I'll define large parties as a party of 8 or more. If the server can add gratuity to your check due to the number of people you have, you're a large party.
Large parties are generally harder to seat, especially in small, one-dinningroom restaurants. Usually, more than one table is required to accommodate large parties, which can be inconveniante during busy nights like weekends. It is especially bothersome to the hostesses when you simply walk in with your large party during a busy time without have called ahead to warn them.
Two weeks in a row, on a Friday or Saturday night, around 8 (which is usually the middle of the wait), a party of 20 or 25 came in and wanted to know how long it would be. *Deep, calming breath* Now, already the wait is about a half an hour for regular sized parties (anywhere from 1-7 people) waiting for one table each, a party of 20 or 25 requires between 4 to 6 tables depending on what combination of the different sizes used (for example, 2 six tops and 2 four tops will hold 20, or you could do 5 four tops, or for the 25 you could do 3 six tops or 2 six tops and 3 four tops, etc.). I didn't even have to look at the rest of the dinningroom to make a quote for parties that size.
"It's going to be at least an hour." I said.
And this happened two weeks in a row! I doubt it was the same party though, although people in my area seem to be dumb enough to make that mistake twice. The first week, the party had sent two people ahead to either put a name on the list or get a table for the rest of them. After I told these two people how long it was going to be, at the least, they went out into our little entryway and talked to the rest of their party on a cell phone. I came so close to going out there and saying to them, "Look folks, I know you're not going to stay here, and I don't blame you a bit, but wherever you do choose to go, call ahead first because you are going to get the same wait, or longer, that I just gave you with a party that size and no warning."
The second week this happened, I believe it was a birthday party and it was a bunch of teenagers that must have just decided on a whim, "Hey, it's Saturday night, let's all go out and eat", giving little thought to the size of their party and thinking that our restaurant would have been able to seat them right away. I don't know about other restaurants, but we always have five or six tables that we keep open for large parties who come in on impulse and give us no warning whatsoever. Not.
What do I mean by warning? I mean call ahead and tell the restaurant that you're coming! Especially with parties in the double digits, calling ahead on a busy night does a lot of good. Some restaurants will even take advanced reservations for large parties (like 20 or 25). If you call even the day before and say, "Hey, I've got a party of 15 and we'll be coming in around 7 o'clock tomorrow" that's great! Now the hostesses know that a larger party is coming in and they'll be able to do their best to have something set up when you get there. Isn't that better for everyone? You get to eat with ALL of your friends or family at your favorite restaurant and the hostesses can prepare and don't have to deal with 15 angry and hungry people. Not all places take reservations, but that does not mean that warnings are not appreciated or welcomed! If the hostesses know large parties are coming in, it's less crap they have to catch about the wait being too long, the restaurant makes lots of money, and everybody's happy.