First-come, first-served? Well, not really...
First-come, first-served? Well, not really. Is it fair? It depends.
A study from The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University compares the perceived fairness of seating approaches that shift demand and violate the first-come, first served expectation. A copy/paste from the Executive Summary:
This study tested the following four demand-shifting tactics: seating guests according to party size (by matching party size to available tables), accepting reservations for large parties only, seating VIP guests in preference to others, and allowing guests to call ahead to put their name on the waitlist for an approximate seating time.
The most frowned-upon practice? VIPs getting tables before other customers.
Regardless of the seating policy, the authors advise:
Restaurants’ waitlist policies that violate the first-come, first-served principle should be implemented carefully and with an explanation to all customers.
What if we are more generous when tipping the maitre d’?