Happy Hour Rules
I don't drink - maybe two beers a year, max. No wine (though I cook with it) and nothing harder (except for cooking/baking). When dining out, my preference is for water (actually, that's my preference at home, too), though occasionally I'll order a soda or an iced tea.
I've friends who like to gather for various Happy Hours and while I like to join them (and have become quite addicted to certain HH offerings), I always feel "odd" when I don't order a drink but partake of either the free buffet or the reduced-cost items from the menu. No-one's (server-wise) has ever said anything to me, but I have gotten some decidedly not-approving looks when I've ordered a soda rather than a "drink." I dread to think what kind of a look I'd get if I when into one of these places on my own and didn't order a drink but did order discounted food. (I do tip well at HH - usually >30%, thinking that I'm making-up for the reduced prices.)
Comments? Ideas? Insight into restaurant policies?
Jfood thinks eveyone needs to get over the "I gotta order" syndrome. When you go shopping and something is on sale do you buy a sale item and a regular priced item? Jfood doesn't. So when you go to an HH event and the resto offers food at a discounted price, it's a business decision that they will turn a newbie into a return custo, it's called a loss leader.
Wrt feeling guilty about ordering water. Jfood does not drink wine or liquor and no amount of peer pressure or dirty glances is going to change that. Do i order a sparkling water, yup. My colleagues understand and if the server has an issue, too bad, life's too short. And ordering a virgin anything is blah!! Jfood will save the calories for the chocolate dessert. :-)))
I certainly don't think it's weird to not order alcohol at a happy hour (though I would certainly never do it :D ), especially if you're in a group and together will be spending money in a place you wouldn't go if there wasn't a happy hour at all. I DO think it'd be a bit odd to take part in a free buffet without ordering SOMETHING, but as to whether anyone in the establishment says something to you probably depends on how cranky they are and if it's a big successful spot or a smaller one scraping by.
If you were one of my friends and didn't want to drink, I wouldn't care, but I'd definitely give dish out some good-natured ribbing about it. Then again, my friends know that when I invite them to a happy hour, it's probably going to turn into an all-night thing.
Since I don't drink or cook with alcohol, there's nothing I can do to change, and like you, my preference is water, but I will order Coke or iced tea. One time, my manager and her employees went to HH (me included). She told them she would buy them one drink, looked at me and said, "You can order as many Cokes as you want." While I ordered three Cokes, my co-workers/manager ordered at least three alcoholic drinks at about $9/each. They're supplementing my share is how I would see it. Although I didn't organize this get together, I easily could have, so an attitude could have lost them over $100.
I guess one idea would be to order a virgin daiquiri/pina colada. I've done that before but don't like to because there's probably 400 calories in that vs. about 150 in a 12 oz. Coke. I could nurse three Cokes instead!
I do happy hour with the girls once a week and really enjoy it. When one of us chooses not to drink that night, she still throws in money to help cover food/tip. If you are with a few people and your group is ringing up a tab, the discounted prices are for everyone. I would think, however, that going alone and eating from a free buffet would not be cool.
I don't think that you should be compelled to have an alcohol beverage at happy hour to enjoy the happy hour prices on food. I do believe that since the food is at a greater discount that the tip for the server should be compensated for such as > 30%. If you follow that rule I don't think anyone should comment on what you choose to drink or not to drink. It's no one's business whether you drink or not, you just want to enjoy the relaxing atmosphere with your friends.