Why Restaurant Wait Times Are Probably Shorter Than They Say

To our dismay, there are a lot of things that can hinder a restaurant experience — they're out of an ingredient to make your favorite dish, they mess up your meal, your server is unreachable, etc. — but nothing is worse than showing up to a restaurant with a growling stomach and being told it will be at least an hour wait. Odds are, and you may know this from personal experience, a majority of people will choose not to wait out the waitlist if it's going to be over an hour until they can be seated. This is great for you! You are now one step closer, but it doesn't change the fact you (and your stomach) still have at least a 30 to 45-minute wait ahead of you.

According to Eat This, Not That, the suggested wait times given to customers may not even be accurate because they are just that: suggestions. "Many wait times are guesses based on the average customer dining time and the restaurant environment," the outlet reported. That being said, you can probably knock off five to 10 minutes off the time they tell you.

Two ways to get ahead of the long wait

Sometimes, restaurant wait times can be part-fib, part-truth, but it's important to remember that a majority of the time, a host is giving you an estimated guess. Per a survey conducted by Long Range Systems, the average wait time for a party is 23 minutes, but has any host ever said that exact figure (via FSR Magazine)? According to Reddit user Sabedoria, who works in the restaurant industry, hosts are told to follow this template: the first party gets a five-minute wait; the next four parties get a 10-minute wait; for every five parties that go on the list, the wait time increases by five minutes. If there are over five people in your party, your wait is immediately increased by 10 minutes.

However, there are ways you can beat the long wait. The most obvious is to make a reservation. Calling the restaurant a week in advance to make your reservation and following up the day prior can help. You can try securing a table a few days before your preferred date, but there's a chance they could be booked. 

Another way to ditch the long lines is to see if the restaurant has a live wait time on Yelp. Many restaurants now show live wait times on the app and give the option to join the waitlist virtually. So, if the wait time is 90 minutes, you know you have at least an hour to kill that won't be wasted standing outside the restaurant's front doors.