How To Choose The Best Safest Seat In A Restaurant Or Public Place

Whether being seated in a restaurant or some other public place, those who are in tune with ‘situational awareness’ will run through a set of criteria in their mind before settling upon a particular best, safest, seat.

Why would anyone care about how to choose a so called ‘safest’ seat?

Answer: Because being in a position that better enables your senses to monitor the surroundings will provide an additional layer of security around your person…enabling you to respond appropriately and more quickly if you need to.

With that said, here are some considerations while choosing that best, safest, seat:

Over the years I have written about this specific subject many times. However it’s always good to revisit it.

Consider these points while choosing the safest seat:

– Choose a seat which has the best line of sight to entrances and exits (especially entrances) without having to turn your head much while seated.

– Do not be the closest seat to the entrance – which is an immediate point of focus.

– Being tucked into a booth will be a hindrance, so better to choose a table.

– Avoid choosing a seat out in the middle. Best to sit closer to a wall, facing out – although not directly up against the wall which could hinder movement and options.

– It is very important to be seated in a position where you can get to your feet quickly and start moving.

– Choose a seat that enables you to see as many people as possible.

– If possible, choose a seat that allows you to be as far away from the main entrance but closer to a secondary exit.

Once seated, consider these actions:

– Always identify where the exits are.

– If in a restaurant, identify the pathway to the kitchen.

– Watch the bathroom routes.

– Pay attention to whatever may appear or sound ‘out of place’ among the murmur of the patrons.

– Watch the entrance for uncharacteristic characters…

While the points listed above may appear beyond paranoid, in the reality of practiced Situational Awareness these thoughts occur naturally and rapidly in your mind up until the decision is made where to sit.

Once seated, the rest becomes semi-subconscious without really interfering with one’s enjoyment of the event.

NOTE: A hostess in a restaurant will always try to seat you where he or she wants… typically to balance out their servers, etc… So, with that in mind, you will need to proactively request your own (safest) seating location. In most cases this should not be an issue (although a busy restaurant may not have much of a choice).

NOTE: Where legal, it is a good idea to ‘carry’ while in this situation.

Deadly Force: Understanding Your Right to Self Defense

Situational Awareness articles on Modern Survival Blog.

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66 Comments

  1. I’m retired Lawman, with over 30 years experience.

    Recently, very early in the morning, I went into a McDonald’s, and immediately saw a uniformed Police Officer sitting near the entrance, with his back to the entrance. I knew it had to be a Rookie, but even then he showed no common sense. I had to introduce myself and tell him what he was doing was extremely foolish. There’s a reason that Cops never, ever sit with their backs to the entrance door. He looked up at me and listened and continued munching on his McMuffin, not commenting. I collected my coffee at the counter and left. As I exited the parking lot, I noticed that he had not moved.
    Some people never learn!

    1. Some people have too much ego to admit that they messed up. Especially while that person is still watching. Betcha next time he will not sit there though.

  2. I rarely go out to eat these days. Too much to do, very little time to get it done. But on those rare occasions, I would choose a restaurant that I’ve been to before and know the exits and request to be seated against a wall near the kitchen. I would also try to park near the kitchen exit.

    Places with exceptional food are always crowded, so weekends are avoided. Remember the Paris and Orlando attacks.

    Besides, one of my favorite hobbies is to cook and entertain for family and friends.

    Food for Thought: If you are involved with Tailgating Festivities during the College Football Season, please have a heightened awareness of your surroundings this season. Most campuses are gun free zones. That is if we have a football season!!

    Stay Safe!!

    1. Having been to college football games tailgate parties, I seriously doubt that the participants there would react in the same manner as those at the PULSE nightclub.

      1. SPORTS FAN:

        I agree.
        When that lone Terrorist on the train in France recently, was jumped by 2 Americans and a Frenchman, and overpowered, they saved a lot of lives, even though wounding themselves. One of the Americans said later, “If I was going to die, it wouldn’t be sitting down.”

        1. I agree that those passengers that subdued the attacker on the train were heroes, but that incident was on a moving train and they were only a few feet away and in a confined area and jumped him when he was reloading. On a college campus that is open air it would likely be yards of separation. Also too many options for the attackers to reposition additional guns and/or ammo and escape routes.

          I’ve enjoyed decades of tradition of the college tailgating in the SE Conference, but we live in a different world now and when given the choice, I will stay clear of gun free zones because of the cowardliness of the terrorist acts.

      2. Your right, however, both ARE safe gun zones, and the campuses are locations that could have multiple attacks that could be timed together.
        Most campuses can be approached from multiple directions and for the most part the only check for weapons is at the stadium entrances.

    2. Being watched, good tip about parking spot too.
      That’s one I hadn’t thought about.
      But I wonder about windows.
      Would it be good to sit next to a window that can be easily opened and climbed out of, if you aren’t near an exit or the kitchen?
      I know some windows are picture windows that can’t be opened, but some restaurants have regular ones.

      1. The problem with windows is you are making the assumption that the bad guy is definatly going to come into the establishment ; as opposed to just shooting from the street THROUGH THE WINDOW.
        If you’re sightable from the outside, you’re a target !!

        s.a.

  3. Many years ago, fresh back – one day, from Vietnam, and on a Sunday evening, I decided to stop at a bar for a beer. The bar was empty, except for a lady patron and the female bartender. About 15 minutes in, a guy comes through the door with a pistol. I heard the door open, looked in the middle area, saw a hat weapon and dove to the middle of the floor. He opened fire, hitting the female bartender and the cops were on him. They took the lady away, she got one in the shoulder…and all I could think of was – is this home! After an interview with the cops, I left…to this day I have never been in a bar, nor drank a beer. I swear when we are on the road, I watch close vehicles and we seldom eat out..take out and home. I am not paranoid, but always watching crowds, etc.

    Thanks for this article, it really brings home how vulnerable we can become.

    1. I rarely eat out and prefer to cook at home or have meals delivered. Friends of mine celebrated at home with extended family on New Year’s Eve. Better to avoid joe or Jane public these days.

  4. No big stories here, I just practice Situational Awareness any time I’m out and about. I Carry 99% of the time anymore, and watch people, all of the people, it’s amazing how much you can tell what’s going on by the reactions of the people around you.

    BTW, if you shop at a store like Wally World, and they have a sign that says “No Firearms” check the other doors, if you fine one that does not have that sign, use that entrance, it’s legal, or do NOT patronize that store. Second, if you ARE carrying correctly, 99% of the people will not know, and to be honest if you get caught just walk out saying “ohhh I did not see that sign”.

    Second BTW, if you carry, it’s NOT illegal to carry in a bar if it also serves food (in most states, know your laws), or a restaurant that serves alcohol, you can NOT drink, but ya can hang out with your buddy’s, play pool, eat dinner, and all that “stuff”. After all someone needs to be the DD.

    NRP

    1. Ignore the ‘no guns’ signs. They’re just for legal cover. The most a store can do is ask you to leave, and unless you brandish your piece, precious few will do THAT.

      The other day I saw a ~70 yr man in a Kroger carrying a gun at the deli, as my mom says: “In front of God and everybody!”

  5. all good info, thanks.

    “-If possible, choose a seat that allows you to be as far away from the main entrance but closer to a secondary exit.”…seems obvious, but very good info..

    I notice you mention to not pick a seat right against a wall?
    Ever since quite young, I always like to “have my back against a wall”, feeling it gave me a good chance to check thing/folks out, etc.

    Why do you suggest to not be against a wall?

    thanks

    1. In prior articles, I’ve suggested being back up against a wall. Upon further thought, I feel that there are better options that will enable you to get up and move more readily with more choices for direction of travel if you’re not literally right up against a wall. I have not changed my position that your back facing the wall is preferred (enabling you to have a natural view out into the room – with ability to see entrances and exits).

      With that said, if the place is small and it means that the next row out is essentially ‘in the middle’, then I would stick to the wall. It’s a judgement call. I’m curious to hear others opinion on that…

      1. I actually prefer the wall because that way there’s no one behind me. Facing the wall is an absolute no-no, and I would rather have a solid wall than a window.

        Another thing to note is if the chairs and tables are bolted to the floor. If they are, look for other things that could provide a barrier if that becomes necessary.

        1. I agree with Lauren. With the wall behind me, I can focus on 12, 3, and 9 and not worry about covering my 6.

        2. Speaking of bolted-down furniture, there is a big restaurant brawl video link @ Drudge/youtube right now- the punches and CHAIRS were a-flyin’, with both men and women going at it…

          I pay attention to the loud tables, people drinking a lot…

          Also watching the waiters/waitresses for clues about which tables might be having “issues”.
          I would say avoid going into the restrooms at the same time as the loud people (wait a bit). Men, use your peripheral vision when at the urinal in that compromised position, away from cameras and witnesses. Don’t be shy about doing a quick glance when somebody comes in- show that you are aware and not a good sucker-punch candidate. I guess women may need to watch for men in the restroom soon also… sheesh!

          And I’ve learned that the later the hour, the higher the potential for alcohol “incidents”.

      2. ah..yes, good reasoning..

        I have always been a “back against the wall” sort of person, since quite young. No idea why, just good instinct, maybe. I do not like to be back against a window, although as was mentioned, one should remember..”a window can be an exit” (as NRP mentioned.)

        Thanks.

      3. DISABLED USMC VETERAN, in a wheelchair or on forearm crutches,… I am good, but not as mobile as I would like to be. WHAT are all of those who are reading, RECOMMENDING that may help me keep my loved ones safer?
        Thanks

    2. @ Anon

      My 2¢ worth, the more options one has for movement the better. If you limit yourself to right, left (forward to the problem is not always best) than you limit your chances of escape OR finding the best means of aggression towards the “problem”.

      Personally I sit one row off the windows and facing the entrances, ALWAYS at a table, never at a booth and as far from the entrance as possible. I could see a need to “dive” through a window if needed. And yes, this old fat guy could if needed, ALSO I would have no problem heading towards the “problem”, it all depends on the situation.

      But the options of movement are always key.

      NRP

      1. NRP

        To me, (DUH) dive through a window…yes, good option to keep in mind..
        Those windows are tough , but maybe with a chair or some such….yup…good option…

        1. Anon, good idea. There is usually something or someone to throw thru the window first. A wise ass waiter would be my first choice to launch thru a window…but that’s just me…LOL!

        2. Bill Jenkins Horse and NRP

          All good, grin.

          As I pondered this situation, the possibility of having to escape through a window, it occurred to me that a little gadget for car escape, which Ken has written about, would break most any window easily and without fanfare. You might be able to get out the window, and “away” before the bad guy, or the crowd/herd even realized..

          Related: Resqme Tool – Window Breaker

          resume The Original Keychain Car Escape Tool

          1. In most commercial buildings, the windows will be safety glass, and shatter into bits when struck.

          2. @ Anon

            Those little car escape tools are good only for breaking “tempered” glass such as the glass on all autos except the front windshield. As far as window glass in a restaurant it’s a crap shoot if the glass will be tempered or not. “Code” calls for any glass less than 18″ from the floor or 24″ from a door to be tempered, other than that….

            But not a bad idea at all.

            NRP

          3. NRP

            good to know they only work on certain glass. Hadnt realized.

            Maybe someone (reading this blog) will be replacing some old windows, and can give it a try to let us all know how it works….

          4. NRP

            sorry, somehow I signed with NRP instead of Anon…(short on coffee no doubt)

  6. When we had the luxury of eating out, dh would always request where he had a visual of the door entrance, and all exits if possible. He was what one could call a people watcher who would not, after 4 tours in Nam, you learn to keep that habit even years later. If we need a restaurant dinner, I call in the order so it to be eaten at home. We still have dinner, but I do not have the dishes or mess to clean up. win-win Nice break for me :-)

    Yes, I am in and out of the place and a people watcher while paying for the meal(s).

  7. I would like to use this post as a tribute to a retired deputy of SLO county named Harold Hatley who was killed while eating lunch with his grand-kids at Denny’s of Pismo Beach back in April, 2006. He worked for POVE for a few years after he retired from the Sheriffs Dept.

    He was a 73 year old retiree when he tried to wrestle down an armed man who opened fire inside a diner within a county and state where it is difficult to obtain a carry permit. Being with his grand-kids, I know a lot of retired cops that don’t pack a gun when they are with their grand-kids. One could call him foolish, but he found himself in a no win situation and on that day. He was able to protect his grand-kids.

    I did not know him well but I met him and knew that he did not want to spend his last days in a Nursing Home.

    1. I remember that day vividly…did not know the man but, knew is son very well…admire him for standing up and fighting….that’s what I would have done. I couldn’t imagine just sitting there waiting to be shot!
      Pismo Resident:)

  8. To Chief Pontiac: It was nice of you to try educating the young cop. Did he still have creases pressed in his new uniform?

  9. There is a book called “The Survivor’s Club”, written by Ben Sherwood (2009) that recounts the true stories of people surviving situations that could/should have been deadly.

    Although the book focuses a lot on the will to live and people being fighters rather than quitters, it also talks about having the presence of mind to be aware of your surroundings in the first place. The book explains that there are certain (sometimes just common sense) things you can do to improve your odds of survival in a survivable emergency situation (recognizing that not every situation is survivable).

    An example similar to Ken’s restaurant seating, on an airplane (for those who still fly), you should not just be looking for where the front & rear exits are near you (always both) you should also count the exact number of rows to both emergency exits and make sure everyone with you knows those numbers as well.

    If a plane fills with smoke, it is hard to see the emergency lighting. The book also recommends sitting within 5 rows of an exit (but not a bulkhead seat) as statistics show that you have the best chance of surviving a survivable emergency when that close to an exit. In the case of where to sit on an airplane, it’s about being able to exit in less than 90 seconds and not being so far away from an exit that you are caught by smoke or flames (and panicking people) before you can get out.

    1. @ So Cal Gal

      I worked for a major Airline for 5 years, 3 years as a computer programmer and 2 years at the Maintenance Facility as a Manager. I will tell you right now, there is NO WAY IN HELL I will ever Ever EVER fly again….. Fill in the blanks as you will.

      NRP

  10. After 21 years of marriage my wife is finally getting accustomed to me searching out what we call the ‘gun fighter seat’ before we sit down.

  11. Having spent too much time in the Mid East (and never going back), I always remain very aware of the potential for flying glass from car bombs/explosions on the street.

    If possible, try to sit with something solid between your position and the glass, such as a pillar. My first year back I couldn’t go into a restaurant with a lot of glass windows, which made eating out almost impossible. Ate a lot of take away that year. Just my two cents worth.

    By the way, I’ve been a lurker for several years and this is my first addition as this issue stirred some memories. Thanks for all the good info on this site from everyone. I don’t agree with everything posted but I like to hear all viewpoints.

    1. Welcome to the site. I lurk a lot too and did so for about a year before posting. This site is always the first one I check. There is lots of great information.

    2. @ justaguy

      Well about time HAHAHAHA

      Ken does a heck of a GREAT job on his Blog here. Like you, I do like to see the varied viewpoints. Even though everyone else is wrong and I’m ALWAYS right. Ahhhhhh maybe not so much LOL.

      AND we do try to keep it “friendly” even with the varied views and temperament at times.

      BTW, Ken does have a way of getting it fired up at times with his articles :-) :-) :-)

      Thanks for posting.

      NRP

      PS; watch out for that NRP character, he’ll drive ya crazy HAHAHAHA Gata LOVE-IT.

    3. Welcome! I too was a lurker for a long time. After my first snarky comment I found that it was easier to make a second one and then after a while, here we are.

    4. It’s a common tactic to set off a small bomb inside a crowded venue, and then detonate the main charge as the panicked patrons flee, often toward a glass entrance that provides the attacker with shrapnel.

  12. Judging from the terrorist attacks thus far, they are looking for opportunities to attack where they can maximize the number of fatalities because that gets the headlines and also instill the fear factor so that our way of life will be adversely effected.

    One way our experts fight terrorists to is think of ways or anticipate the new ways that they might be considering. Our public highways is a potential source. I would urge each of you to contact your state politicians and highway Patrol to start limiting the time of day Hazardous cargo, fuels and chemicals, are allowed on the interstate systems, and only be allowed during OFF PEAK times of the day. Its just too easy for a valve to be opened on a tanker that’s stuck in traffic.

    I have sold the loading arms and platforms to access these over the road tankers and have watched hundreds loaded and unloaded. To be a driver of these tankers one needs to obtain a special drivers license classification, and as a part of that process I think a thorough back ground check should be required given the present day circumstances.

    If I can think of this happening, you can be certain the bad guys have already!!! To action on preventing something like this happening is TOO LATE after it happens once!!! Most states already have laws prohibiting wide loads on Interstates during peak traffic, so it can be done. If it means more tankers must travel at night, then so be it if it means saving lives!!!

    1. My brain just works that way. Maybe because I’m a writer. A cracked, open door isn’t just a door…it’s a plot point! :)

      When I took my CERT class one thing we did was terrorist scenarios. Each group had to come up with a terrorist scenario, and the other groups had to counter. It was fun, but it really made me think about how vulnerable our world is.

      When terror is the name of the game, you want to take out the most vulnerable target you can get to easily that will make the biggest splash.

    2. A friend who worked for a trucking company told me that the number of foreign (insert special group terrorizing the world here) truckers is growing by leaps and bounds. He said they usually own their own trucks, so the company they haul for has no jurisdiction over what’s in them (or if they change up what’s in their truck). He said they made sure they got all of the special certifications to carry hazardous cargo, etc. He noted that they were always first to take jobs on the US holidays, when US citizens would rather be home with family…Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. He would always try to give it to a US citizen first and avoid them. He pointed out all it took was a load of hazardous cargo at the base of each major interchange to cripple a city’s infrastructure…scary stuff. Needless to say, I don’t look at cloverleafs the same anymore…

      I agree, extensive background checks need to happen on all transportation workers.

      Keep an eye on our bridges!

      1. They also seem to have the highest percentage of shippers “forgetting” that they’re on site, “forgetting” to check them in, refusing to let them on site, taking forever to load, etc. Not surprisingly, they also have a high percentage of people abandoning their trucks or selling them and moving on. Not exactly a recipe for good relations.

        This is just based on my experience, of course.

  13. This site has really taught me to pay attention. I really appreciate Ken and all his great information. And everyone who contributes!

    I have been practicing situational awareness everywhere we go. I used to think that stuff like that could not happen around here. But it is getting closer and closer to home.

    @NRP…….I flew out of the country twice quite a few years ago. Didn’t bother me at all. Now the family wants to take a trip together to celebrate the kiddo graduating college. My gut is saying no flying. I don’t want to appear like a crazy lady. But my gut says not to go too far from home. I don’t know what to do. Ugh. Maybe I am being overly cautious.

    1. You’re not alone regarding that gut feeling!! I have just spent hours loading more supplies to go to my bug out location. The uneasy feeling is getting stronger as each week goes by. However we have to have faith in the fact that we do have a plan of action and are prepared better than most of the Sheeple.

    2. For me, part of that feeling is the knowledge that our world can’t keep going for much longer without major problems. But I’ve thought that before, and somehow we keep bouncing back.

      The rest of that feeling goes much deeper, and I can’t brush it off or question it. Something is coming. Something big. It’s going to change our world enormously in ways we probably can’t imagine.

      I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but I can’t take that risk.

      If you do end up going, make sure you pack your awareness and take it with you. I suspect it will be invaluable.

    3. Texasgirl

      One should always “listen to one’s gut”…

      Ask the person in question too, quite possibly there is something would like done with the group other than fly?….Maybe you all could go hunt Alligators or Snakes in the Everglades? Hear they are paying bounty…

  14. My wife takes that seat now when we go out. Good practice for her. We have a code under the table. Pushing on my knee let’s me know she watching someone. If she continues pushing even harder let’s me know she considers that person a potential threat. Gives me an edge on the situation.

    I agree it’s important to know what’s what and position is so important to your safety. I dislike standing in any type of line. You are vulnerable and I do whatever I can not to be in lines. Mostly because lines are usually in gun free zones. Something like bowling pins ready to be knocked down doesn’t appeal to me…

  15. Back to the wall, where you can see the entrance and exits.
    Learn to see the “tells” of carriers.
    Learn to read people.

  16. I had to go to a seminar for work with a crowd of people last week and sat near the exit in the last row of the room so I could observe 180 degrees of my surroundings of comings and goings and exit fast if need be. Bad thing was it was about man made global warming and I nodded off many times, bored to death. Being so far back they couldn’t see me bouncing my head either.

    1. I like those seats because I can lean my head back against the wall and no one knows I’m sleeping. :)

      1. @Lauren; Yeah, they don’t know you’re sleeping. Until the snoring begins. Then you’re the laughing stock of the whole meeting. LOL. Been there done that!

  17. I always try to keep an eye on entrances and exits on the rare occasions that we go out. Generally we do the take out thing because I hate crowds, we have two kids, and no tip!
    This may seem a little weird but I always try to have something on the table that I can hurl in someone’s face if I needed to. Carafe of water, pot of coffee, never ending salad bowl, whatever. I’ve never needed to do it but I figure in a pinch it would buy me a couple extra seconds.

  18. I worked for a prison for 31 years and change. We ALWAYS kept our back to a wall and knew the way out. Now, I carry 24 7, I am fortunate to have a not-restricted permit, good in “Gun Free” zones.

    BI

    1. I worked in a California state prison and as a parole agent in Los Angeles county.
      Liked to have a wall behind me also. I still don’t like having people walk up behind me.

  19. I mentioned this topic to my sister. She immediately said “Away from the entrance, close to the kitchen, but NOT by the emergency exit because that would be the first place to be targeted.”

    The subject came up because she had to deal with a creeper yesterday and we were talking situational awareness. She flashed her knife (to cut a thread off her shirt) and he immediately had other things to do. :)

  20. I’ve done this for years but mostly for the fire escape routs in a crowded place–more now for personal security reasons.

    1. always away from the main entrance.
    2. keep you back to a wall or partition.
    3. choose a seat if possible near a fire escape route or kitchen entrance.

    If there is a “no weapons” notice posted, I usually ignore it and make a mental note not to go back to the same place. The choice is yours.

    Have a wonderful 4th.

  21. I’ve been sort of a history buff since I was really little (I’m 29 now), especially the Old West (U.S.) in my childhood. One of the first things I learned about some of my favorite Western characters was actually my first really big lesson in situational awareness; I learned that all the great (i.e. successful) lawmen and gamblers/outlaws had a similar unique practice in a crowded room, usually a saloon: they sat towards the back of the room, more towards the bar and away from the natural obstacles in the room like beams or stairs, with their back to the wall and with as much of a full view of the room as possible, including the entry to the room. I’ve carried this lesson with me all of my life and, while I haven’t always strictly adhered to it, I think that the “old ways” taught me best.

  22. Just looking at that picture gives me the willies. Uuughh. All that glass, suspended lights and fans, apparently a glass ceiling. I’d walk in, look around, and go find somewhere else to eat just because of how crowded it is!

  23. Wow! We were just talking about safety in a restaurant and ISIS held hostages in a Bangladesh restaurant. They rescued 14 but 6 were killed.At least they wacked all the terrorist…

  24. Had lunch today with wife and daughter at a new restaurant.(Food was just OK) I’ve got a broken knee and am now limited to where I can sit, because of the attached accoutrement for “healing”. Picked a table in a corner near the server’s entrance into the kitchen. Figured I could hobble out that way if needed. All three of us were legally carrying as well.Im not going to “go quietly” at all.

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