How to best deal with cliques at the table during “downtime”?

How to best deal with cliques at the table during “downtime”?

I know that it’s natural that some players will develop stronger bonds with other players at an RPG table. This is a natural course of both in-game role-playing as well as talking out of character (OOC).

However, I’ve come across a couple of tables, where pairs of players tend to role-play and chat OOC much more than usual, to the exclusion of other members of the party/group. This tends to happen more during “downtime” where the party splits up in a town and they go about doing their own thing, e.g. doing errands or follow their interests such as going to an Arcana, or Curio or Venom merchant. It is worth pointing out that in both campaigns the “downtime” is carried out at the table.

The way this happens is that one will say to the GM “I want to go find some spider venom” and the other says “I’ll come with you.” Then a similar things happens with another pair. This tends to happen where there is an odd number of players, so that one gets left out. The DM gives individual time/attention to each of the pairs and the ones left out gets asked too obviously. There might be an element of “not being assertive” in that the player could say “I’ll come along too” (which is what I would do) but it inevitably tends to happen with the player that are newer or more shy. They end up getting bored waiting for the others to finish all their fun things they are doing in downtime. In general I wouldn’t see this as a problem if it was 10-20 minutes, this whole process can take up to two hours at the table! The pairs engage in lengthy role-playing – the others just chat about things totally unrelated to the game in the meantime.

In your answer I would really appreciate some helpful suggestions drawing on GM strategies and expertise to deal with this situation? I’d also appreciate pointing towards answers in other similar questions, or published suggestions on about how to best deal with this?

Bear in mind things that I could actually mention to the GMs.

Thank you for your knowledge.