outside always has to let people in or out. That leads to the anxious moment once you get to the booth and you have to choose to sit on the inside seat or the outside seat.

    Thanks for sparking a debate on something that effects us all!

    • Brent: Those are all great points. Sometimes it’s a simple decision, but the more people and types of people you add in, the more complex it gets. And with 3+, the bathroom issue is certainly a factor. 🙂

  7. It depends on who is eating. If it’s couples or just the wife and me, booths are nice. If it’s the guys, it’s a little too intimate of a setting. For a 4 person table, two people are stuck riding B!@#. It sucks making everyone get up so you can get out/in the booth.

    If you’re wearing jackets, carrying purses, backpacks, etc. You have nowhere to stow your gear like you could normally do on the back of a chair. It sit’s in your lap or gets wedged between you on the bench getting food and drinks spilled on it.

    We have a two yr old that still needs a booster or high chair. High chair works much better than a booster but you shouldn’t put a high chair at the end of a booth because then it’s in the circulation path of the restaurant running the risk that he gets smacked in the head by a waiter or worse.

    There is no adjustability on how close the table is to booth. I normally don’t find this to be a problem but if it’s not right it’s a huge problem. Similarly, your chair back is attached to the person behind you. Makes for a great meal to have a kid breathing down your neck for a whole meal because his parents are letting him stand up in the booth behind you.

    They’re also usually much dirtier than a table. Due to limited access the seats aren’t cleaned as well as chairs would be and underneath the table…yeah, don’t look under there and make sure not to drop anything under there.

    All that being said, I much prefer a booth to a table.

    • Lots of great points, Nick! I actually prefer a booth for stowing coats than a chair, though (I have a long coat). But I could see some people preferring the chair in those regards.

  8. It depends on the place and who I’m with. I tend to eat a lot of food on my own during the week. Because booths are bigger, I tend not to take a booth when I’m by myself. I leave those for groups. I’ll just take a 2 person table and sit off to the side. Now if I’m with other people, I usually go for a booth.


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