If you wander through the West End nowadays you're likely to find a queue around every corner. In fact if there isn't one you'll probably ask what's wrong with a place. Nikki Spencer reports

When it comes to food we don't like to queue, according to restaurant manager Darrell Minton. Unfortunately queues are a fact of life if you want to eat out in the capital and they're not just confined to the centre of town.

At Eco, the pizza restaurant that Darrell runs in Clapham, they're fully booked every night but people still queue for up to an hour in the hope that someone won't show or will finish their meal early.

"On Sundays, we sometimes have 30 people waiting outside before we're even open," Darrell maintains.

With the growth in queue culture, you'd think that restaurants liked the idea - after all it means a constant stream of customers and it makes them appear popular, but this is strenuously denied by Planet Hollywood's Guy Laurence.

"We don't create queues for the sake of it. We've moved on from the day when queuing was part of the experience. We'd much prefer people inside spending money."

So why can't people just book?

"Booking systems don't work for more casual restaurants like ours - either people don't turn up or they're late. We just feel it is wrong to hold an empty table when someone else could be using it."

QUEUE-BUSTING TIPS

Hard Rock Cafe, 150 Park Lane, W1 (0171-629 0382) Quieter between 11.30- 12.30pm and 2-7pm

Eco, 162 Clapham High St, SW4 (0171-978 1108) If you want to chance it, go between 6.30-8pm except on Sunday

Planet Hollywood, Coventry St, W1 (0171-287 1000) Avoid at 12.30pm and 8.30pm.

Wagamama, 10a Lexington St, W1 (0171-292 0970) and 40, Streatham St, WC1 0171 323 9223

Busy around 12.30-2pm and 6.30-10pm but the canteen style means the queues move quickly.

Rainforest Cafe, 20 Shaftesbury Avenue, W1 (0171-434 3111) Very busy at weekends; get there before noon or at 4.30pm Saturdays

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