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Offered Free Drink to Non-Drinkers. What to do?

M&M jfood had a reso at a very well known resto. There was a minor guffaw on the resto part (no biggie) and it was immediately fixed. The manager came over to the table to apologize and offer a pre-dinner drink to the jfood. They thanked his for the kind offer and mentioned they were both non-drinkers and there was no need.

Should the jfoods have accepted the drink and left it untouched on the tabel or did they do the proper thing and thanked him for offer and declined?

Just curious on the various points of view.


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  1. I think you handled the situation properly. Where is the sense in leaving drinks untouched?

    1. "We don't drink - might we have an app instead?" Not that you were wrong but perhaps there was a better alternative.

      3 Replies
      1. re: rich in stl

        I think you did the right thing. But I think the restaurant should've comped you something else. Not fair not to give the same courtesy to you just because you don't drink. Coffee? An app to share? Dessert?
        My guess is if it WAS a big deal (like you said it wasn't) maybe you should have just said "We don't drink" not the "No thank you, there's no need" part and they might have gotten a more subtle hint. I'd have NEVER asked (ie as above) personally but that's just me.

        1. re: rich in stl

          imho, there is little tackier than making a counter-offer when offered something on the house. (of course, there is flat-out asking for something for free, but that's another thread...) i'm in the business and frequently will get sent something free. i never say, "gee i don't like chocolate, could i have a cheese plate instead?"

          the jfoods don't drink and declined graciously. his words indicated no further compensation was expected or necessary.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            i agreed. i still think it's unfortunate that the HOUSE didn't counter. i mean it's not like they said no thank you i don't like duck... i think they should have offered coffee or tea at the end of the meal at least for another option. but i feel the jfoods were appropriate.
            just stated that if you DON'T mean that it's not necessary to do something to compensate (which if you post here about it you might not - although i'm not questioning jfood's integrity - it's just that i live in the south and a lot of folks say things like "that's alright my dear you don't have to go out of your way" and don't mean it.) so if you really think something should be comped for poor service then don't say the "that's not necessary" part. it may encourage the house to do something without your having to ask and leave you less likely to leave with a bad taste in your mouth.

        2. Sounds like M&Mjfoods acted with honor respect and dignity. To take the drink only to leave waste is very rude. If you felt, as you seems to have, that the offer in itself was enought, all is well. If perhaps, you did wish something, the polite, we do not drink but please see us for dessert, I think is also respectful.

          1. "Do you have anything non-alcoholilc? We don't drink alcohol."

            Not hard. Not hard at all.

            1. you did the proper thing- to take a drink and just waste it would be a shame.

              another suggestion- you could have ordered a fruit juice, tea, or soda.

              1. With the info you provided, the jfoods took the only reasonable and courteous action.

                Although I am a little bit surprised the manager didnt offer something else instead but you said it was a minor miscue and the manager did apologize. If the jfoods enjoyed their meal then nothing else was necessary.

                1. 'Thank you for the offer, can we have a fruit juice/ginger ale/whatever beverage you fancy please?' They offered a drink and it shouldn't be any skin off their nose if you don't require alcohol in it!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Kajikit

                    I tihnk this is the right approach. I might even have said, "Oh, we don't drink alcohol but we'd love a diet coke and a tea" or whatever. I personally think that offering an alcoholic beverage is NOT the best way to address service gaffes (for precisely the reason that not everyone drinks, and some people can't drink for medical, religious or other important reasons) and that telling them you don't drink may remind them that perhaps it would be more politic to offer something other than alcohol next time...

                    Or better yet, for this reason, personally I prefer it when restaurants comp me something I've already ordered (perhaps the appetizer, or the drink if I do order one, or whatever) rather than bringing me something I didn't order. Specifically, I was really annoyed once when a restaurant (after a service gaffe that was much more than minor) brought me a dessert with bananas in it (I NEVER eat bananas)...so I still had to order dessert to get what I wanted.(and the banana dessert went uneaten). Since both desserts cost the same, how much better it would have been had they just told me when they brought whatever I ordered, 'this is on us'...It took an opportunity to make up for problems and turned it into the final straw that I remember whenever I think of going to that place again...

                  2. Jfood stated the manager offered a "pre-dinner drink" so it seems to me that any beverage could have been ordered - a juice, a ginger ale or other soft drink, an iced tea.

                    I don't drink and in one restaurant I've frequented, the manager brings over an after-dinner cordial and I then explain I don't drink. They don't offer something else - they are not used to, or not sensitive to non-drinkers, but I've never asked for a substitute. By this time the check has arrived and I believe it would be tacky to ask for a dessert or cappucino or whatever else in place of the drink. So I think the OP had it right by not accepting the drink. It was up to the manager to offer a substitute.

                    Increasingly, restaurants are offering something other than booze to make up for a gaffe However, people sometimes have such a sense of entitlement that a drink on the house seems to mollify them and soften the edges.

                    1. If the gaffe was worthy of a before dinner drink it was worthy of a substitute of like kind. It is surprising that an apparently concerned manager would not be sensitive to a non-drinker's refusal and offer something else. Could be M&M jfood convinced him they really didn't feel that was necessary and they were strong enough in their refusal that he didn't want to insist. I think it may be one of those things where you 'had to be there'.

                      1. I agree with the majority (if not all) of the previous posters. The jfoods handled it appropriately and I'm surprised the manager didn't offer an appetizer or dessert or something in a similar vein in response.

                        1. I think you handled the situation with class. To take drinks, when you don't drink, would have been wasteful. I do think the restaurant should have then offered coffee/dessert, but that is just what I would have done if on the restaurant end of things.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: SweetPea914

                            i had a guest once who didn't like his entree. away from his table, he literally held me by the arm, and in a fierce whisper insisted i do nothing to compensate, because he didn't want his guests to know. he was kinda scary. i planned on sending dessert anyway. before i could do anything, he snapped for his check, and went ballistic on the way out that i had done nothing to make up for his dinner --which he had consumed entirely, btw.

                            on the other less extreme hand, when i say i don't want anything else, i really mean it. management being too insistent on force-feeding me can be bothersome as well.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              There's a term in the restaurant industry for that kind of guest that you experienced... jerks. Actually, we use different words, but those are best not uttered in polite company.

                          2. I think you did the right thing jfood, but I think it is rude to counter with wanting something else.

                            I remember offering a customer some middle eastern pastries on the house to try them out and they said no thanks we will have cheesecake instead! How rude was that IMO!

                            1. Boyfriend and I went out to eat recently and there was a mix up in the kitchen and our order got very very delayed (we had already had appitizers). The manager asked us if we'd like a glass of wine or a dessert. We thanked him but we were meeting people for drinks after so didn't really want wine then and were too stuffed for dessert. The only thing that seemed odd to us was they didnt take the soda/tea off the menu after offering us a complimetnary drink. It was still okay, jsut a bit odd.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: jes

                                No need to have taken a drink and not touched it. I'm sure if you asked for two pops instead it wouldn't have been a problem. But, you don't seem peeved by what happened so take their offer as gracious enough.

                                1. re: Rick

                                  There seems to be an assumption that "drink" implies alcohol. I guess it depends on the context. We all have probaly used the term "we're going out drinking" and it does not refer to soda. I do think that when the offer was made if you had replied, " a couple of club sodas would be great" everyone would have been satisfied.

                                  1. re: TonyO

                                    To me, a drink doesn't have to be alcoholic. A drink is a drink. I find it quite perplexing that many people associate drinks with alcohol. There have been many times I've gone out with people for "drinks" where I order a mineral water, etc.

                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                      I agree with your statement. I guess the act of "going out drinking" somewhere along the line become associated with alcohol consumption, at least for some of the crowd. For example: "We're going out drinking Friday night, who is going to be the designated driver" ?

                              2. As a fellow non drinker, no. Asked for a non alcoholic drink instead. Thanks I appreciate that, but can I have an ice tea instead?

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: PeterL

                                  I agree but don't think I would even use the word "instead". A predinner drink to me is an ice tea more often than not and I would have thanked the restaurant and ordered an ice tea.

                                2. I would have asked for either appetizer or cappaccino's at end of meal

                                  1. I would order a non-alcoholic drink or, if not interested, simply say that I didn't drink. I think it is a bit unusual the management didn't pursue it but, as you say, you did state that nothing was necessary.

                                    I would NEVER (and I am sure you would not, either) request something else, like an app or dessert, as some have suggested. That strikes me as quite rude. After all, the management is offering a gift, effectively. Reminds me of a story my mom told me recently - she and her husband sent a long-distance relative of his a wedding present. The bride mailed it back with a "thank you" note asking them to return it and give them the cash instead!

                                    1. As with most of the other posters, I think you handled it very well, and the original issue was obviously not a major enough gaffe to interfere with your enjoying the rest of the meal. It is always nice to be offered, and often the gesture itself is adequate to offset the original issue. Words such as "Thank you so much, but we are just having club soda (insert beverage of choice) tonight." may have elicited a different response from the manager without you actually suggesting a substitute - or you may have ended up with free club soda.

                                      1. Often, dining out during the week, we don't have an aperatif or wine. A drink is often offered as a courtesy at places where we dine often, and as a little apology when the wait for a table is longer than expected, or the reserved table isn't ready when we arrive.

                                        I never gave it much thought but I do respond saying, "Thank you, I would like a Club Soda with Lime " My DH asks for an Iced Tea or Diet Coke.

                                        I feel that whatever the reason someone refuses or declines an alcoholic beverage is his own business, and no explanation is needed. When they ask at a dinner, party, or restaurant, "What can I get you"? I would skip the explanation and just ask for what you would like.