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Ask readers about their pet restaurant peeves and hear about everything from pepper shaker holes being too small to the lack of hooks for their coats.

These kinds of problems could be solved by a polite conversation with the management -- or simply not returning.

But other problems are more difficult, as the readers here show.

My wife and I dine out a lot, but lately we have been puzzled by the difference between restaurants' interpretation of the word "reservation." We usually make reservations for a specific time, and if we are running late, we call and indicate that to the restaurant.

Our question to you is this: If a reservation is made, and the people arrive on time or slightly early, how long should it be before they are seated? We believe that if you make a reservation and are on time, there should be a maximum of five minutes wait for a table, even if the table held for you has "campers," those people who sit for three hours at a table when they know others are waiting, and take their time with the final coffee.

-- David, Tonawanda

We made reservations (in a Transit Road restaurant) to celebrate our 48th anniversary (just for the two of us, we were celebrating with family on another day). While reading the menu, our daughter and her fiance surprised us and just wanted to wish us a happy anniversary. The table was for four, so we persuaded them to join us.

After the meal my husband tried to order another cup of coffee, but it did not come. Very soon we noticed three or four waiters milling around our table and then the owner came to our table.

At this point other people were staring at us wondering what was going on. The owner asked us to leave our table and go to the bar area where he would comp as many drinks as we wanted. He said that other people were waiting for our table and they were getting impatient.

Afterward the owner sent us a gift certificate for $50, but I returned it with a note that we would never enter that establishment again. All this after spending close to $300. Please comment.

-- Donna, Buffalo

In a way these are two sides of the same coin. They reflect the ugly truth -- that many restaurants need table turnover to make money. But it's all how the management proceeds.

Let's take Dave's letter first. If you made a reservation and arrive on time, you should be seated within 10 minutes (I'm being generous). If it's any longer than that, they should comp you a drink or dessert.

If you call ahead on a busy night to say you're running late (the right thing to do), the restaurant should be willing to grant you that same 10 minute leeway. After that, it might start feeling pressure and have to give your table away.

Now to the "campers" -- Dave's name for the people who sit with the coffee while suffering the removal of the dessert plates, the forks, even the salt and pepper shakers for heaven's sake. Donna's letter brings up questions: How long did they sit there with that coffee? Did they overstay, or did the restaurant schedule tables too closely?

Reading this story from one side only, I have to say that the owner there behaved responsibly, assuming the place was busy. After all, his table for two became four, and others were waiting. The situation was awkward, and offering to buy drinks was a gracious way out. (Other owners are not so polite -- you should hear some of the horror stories!) Sending the gift certificate went even further.

If you were embarrassed, or if the whole thing spoiled your anniversary, that's as sad as it is understandable, but you do have the last word.

Don't go back to that restaurant.

Next week: Vegetarian Beefs.

What can you do if you order something you find you don't like -- at no fault of the chef? Where can you go for a good meal and entertainment? Send your restaurant and dining out questions to The News' longtime restaurant critic Janice Okun at

e-mail: janiceokun@yahoo.com.