When Should a Busy Restaurant Boot Customers Who Finished Their Meals and Remain Seated at their Tables, Texting?

Friday night at At Last Café in Long Beach is guaranteed to be slammed, which is why I made sure this past Friday to make a reservation for four. We got there at 6:55 p.m., five minutes before our reservation time for an outside table--slammed (well, kind of: four tables were empty inside, and would remain empty until at least 7:35 p.m., when a party of 15 finally showed up...but I'm getting ahead of the story). The harried waitress told us they were 15 minutes late for us--fine.

One of the outside tables were occupied by a couple that was wrapping up their meal just as we got there. After getting the bill, instead of promptly leaving, they whipped out their smartphones and began texting.

They did this for longer than 20 minutes, in full view of the waitress, and were still at it when we finally told the At Last people we were leaving. It was 7:30 p.m., half an hour after our reservation time. I doubt I'll return to At Last ever again, despite its great food, because the wait time is simply unbearable, with or without a reservation.

But those texting fools got me thinking: at what point should a busy restaurant boot out customers who just sit around after their meal, talking? At what point can a customer complain about said loiterers (I didn't complain because I like to see how problematic situations play out for the purposes of this infernal blog)?

Gentle readers: what do YOU think?

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