There seems to be a few unwritten rules about wait time etiquette in cafes and restaurants, rules for both the customers and the staff.
Over the weekend I went to a café for brunch with my partner. We ordered a drink each and a meal each. The staff member didn’t give any inclination there would be an increased wait on the meals, and they weren’t overly busy so the thought didn’t really cross our minds.
Our drinks were on our table within about 3 minutes, but our meals came out about 50 minutes later. We waited until the 45 minute mark until we said anything, but I wonder if we should have asked sooner. When we enquired as to what was happening we were met with profuse apologies by a very nice staff member but she also said “this happens on the weekend”. If 45 minute waits on fairly basic dishes is the norm, I don’t think I’m being unfair in thinking perhaps they need to add another staff member or three. I also think the staff member probably should have told us when we ordered that we would be waiting quite some time for our meals to come out.
The dishes came out soon after we asked after them but they weren’t great. Nothing wrong with their presentation or the way it was cooked, it just wasn’t an amazing meal. I could probably forgive this had I not waited 50 minutes to get it. You get starving during that 50 minutes and your tastebuds prepare yourself for something incredible, only to be bitterly disappointed when the meal is just average.
Based on my experience at this café, I wouldn’t go back or recommend it to anyone. They get points for polite and genuinely apologetic staff but 50 minutes for a basic brunch meal is just way too long to wait.
I’m interested to know what people think is an acceptable time to be waiting for a meal and at what point you ask a staff member how things are travelling. I would have said that waiting 12-15 minutes for breakfast and lunch at a café is pretty much the average time, and about 17-20 minutes for dinner at a restaurant. Maybe a bit longer if you’ve ordered a dish that will obviously take a little longer to cook. I’m not a coffee drinker but what about coffees? Would anyone wait longer than 5 minutes for their coffee to come out? Has anyone ever just walked out of a restaurant because their service was too slow?