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Bread issue again...new situation

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The bread thread got me thinking about another situation: Requesting bread (or any other similiar "free" starter that a particular restaurant offers) at the bar when you have no intention of ordering food.

Is this acceptable?

I understand that the bar customers typically will consume at least a couple drinks, maybe buy other people cocktails as well. But does it seem a slight bit rude and presumptious when - at the very least - they could order a small appetizer to accompany the bread?

Then there are the people that imbibe a bit much of whatever they might be drinking and need something to "absorb" the alcohol (although I don't think it has been proven to help in sobering up anyone, same with caffeine I think). Is it the bars/bartenders responsibility to provide something? Even when this patron could have taken a different approach to their night and maybe eaten earlier or not have drank so much?

Just wondering what others might think...

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  1. I worked in a Mexican bar where we would tell the coffee/beer drinkers that is would be $2.50 per order of chips and salsa if they weren't ordering other food. Most had no problem paying that fee, and the bartender had the option of comping it if they ended up shelling out a lot of money.

    Nothing 'absorbs' the alcohol quickly enough to sober someone up. A good bartender should stop serving someone before they ever get to that point. I'd say it's the bartender's responsibility to call that person a cab.

    1. I would never see it as the bartender's responsibility to provide food. I think to myself, so if I was only at the place to eat, should the waiter be responsible to provide drinks?

      I think a bartender should not serve a person who imbibed too much.

      And are you honestly asking for some free bread at the bar...and then since they gave you that they should at least throw in some free appetizers?

      2 Replies
      1. re: Quine

        I believe the OP was saying that the customers should order an app if they want free bread.
        I would say that there's nothing wrong in asking for bread to nibble on if you've ordered a couple of drinks. Most bartenders will oblige if the restaurant permits them to.

        1. re: Quine

          Was not implying that an app should be free when ordering bread, just that if you take the initiative to order bread that usually it would be followed by an item ordered from the menu (of which will be charged to customer).

          Of course any bartender should not serve an overly drunk person, but I have been in the company of people that order bread after just a couple of drinks to help "absorb" (as stated above) the alcohol. Plus, those same people, consume basket after basket of bread without even asking for a menu. How can that be seen as right?

        2. I don't quite understand why people think restaurants should give away free anything. You walk into a bar or restaurant and you choose to buy something from a priced menu. You know what you are going to pay and therefore have entered into a contract.

          Would any of us walk into a store and purchase x number of dollars, yen, euros, pounds etc worth of any product in that store and expect the store to comp you a pack of gum, a newspaper, spare buttons, a pint of milk, loaf of bread, a tie, or anything else they SELL in that store just because you use that store. Answer is no.

          A restaurant is a business just like your local gas station, 7/11, supermarket, Marshalls, CVS.

          9 Replies
          1. re: smartie

            No to the idea of bread gratis at a bar. As you've observed, order an appetizer.

            No to the idea of a charge for bread during dinner.

            1. re: dolores

              Why should bread be free at dinner/not free with drinks? What's the diff? Just asking.

              1. re: hsk

                In my opinion, because I am paying for a full meal. It just seems that getting bread at a bar is presumptuous. I don't think I've seen it done, the most food I've seen given at a bar are snacks of some kind. I've also been to hotel bars where the Happy Hour included a generous array of free food.

                1. re: dolores

                  I don't really see the difference either. What does it matter whether the bill you're paying went for drinks or dinner? The restaurant probably makes more profit off the drinks anyway.

                  1. re: BostonCookieMonster

                    As I said, I guess it is something I hadn't thought of before. The logic is quite correct. In addition, though, I wouldn't expect super terrific fancy breads when I go for a drink, so therefore I'm not too interested in getting Italian bread with my drink. It just doesn't 'go' in my opinion.

                    Now, if I'm drinking at the bar in a Mexican restaurant, yes, I expect 'free' chips and salsa.

                    1. re: dolores

                      I have met friends for drinks at a Mexican restaurant before and have never gotten the chips and salsa for free. We pay for them as an appetizer. We only get them free if we are having dinner there.

                      1. re: danhole

                        Shoot, you may be right.

                        Whenever I've been to the bar at my favorite Mexican place, it's been for dinner.

                        Now I have to find out if the chips and salsa are always gratis next time I'm there.

                        This is 'so' complicated!

                    2. re: BostonCookieMonster

                      DIng ding ding. Correct! No question, there is more profit in wine and alcohol than in food and it's easy to rack up a bar bill that exceeds a food bill with just a few drinks.

                      1. re: scubadoo97

                        So I 'should' feel perfectly justified in getting free bread next time I'm at a bar? :O)

            2. i think that ordering a bread basket that would normally prelude a dinner course at a bar w/o offering to pay for it is pretty boorish. i think it's fair to tell the bt: hey i just want to have a couple drinks, don't want to drink on empty stomach, can i order a bread basket and pay $2, $5, whatever the price point of the establishment-- bt should be happy to serve the bread. likewise if a regular of the bar, there's some wiggle room-- hey bernie we're going to grab a couple drinks before the movie, & then dinner downtown, but could we munch on a bread basket so we're not drinking on empty stomach? sure, that should be okay too, complementary to good customers who don't routinely abuse it.

              it is not the bar's responsibility to provide anything to the customer, the customer is responsible for drinking & eating choices. bread will slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream (though it won't sober anyone up), so it's a reasonable move to buy bread from the bar if your cocktail seems a little stiff & you're getting tipsy faster than you want to. ordering an app would be my move, snaking the bread for free w/o ordering dinner (which has the bread cost factored in) is freeloading in most cases.

              if the bar has chips, peanuts or pretzels on the bar, feel free to munch, whatever, that's what they are there for.

              7 Replies
              1. re: soupkitten

                I agree with how you explained it, especially on how bread is usually factored into the cost of food, not drinks.

                1. re: soupkitten

                  My DD is a manager/bartender of a sports bar that serves some food. Not a bread basket, but it's not a full fledged restaurant. And I agree with you, soupkitten, that it is not the bar's responsibility to offer food, for free, if someone is getting too tipsy. They keep a chex mix blend on the counters, that she shoves in front of the heavy drinker, and if she sees that someone "needs" to get more food in them, or they are nibbling on the mix, she suggests that they may want to order a pizza, sandwich, whatever. If they don't want too, she can't force them, but she can refuse to serve them any more alcohol. She has even been known to take their keys away and order them a cab. She will not let them stagger out the door on her watch!

                  1. re: danhole

                    Chex mix is good, I like chex mix. Most bars now don't even offer chex mix.

                    So where are we? Because the markup on liquor is so huge, should I expect bread gratis next time I go to a bar, or not?

                    1. re: dolores

                      I wouldn't! If it's a restaurant and you are waiting for a table, maybe, but if you are just there for drinks, then I would guess no. Order an appetizer! Or you could kindly ask "Is there something to nibble on?" and then take their response as your lead. They could say, yes, we have some peanuts, or hand you a menu!

                      1. re: danhole

                        No, danhole, I wouldn't either. Depending on the bar -- uber faux chic or down home -- I would be quite comfortable, as you suggest, asking for something at the latter. At the former, I've been lucky to get a hello from the bartender.

                        Otherwise, as you say, I would order an appetizer.

                      2. re: dolores

                        You shouldn't "expect" anything free. If you want bread, you should be willing to pay for it. Often, maybe even usually, the bartender will give it to you for free. If so, you should say thank you.

                        When I go to a restaurant, I order what I want and I am willing to pay for it. A restaurant is a business.

                        1. re: nc213

                          It's not 'free', I'm paying for it in the price of the meal at a restaurant.

                          As I've shared, I wouldn't 'think' of asking for bread at a bar. I would eat any nibbles they put out or I would order an appetizer.

                          If the restaurant can't include the price of my bread in their meal, they should close.

                  2. I've never ever seen anyone ask for bread at a bar. However, it's up to the establishment to determine what is and isn't proper, not the customers. If they want to give out bread for free, OK. If they want to charge for it, OK.
                    From the bar's perspective, they make money on the people drinking, and the bartender gets big tips from the people drinking. Whatever keeps those folks around drinking longer, makes money for the bar. That's why they give away free drinks.

                    1. I could be completely wrong, but I thought there was a law in New York that if you serve alcohol, you have to provide food or allow customers to bring it in if they want it.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: NYCfoodgirl

                        NYCfoodgirl, I haven't seen so much as a pretzel in ages and ages at a bar. I'm in Westchester.

                        1. re: NYCfoodgirl

                          I know in certain states you have to serve food if you serve alcohol, but you certainly aren't required to offer it for free.

                          1. re: mojoeater

                            I didn't say it had to be free or even readily available. But the OP was asking if it were "acceptable" to ask for bread at the bar and if the bartenders have a "responsibility" to provide it. I believe that some states say yes -- if you serve alcohol and someone asks for food, you are obligated to provide it (whether you charge for it is another matter.) In the same vein, a bar that doesn't serve food can't prevent you from ordering, say, pizza and having it delivered. That's pretty common in New York, actually, and some bars will even provide take-out menus.

                            1. re: NYCfoodgirl

                              That's also done here in Houston. You ask the bartender for menus and order take out, if they don't have food to offer.

                        2. My wife has a problem which is mitigated by eating something ( anything) with alcohol. When we order drinks, she tells the bartender that she needs to "nibble" on something and asks if anything is available. The responses have always been polite and range from oyster crackers, to nuts (gratis) or to producing an apps menu. All of these were fine. We have no expectation of something for nothing but appreciate what we are given. The importance to us is getting something, not whether we pay for it.

                          1. My usual expectation is that whatever is brought to me without asking at the bar or table is free - pretzels, olives, chips and salsa, what have you - and anything I have to ask for (besides tap water) is to be paid for. This said, I miss Italy, where a counter of delicious and varied antipasti at a bar is the rule rather than the exception.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: mordacity

                              I wonder if 'Happy Hours' still exist? I remember lots of small appetizers available for at least two hours.

                              Does that still happen?

                              1. re: dolores

                                Oh yes, that still exists, Dolores! There are many places in Houston that offer a mini buffet at Happy Hour. Once I was with a friend and we had been shopping, and were done and ready for a drink. So we stop at a Mexican restaurant to have a drink and thought we probably ought to eat something before we imbibe, so we ask for a menu. The waiter tells us to wait 15 minutes because they were setting up a taco bar, with chips, salsa, and queso, and more, for free. Then he brought us water, and didn't serve our drinks until Happy Hour started! Of course, we left a big tip, but stayed longer than we would have, so it was a win-win for all!

                                Because of the traffic problems we have here, a lot of folks stop off before heading home, just to kill time until the traffic dies down. So giving them food, so they aren't driving home drunk, makes a lot of sense and keeps everyone out of trouble.

                                1. re: danhole

                                  Well, danhole, kudos to Houston and to your waiter!

                                2. re: dolores

                                  There is a bar in Nyack that has a tiny buffet table of some kind of pasta and salad during happy hour, at least they have every time I've been there.