Author Topic: Restaurants: "How many this evening?"  (Read 2125 times)

Offline Daniel

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Restaurants: "How many this evening?"
« on: December 17, 2013, 09:57:10 PM »
At least in America, whenever I go to a restaurant, the host or hostess usually takes the first turn in the conversation by asking how many people are eating with me. Why!?

About 95% of the time, the answer is obvious: Can't you count? There are two people standing in front of you?

Admittedly, it's useful information. But why not take a guess?
"Welcome! Two of you this evening? Please, follow me."

Does anyone else find this weird or have any thoughts on why it is basically a rule for all restaurants everywhere? (Even if you think it's silly, as I do, it would seem a little rude if someone decided to skip that social obligation!)
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Offline Corybobory

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Re: Restaurants: "How many this evening?"
« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2013, 04:03:53 AM »
When I was a hostess, I either guessed and asked 'table for two?' etc. or, asked how many for the table to be.  This was because people were often meeting others at this breakfast restaurant - so it was just opening up that discussion :)  I think perhaps asking how many the table is for sidesteps if the number isn't obvious (lots of parties standing together), or asking before you've had time to count or check you're not leaving anyone out!
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Restaurants: "How many this evening?"
« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2013, 11:04:37 AM »
That's perfectly reasonable, but I don't get the impression it's actually (usually) due to need or uncertainty. That's the part that I find weird-- it seems grammatically (eg, conventionally) required to ask this question even if it's completely obvious. It's gone from practical to conventional, which interests me.

In contrast, many restaurants offer a carry out option, but a parallel question is rarely asked by default about that. And certainly it's hard to guess if someone wants to dine in or carry out just from appearances:
"How many this evening?"
"Oh, we'll just take it to go, thanks."
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Offline Corybobory

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Re: Restaurants: "How many this evening?"
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2013, 09:25:56 AM »
Hmm good point!

Maybe it is actually a sort of convention then... it's expected and so it persists sort of thing...?
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Offline Daniel

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Re: Restaurants: "How many this evening?"
« Reply #4 on: December 19, 2013, 03:31:13 PM »
I think that's right-- it's somehow conventionalized into the formal greeting at sit-down restaurants. Language is weird! :P
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Offline zaba

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Re: Restaurants: "How many this evening?"
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2014, 07:06:00 AM »
Quote
Does anyone else find this weird or have any thoughts on why it is basically a rule for all restaurants everywhere? (Even if you think it's silly, as I do, it would seem a little rude if someone decided to skip that social obligation!)

Presumably it is very annoying when 2 people are joined by a third who takes a chair from a nearby table for 2, thus rendering it useless.

Also, if it happens once that a group of 10 is preceded by a group of 2, so much chaos ensues that everyone's tip is compromised.

This simple question thus helps ensure that everything remains on track. It's not just a convention, it practical.

Offline Daniel

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Re: Restaurants: "How many this evening?"
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2014, 07:37:13 AM »
Sure, but why not "2 this evening?" Instead of acting like it's impolite to even imagine guessing? Sometimes they do do that. But it's relatively rare.
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Offline zaba

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Re: Restaurants: "How many this evening?"
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2014, 10:31:15 AM »
I think that in standard American English leaving out the second person is generally considered less formal.

Offline MrChiLambda

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Re: Restaurants: "How many this evening?"
« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2015, 05:22:34 AM »
The only thing I can think of is that asking a question places a demand on another to think which probably reduces their focus.

If you take a guess, you have invited someone someone to use your resources further.

So, I'll ask you, are managers conditioning these people or are they learning their behaviors elsewhere?