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"have you been here before? well, we recommend. . . ."

  • d

so, i am sooooo tired of going to a new restaurant and the waiter coming over and saying, "have you been here before?" and then after you say "no", they "suggest" what "normal" people order and this is usually enough food to feed an army and increase the bill and their tip. i want to scream - "HELLO, i've been to a restaurant before."

recently the server recommended to my gf and i that we order a few appetizers, 1-2 pizzas and 2 entrees!!! i was like - ok, i'm not 700 lbs. nor do i want to be. who could eat all that? it's crazy. i ordered one app and a pizza and took 1/2 home.

i always order less food when this happens b/c i'm so annoyed by the flagrant upsell. and i tip less b/c of the rudeness. i mean ok - offer me a drink/wine/etc. but please just let me order what i want. i know what food is and can manage by myself. am i crazy or is this just tacky service?

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  1. I dont know, if its a tapas place.....seems like SOP.
    if it was a red sauce Italian place, seems like a tacky upsale.

    I think if it seemed really over the top quantity wise, I would have initially played along and started ordering multiple dishes, with duplicates and extra everything on stuff......then when he was done writing, told him I was pulling his leg and actually ordered what I wanted. Hopefully the waiter has a sense of humor and realizes what he is doing is silly. But Im a realist, I doubt it.

    1 Reply
    1. re: nkeane

      i want to scream - "HELLO, i've been to a restaurant before."

      I do not find the practice of up-selling annoying, it's just part of the spiel the restaurant use to offer their items. It no more annoying to me than the reciting of the daily/evening specials....what I do find amusing is on food blogs where there are the constant queries for....

      What's good at.....
      What should I order at....
      What should I eat at....
      What cut of steak should I order at.....

      You get the idea......These types don't know what they like and have to ask complete strangers how to eat and spend their money.

      My suggestion is for you to relax and not let it bother you. Whether the server are sincere or not....who cares. Politely thank them and order what you want....enjoy the company before you, whether family or friends. That the only thing that is really important.

    2. I hate when they reach across me to page through the menu and explain to me what is on each page. I know how to read! Get out of my space.

      1. I eat out a lot and I can't say I've ever encountered this - at most I get asked something like, "do you have any questions about the menu?" Maybe it's just the restaurants I choose. Sounds like something I'd expect to encounter at a Cheesecake Factory or its ilk - which I won't set foot in if I can help it. Or maybe it's a suburban thing?

        1. I think it's fairly common at newer places. I just went to a new pizza place in the area and it was helpful to get an idea of what type of pizza we were getting since we get all types. Sometimes restaurants have specialties as well that they like to promote, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

          Your experience does seem more like a flagrant upsell, but even that doesn't bother me. I just smile and say "No thank you" politely if I am not interested.

          1. I think your issue is more about the delivery than with the content. Bad deliver is pushy and predatory. Good delivery is informative and consultative. If it's such a hot issue, why not just say you've dined there before & avoid the whole thing?

            1 Reply
            1. re: oldbaycupcake

              Yes, delivery is very important. In recent memory, I was at a Mexican restaurant and had a waiter who was really pushing the margaritas. I told him no thanks. He apparently ignored what I told him and continued to push the margarita. I just looked at him straight in the eyes and said no. He ceased his efforts.

              A good waiter is not so obvious and aggressive with the upselling. This one really needed some lessons.

            2. Honestly, it really wouldn't bother me. It's ultimately up to me to decide what I order and what I choose to eat. If I haven't been to a place before and it seems like the waitstaff is pushing an enormous amount of food, I just order what I think is appropriate and tell them I'll order more later if I'd like to. I've never had a problem. Sometimes I order more food and sometimes I just ask for the check.

              And in defense of certain restaurants (though it doesn't sound like it in your case), they may instruct waiters to do that because portion sizes may be smaller than a standard restaurant -- ie. small plates restaurant, an Italian restaurant where the pasta is a small course and not entree size, etc. Not everybody may understand that ordering one item at a tapas bar is probably not enough for a meal -- especially when the item is in the two figures (which I see in NYC often).

              1. Your experience does seem over the top. Usually I welcome info from the server about how much people generally order and the size of the dishes, particularly in a "small dishes" place.

                Sometimes I wish the server told me more - last week some friends and I went to a pub and ordered one pizza each (at $9/pizza we figured they were individual sized) and ended up with so much food it was difficult to fit on the table. We were all stuffed after the meal and still took half a pizza home each. Would have been nice to get the heads up from the server that usually people order one pizza for 2 people, plus and app or a salad to share.

                1. I would only find this appropriate if it were not apparent by the menu that the portions were very small. In that case, they'd be avoiding the future annoyance of a diner who found the meal they had ordered to be inadequate as far as the quantity of food goes.

                  If the restaurant serves normal sized portions then I would be quite annoyed at the overly generous advice they are giving you!

                  I've just read the several replies regarding pizza. I think this could be avoided by giving pie sizes on the menu - I've often seen personal sized pizzas described as 6" or 8" or whatever. Pizzas do need some explanation! But a well written menu would avoid any confusion.

                  1. I agree that the sale is all in the delivery. A great waiter (or salesperson) can sell you something without you even realizing your being upsold.

                    However, the bottom line is, you are in a restaurant. A restaurant is a business, and they make money by selling food. Waiters are salespeople, and yes, the larger the bill, the larger their tip.

                    The important thing is that we are able to air our grievances here. Unless they are pressing the point (see Miss Needle's margarita example), servers do not deserve to have an outside source directly questioning how they do their job.

                    Having worked in the service industry, I was very good at the upsell. I would politely offer something, people would say yes or no, and I'd move on accordingly. Just as the customer would say yes or no and move on accordingly. I have had a few people who have sworn at me, saying something like "No I don't want the f-ing large." That is much more tacky, inappropriate and disrespcetful than me offering a larger size.

                    1. Depends. We recently went to Michaels Genuine in Miami and the menu is a little complicated with respect to dishes vis-a-vis food quantities etc. The server was helpful as we had not been there before and if we had. would not have needed some explanation. But yes, in most situations it is pretentious/unnecessary.

                      1. I always jsut say "yes", even when I haven't.

                        1. I haven't experienced much upselling, except with wine, but once at a small plates restaurant the waiter asked if I'd been there before and told me that they recommend sharing. I felt like a 4 year old. What if I don't wanna share?

                          1. Last year, I worked in an Italian chain that had recently opened. A large part of my training was devoted to menu tours and ringing in first time guests accordingly in the Micros so the manager would then know to visit the table and make sure everything was going well.

                            When directing us on how to do a menu tour, the trainer would always say, "Such and such is popular with many of our guests" or "This wine is a favorite with our patrons!"

                            Obviously, a restaurant is a business and I only make as much as I sell (in a perfect world but, alas, not in my current restaurant). When you go to a restaurant, that restaurant wants to sell you a lot of food. I never consider an upsell rude unless it is pushy, as previously mentioned.

                            You said this is a new restaurant; I'd place money on guessing that you had a new server as well. I have certainly gotten better at upselling over time and hopefully this server will too.

                            Degrading the tip when the server suggested (probably verbatim) what he had most likely been told during his pre-shift lineup seems punitive to me. I hope this and the other posts here have been able to shed some light for you.

                            1. A lot of theme-y types of places in NYC ask this question. Sometimes I get genuinely useful info, i.e. "This restaurant specializes in inexpensive wines and we have a hundred selections by the half bottle." -- perfect for me, since my SO and I usually don't finish an entire bottle.

                              And of course there's completely non-useful or misleading info, i.e. "Our pomegranate frozen margaritas are really fabulous!" -- and the margaritas turn out to be carnival slushies spiked with bottom shelf tequila.

                              Take the facts, ignore assertions of opinion.

                              1. If it's any kind of a chain, the server is required to ask if this is your first time there, and then is required to suggest several specific items (and to use adjectives positively describing those items, e.g. "Our delicious hot soup today is chicken noodle.") Just try to ignore them, they have to say what they have to say.

                                1. thanks for the replies, they were pretty helpful, but i remain biased against this practice. just some notes --

                                  most of the places are newer non-chain restaurants in los angeles.

                                  i think it is good advice to try to not let it bother me (which i do try to do) – but it inevitably affects the server’s tip (i.e., no more than 18%) b/c if the place isn’t doing something different it’s more time talking to the server than my friends. i guess i just really don’t like a blatant, and somewhat absurd, upsell. i’m not in best buy after all – i’m trying to have a nice relaxing meal without haggling. offer me wine, dessert, etc. but multiple apps, middles, entrees? when it’s not a tapas place? and even if it was a tapas place, this is los angeles (not a suburb) and tapas aren’t really “new” anymore.

                                  i also agree with the delivery issue. most of the delivery is pretty lame. if the server has some personality or can do it well, it is less objectionable. or if they can see the “are you serious” in my face and roll with it – that’s appreciated.

                                  i don’t want to say “i’ve been here before” b/c i do appreciate it when it’s somewhere that has unusual ordering or serves, unexpectedly, very small dishes. for example, craft and asia de cuba are “family style” restaurants which i could see someone not knowing. i didn’t know asia de cuba or chinois were family style before going for the first time. so, that’s unusual and it makes sense to explain. but otherwise—restaurants just aren’t so unique that they need to “explain” how to order. the restaurant and server should know that, i think.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: dtud

                                    I agree with you that it is annoying unless, like you said, there is something truly unique about the restaurant that I must know before ordering. I typically just say I have been there before even when I havent. I usually do some research online before dining out, so if it was something like knowing it was a family style menu, I would have (hopefully) already figured that out.

                                    Also, FWIW, don't take it out on the waiter. I know you are probably annoyed, but it could very well be the management's directives to tell xyz to first time guests. I used to waitress and we were supposed to explain a bunch of crap to first timers and I could tell when they got the glazed over-stfu look in their eyes. I still had to keep doing it because we had secret shoppers looking for whether or not we went into our spiel.