In a restaurant, either directly or in passing, you may have heard “that’s not my section,” (or “that’s MY section” depending on the nature of the conversation). Sections are exactly what they sound like; each server in the dining room is assigned an group of tables in the dining room. Depending on the typical volume of guests in the restaurant a server’s section can be anywhere from 3 tables to 10. Sections are not random or arbitrary, however, they are integral to the smooth operation of the dining room, ensuring that a staff member does not get overwhelmed with more guests than he can handle, and maintaining an equitable spread of guests throughout the restaurant.
Sometimes you might see a whole section of empty tables in a restaurant and all the guests are seated in close vicinity to each other. Just because a table is empty does not mean it is available; there may not be staff assigned to the empty area. In corporate restaurants, you are unlikely to be seated in a closed section. In a mom-and-pop neighborhood spot, you might be able to finagle a table in a technically closed section, but keep in mind that because the restaurant is staffed with the crew in the other section, your service is likely to be slower.
Sectioning the restaurant is a necessary part of the service solution, ensuring that no staff member becomes overwhelmed, and thereby that all guests’ needs are efficiently handled.