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We are only having drinks, but you don't want our business

  • s

The scene:A mid sunday afternoon on the east side of Broadway and 64th. A party of six asks the hostess at Josephina's if they can sit outside. There are perhaps 16 tables, half are taken. She asks "are you eating or having just drinks". We reply "just drinks". She says that outside tables are for dining only. No one feels like arguing-we leave, hot and angry, never ever to go to Josephina's again.

Should we have lied, sat down, ordered drinks and simply never ordered food? This was not a busy time of day (post brunch, pre dinner)-why could she have not sat us?

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  1. Hey, did you think of telling her something on the order of "We have dinner reservations at 8:00 at Cafe des Artistes and will be leaving around then." A party of 6 and they have 16 tables...hmmmm that's 1/3 of their outside area. As diners/drinkers we should try communicating a little. You might have had the lovely outside cocktail hour you had planned. who knows?

    5 Replies
    1. re: poet

      The hostess wasn't too smart. Unless she thought you were tourists from Iowa or somewhere, and would never come back. She turned you and your group away, and you will never come back. Not for drinks, not for food.
      The thing is, you have to let management know that they lost six possible customers. To a small restaurant, losing six repeat customers, especially if they live in the area, could be devastating. But, they have to know what they lost, due to this bad business judgement on their part.

      1. re: walter

        They didn't just lose these 6 customers. They'll lose some other customers who will hear/read this story and decide to boycott as well.


        1. re: Marge

          The hostess should have at least had a legitimate reason (as Heather below points out) for not serving alcohol outside. Otherwise, this was a bad move on her part. Obviously she was just following some arbitrary rule set by management. But to blow off ANY potential business, in a city where filling every chair and every table at every meal is crucial to a restaurant's survival, is foolhardy.

          1. re: Cheflambo

            Eh, I've seen the "this area is only if you're going to eat" thing as well - usually at pubs and such places though. The thing is, at the places I've seen it, most of their $$$ is being made from the booze anyways so I've never really understood it.

            If I'm at a place where it isn't explicit but I know they very much prefer you to order food I'll usually make a point to leave a menu, we'll be there for a while and will probably be ordering something as the night goes on (and we usually do).

            1. re: jgg13

              that was my take on it jgg, I've always understood the mark-up and lack of effort required make drinks much more profitable than food.

              plus a tipsy (not wasted mind you) customer is usu. (usu.) a cheerful and generous one IME. tipsy=tips.

    2. j
      Josh Mittleman

      No, you should not have lied. You could have said "If you let us sit here and order drinks, we'll be happy to leave as soon as you need the table." That sometimes works when you have a waiter who understands that her job is making money for her boss, not blindly following rules.

      1. Ask to speak with the restaurant manager even insist on it unless you simply do not want to deal
        many hostesses are following the rules of their managers/owners and of course you can let them know, if they need the table you will get up and go to the bar.

        1. Why be angry? The waitress, it sounds like, was doing what she was told. It also sounds like she was polite. Either go sit at the bar, or ask to see the manager, or just go elsewhere. But Josephina's is a restaurant, not a bar.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Peter

            disagree.. bar customers can be potential dinner customers. Maybe they liked the atmosphere, or like the drinks here.

            Unless you have a restaurant like Steve Hanen's (Blue Water, Coconut Grill, Park Avalon, Ocean Grill , Isabella's etc) whose customers are exploding onto the sidewalk, BAD business attitude to turn people away.

            1. re: niki

              After a few drinks you tend to get the munchies too. Drinks could've lead to deserts or something.


          2. I have known restaurants in CA that are not allowed to serve alcoholic beverages outside if their patio is not included in the liquor license.
            Maybe this could have been a logistical problem and not a slight.

            1. The hostess did the right thing, however she could have handled it better. The hostess should have allowed you to have drinks outside under the condition that should the table be needed for dining guest, you would have to move. This way, she could have made you happy, made the restaurnt look fuller/more popular to the walkers-by, and potentially generate dinner revenue for the restaurnt should the guests change their minds.

              1. Some places do not want JUST drinkers on the sidewalk.

                1. I would have left hot and hungry never ever to return to Josephina's again. There are only 25,000 other places in the city to go to for drinks......................

                  1. That's probably not the wisest business move. I'm thinking that the only reason they did this is because they don't want people just having drinks during prime time. If they accommodated you, I can see the potential for causing a problem in the future as you would say that you were seated outside before with no problem just ordering cocktails.

                    I think the smartest thing would have been to seat you outside but stipulate that they're just doing this because it's not prime time.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      This really does lead to the ubiquitous, "You did it for me last time" whine.
                      Why do people always think the rules apply to everybody but them?

                      Obviously, something has caused this restaurant to eliminate just-drinkers on their patio. This has been done for a reason, and was a conscious decision. Unfortunately, a few people have ruined things for everyone.

                      My suggestion is going to a bar for cocktails only. No one's going to force you to eat at a bar.

                    2. The restaurant I work for has this rule. It's to prevent a table being taken up for hours and producing a $15 tab. Also to prevent tired tourists from camping out and ordering two iced teas with free refills. I'm not saying I agree with the policy but I do understand why it's enforced. I've had a few tables sneak through and I don't really mind as long as they continue to order more drinks. It's not hard to run up a $100 tab just in drinks. Just make it worth my while and I'll let you stay.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Stillwater Girl

                        That makes sense. Whenever I"ve been foiled by these policies we were never there for just a pair of iced teas, that's for sure ... but they can't know that in advance.

                        1. re: Stillwater Girl

                          Easy enough to charge a uniform per person minimum at the outside tables, regardless of what is ordered (food or drink - a person could just order an app and sit for some time, too).

                        2. Basic customer service rule: you treat everyone equally well, whether they are in the store for a ten dollar purchase or a thousand dollar purchase. It would behoove restauranteurs to apply the same principle. If your reputation becomes one of "You only get treated well if you're buying a lot" (and believe you me, news of bad service travels a HELL of a lot faster than news of good service), then the clientele you turn away for only wanting drinks will never be back when the day arrives that they do want to spend several hundred on a nice dinner.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: doctorx777

                            >>Basic customer service rule: you treat everyone equally well, whether they are in the store for a ten dollar purchase or a thousand dollar purchase. It would behoove restauranteurs to apply the same principle.

                            Brilliant, doctorx777! All the restaurants in all the world should make up a sign with the above and put it up somewhere they could see it every minute of the day.

                            I find it so very amusing that chefs and owners and managers and servers and customers would think otherwise.

                            1. re: doctorx777

                              >Basic customer service rule: you treat everyone equally well ...
                              the world is a complicated place and these kinds of simple one line maxims
                              might be a starting point, but they arent the be all and end all.

                              the subtle part is here is amartya sen's "equality of what" question.

                              yes, i think it would be obnoxious if say a two grad student looking types
                              were walkins before a wealthy gentleman in an expensive car with a trophy
                              wife walked in but the two grad students were bumped from the first avail
                              table. on the other hand if a resto wants to comp a regular there for an
                              anniversary or send out an amuse to somebody getting a tasting menu
                              but not the person get getting a dish of pasta, it is not clear to me they have
                              not been treated "equally well".

                              there is a difference between treating people differently for immutable factors
                              [say their race], or reasons irrelevant to the dining relationship and treating
                              people differnently for "defensible reasons" without resorting to being obnoxious.

                              i could see variants of a policy like "parties will not be seated until the whole
                              party has arrived" which are reasonable and unreasonable but may prima facie
                              apepar to be cases of treating people differently.

                              do you think the same food should be served in first class and coach?
                              i dont have a proble with that. allthough godforbid if something "bad" happened
                              on the flight, first class doesnt have a right to be evacuated first or get more
                              oxygen etc.

                              etc etc

                              1. re: doctorx777

                                especially in NYC where they guy in the ripped jeans might just be a multi billion dollar ceo.

                                1. re: doctorx777

                                  Agreed totally! That's how I've always done my job, and this is for my employers. I think everyone should strive for this anyway as a work ethic. I believe somehow you will be rewarded.

                                2. They would make a great deal more from "just drinks" - consider the profit margin vs the amount of time the table would probably be occupied.

                                  1. I concur with Heather, above. I'm not familiar with NYC liquor laws but in WA, booze is a state monopoly, and there are all sorts of squirrelly laws and rules about what establishments can serve beer/wine v. hard liquor, where on the premises the booze is permitted, the fact that the type of license you hold depends % of revenues that come from food v. booze, and on and on. It wouldn't surprise me here in WA if a restaurant could serve booze on the patio only to folks who were also ordering food.

                                    1. In Boston, it would probably be a violation of the restaurant's license to serve only drinks at an outside table. Perhaps that was the case with this restaurant.

                                      Here, as far as I know, outside tables are licensed for dining with accompanying beverages but not of drinking alone.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: BostonZest

                                        That might be true but I know that I've done it many times.

                                      2. Ah yes, the joy of sitting at Josephina's outdoor cafe, inhaling bus exhaust between sips of one's cocktail.

                                        1. I guess if I had *really* wanted to stay and have drinks, I would have ordered a cheese plate and/or some other nosh, then ordered drinks. No big deal and no rules or laws being broken.

                                          1. Ahh, I have you beat...we were at Hi-Life on the Upper West side on a Sunday (we are regulars). We sat down around 2pm with the intention to order food and drinks. We got menus and they were only serving brunch, we were more in the food for lunch/sushi. The restaurant at that time was empty but our waitress still seemed put off. over the course of the next hour we spent quite a bit on drinks and the waitress brought us our bill, explained her shift was over and had added a 20% gratuity. Fine, we paid it, even though she was rude and ignored us for not ordering food.

                                            Act II
                                            brings our new waitress. We ordered food, 2 more friends joined us, we are now a table of 8. I ordered a sushi entree, as I am going to the bathroom, I see it sitting in the sushi bar. I return and my entree is still on the bar. Everyone else has their food, yet we are missing utensils, condiments and any sushi order we had coming up. Our waitress is sitting at a table eating. We had to flag someone down to get our food and utensils.
                                            We get the check, and assume that yet again the tip had been included (otherwise why would you be so daft as a waitstaff person?) and we pay the bill. As we were leaving, and the rest of ur group had already gone the manager comes up to us and demands to know why we didn't leave a larger tip, was there a problem with the service, etc?? I started to explain that we thought the gratuity was included as it had been with our previous check. The waiter/manager said that they don't always include it on the bill and my husband who hates to make a scene or ever seem cheap with waitstaff ended up adding $40 to the bill as an added tip. IMO if the waitress would rather eat her lunch than take care of her table she doesn't deserve a 20% tip. Especially when the place is empty and we spent quite a bit of money, I was actually surprised she had the gall to complain to her manager, when we were the ones that should have complained, I felt since we didn't order a ton of food, we were treated differently. I should also note, we left by around 6pm, so were were never at the restaurant during a busy time. There were always a bunch of empty tables!

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: SweetPea914

                                              20% for shoddy service. did you tell the manager about the service? and you are regulars and get treated like crap? man, i'd find another place that treats me well as a regular.

                                            2. While I'm not from NYC, I have had occasion to have cocktail(s) at an outside cafes; sometimes with food, sometimes without. The last time was 2 years ago, so, in their defense, as has been suggested - there could have been a change in local liquor laws.

                                              If you're the revengeful type, I'd recommend finding a group of about 20 to go back next Sunday and respond with "we're hear to dine". I'd then recommend ordering the cheapest appetizer on the menu, with tap water to drink. Happily pay my bill with the sweetest southern drawl ever and merrily walk away with a "good riddance". Of course, this would be only if you're the revengeful type.....or have way too much time on your hands :)

                                              In the real world I would check the local liquor laws to make sure there wasn't a legal reason for this seemingly bizarre treatment. If there is no legal reason for this, I would lodge a formal complaint with the management and make sure all of my friends, acquaintances and co-workers heard the story.

                                              1. Sounds to me like there is an issue with Sunday drinkers at the establishment...

                                                I once worked for a place that really didn't have the staff for chasing outdoor tables for those that could quickly consume drinks on a Sunday.

                                                Dumb food and beverage laws, make it harder to please the customer and whatever State you are in. Unfortunately people get turned away and never get the full story that only takes place in back rooms.

                                                1. I can imagine a reason the restaurant may not want lots of people just having drinks outside at midafternoon. Suppose I'm walking by, see the nice patio with lots of tables of people just having drinks. Suppose in fact I'm thinking of having a light meal. I see all those non-eating people and (even subconsciously) think "oh, I guess they aren't serving food right now". I may not even get to the point of going to check the menu/times/etc. It just sends a message that "food isn't available right now". So sure, if lots are eating and one table is just drinking this wouldn't occur, but the restaurant may be drawing a line because how do they say: "sorry you can't have just drinks because we already have three tables just having drinks". That would make even less sense.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: DGresh

                                                    Why take $200.00 in food revenue at the expense of $2000.00 in alchohol revenu?

                                                  2. Restaurants have every right to make rules for their customers. I have every right to make rules for the restaurants where I am a customer. One of my rules is: If you refuse to serve me, I will gladly give my money to some other establishment. Simple system that works very well.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. I was with my sister and brother-in-law a couple weeks ago on a Monday in midtown Manhattan. It was about 4:30 and we were walking from Central Park to Bryant Park to meet my boyfriend after his work day before heading home to Brooklyn to have dinner out. We were done being tourists for a little while, and wanted to get some quick drinks and talk and share pictures before we had to meet my bf at 5:30. We walked into some random restaurant that looked inexpensive and asked the host if it was alright for us to have a drink or two. She said that would be fine and cheerfully showed us a table. The waiter, however, was not pleased. He brought us menus, which I'm assuming the hostess didn't on purpose, and when we explained that we just wanted drinks, he rolled his eyes. My sister said with a laugh, "Oh, is that okay? We promise we're really good tippers, and we won't stay long." He walked away without saying anything. He returned with water, and we ordered two martinis and some kind of imported beer. He never really warmed up, but we were tired and the drinks were good, so we stayed for two rounds. We tipped the guy alright, but left the bartender extra.

                                                      I wonder if we shouldn't have just left.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: alysonlaurel

                                                        love that waiter! ;-) i'm sure at 4:30 the place was just packed, and you were depriving him of big tip revenue from serving meals. ...... not.

                                                      2. In contrast, my coworker just told me about this bar near our workplace. I think it's something like Billy and Roy's Bar in Oakland. This bar, which also serves food, is next door to a very small pizza/italian restaurant (dive type of place) with about 4 tables doing mostly take out business and is very warm and stuffy (the air, not the workers). The bar allows people who buy from this restaurant to eat at his bar if they buy a drink (soda, etc.)! It's great publicity, people come back for dinner because it's always packed after 5:00, and it makes the place cozy and filled up during lunch time. Of course the owner is in charge and always there, but here my coworker was impressed enough to share the story with me, and I'm sharing the story... with the world!

                                                        1. Maybe thats not the scene they wanted for other customers to see. A bunch of drunks outside.

                                                          1. People here are assuming that everyone is as courteous as we are. We're on a board that focuses on food/restaurants, so we know the rules and norms. Most people do not. So, while we may only have drinks, not linger without ordering something new, and tip generously, many wont. Many people will order 1 drink each, nurse it, and need refills of free water. If there is free bread to be had, they may want that too.
                                                            Where I work, we have a 3 table section. We're very focused on customer service, hence the small section. On any given night, having 1 or 2 tables of campers can cut your income in half. Rarely, and I mean RARELY do people say, "Thank you letting us hold this table so long" and tip you to offset the time. In a year and a half it's happened to me twice. Maybe three times. We have bar tables, and while the restaurant has people waiting, the bar tables are for dining only. It simply isn't fair to the diners who are standing around hungry and want dinner, nor is it fair to a server for lost a 4-top to a $22 check. Sure, we can take the attitude that a customer has the right to order whatever they want, but servers losing money consistently will result in high turnover. No one really benefits from that.
                                                            Also, some restaurants do not want to encourage a party atmosphere. It's a restaurant, not a bar. The bar is there to compliment the menu. If it's a place with a margarita machine, it's another story.
                                                            Once again, this rule is only in place when we are on a wait. If the place is empty and there isn't hungry people lingering in the lobby, we encourage people to sit where they want, order what they want, take their time. I see both sides here.