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Service Difference Between Alcohol an no Alcohol Ordered

My girlfriend and I both think that service is 'better' (friendlier, faster, etc) when we order alcohol before/during the meal.
In other words, we are being partially ignored if we do not order alcohol.
Another person's comments are that if anything ... the service would be faster because they want the patrons to finish quickly so that the table would be available sooner for clients ordering low-cost and high-priced items like alcohol.

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  1. I notice this as well. I find I get attitude from Toronto servers when I say I don't want wine or other alcohol with a meal.

    Drives me crazy, sometimes I don't want to drink for various reasons and I shouldn't be treated differently because of this.

    1. I agree--I have noticed that sometimes (not usually, thankfully) we get worse service than neighboring tables when we do not order alcohol. I'm pretty sure that there have been occasions when, as a result of not ordering alcohol, we've been pegged as people who would be spending less and therefore leaving less tip, and thus not worth expending much effort on. But it's not been a speed issue at all, it's been an issue of neglecting to tell us about specials, not checking in on us, not being friendly, etc.

      1. yeh it's called 'a bigger tip'.

          1. re: Harters

            I'm somewhat surprised to find myself in such a minority. Presumably yet another example of how the attitudes towards service and tipping here in Europe differ so much from North America.

          2. jfood sees it all the time since he does not drink. And they always say that it's because of the bigger tip. Well it is a self-fulfilling prophesy, since less service means less tip.

            1 Reply
            1. re: jfood

              And I agree with jfood, as I do most, if not all, of the time. :-) Worse... we order water! Egads! Yeah, we're polite, don't return our food, and generally leave within 1 hour and will tip our 15% even if you give us bad service. Personally, I'd rather serve us than take the chance with some others who are perceived to be better tippers...

            2. Oh, definitely. Drinks=higher bill=bigger tip. It's so lame.

              1. I experience this as well which is a shame because when I was a server, I made it a point never to differentiate between the tables drinking alcohol and those that were not with regards to the service I provided. Like jfood said though - self fulfilling prophecy.

                21 Replies
                1. re: enbell

                  actually I don't agree wholly with jfood here. If your table spends $30 on 2 entrees and water you will tip approx $5 or so maybe $4 or maybe $6. If the next table spends $80 because they are drinking cocktails or ordered a $30 bottle of wine and the server gives them great service tip is going to be around $15 to 20. Whether you give the server $3 or $6 doesn't really matter if the service is just ok because server is busy working the bigger spending table.

                  1. re: smartie

                    It matters because drink orders typically come first in the meal, before people order anything else. A bad order can not only change the tip, but change what a party orders. You can easily have an alcohol ordering party that just wants cocktails and a main course, while the non-alcohol ordering party is planning on getting cokes, an app or two, salads, mains, dessert, and coffee. However, when you approach the latter party with a bad attitude, it may very well change to main course only and then you're stuck with a smaller tip than you'd get from the first party.

                    1. re: queencru

                      IME as a consumer, people who drink also tend to eat. When we go out, it's cocktails, apps, entrees, bottle of wine and often dessert. The alcohol often causes people to eat more (I know that's the case with me) and then you have those who don't order cocktails or a lot of food because they are cheap. I see jfood as something of an exception....doesn't drink but loves to eat. Perhaps I am wrong....would love to hear from servers and others in the business as well as other customers.

                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                        I also would love to hear from servers.

                        I watch server's faces fall when I don't order a cocktail. I don't order bottles of wine or cocktails at restaurants for the most part; the mark-up is too high for me to afford. I'd rather be a heavier tipper.

                        I also don't like to drink that much alcohol and then drive home; for my tolerance, it's irresponsible. At home, when I don't drive I split a bottle of wine two ways without a qualm. At parties, the SO and I decide early who is the designated drinker. Each of us will have the company of other drinkers or sober people. At a restaurant, to have one drinker (more than a glass of wine) seems more unbalanced.

                        1. re: thinks too much

                          Well, I will speak for my son who is in his mid 20's.
                          He has been a manager, trainer and server at a one location of a nationwide chain here in Toronto, Ontario.
                          We have talked many, many times about this topic and tipping in general.
                          He says that he never provides inferior service due to a lack of ordering alcohol.
                          His tips, most weeks, are all over the map with and without alcohol being ordered.
                          His dad, of course, is one of the better tippers :).

                        2. re: Janet from Richmond

                          "I see jfood as something of an exception....doesn't drink but loves to eat."

                          Why an exception, Janet?

                          I don't drink because I'm an alcoholic. Such a state of mind has never prevented me from being hungry/greedy/wanting to enjoy fine food/whatever. But do I miss having a good wine with my Michelin starred meal? Do I miss having a Calvados, cigarette and coffee afterwards? Yes, absolutely, but such is life.

                          1. re: Harters

                            I'm basing my opinion on my own experiences, nothing more. My friends and family who do not drink at restaurants are either cutting calories or cheap. They are neither non-drinkers or recovering alcoholics and their eating and drinking habits are very different when they aren't the ones paying for the meal or if they aren't on their diet of the week.

                            1. re: Janet from Richmond

                              I've got your back on this Janet. As a former server for many years, I always cringed (internally) when a customer ordered an iced tea or soda or even worse, water. It meant the ticket was going to be much smaller, and therefore the tip was going to be smaller. It also increased the chance that the customer was cheap. Not saying recovering alcoholics are cheap! Not saying fine, upstanding chowhounds like jfood are cheap! Just saying a LOT of people who don't order alcohol in restaurants are cheap!

                              1. re: southernitalian

                                yeah, my (elderly) father is like that. He loves his cocktails but would *never* order one, or wine, in a restaurant because it "costs too much". If I'm buying on the other hand, he's happy to have a beer or two or share wine with me.

                                1. re: southernitalian

                                  Also as a former server, I agree. It seemed the drinkers & smokers were better tippers, generally speaking.

                                  Interestingly, a group of AA members used to come in once a month to a resto where I worked. All the servers dreaded waiting on them. They were horribly difficult to wait on and terrible tippers. Ha!

                                  (not trying to feed stereotypes folks, please no lectures)

                                2. re: Janet from Richmond

                                  Various prescribed meds do not play well with alcohol.

                                  1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                    Personally I'm too cheap to drink alcohol at a restaurant, and I'm just not that interested in alcohol. But, I really do enjoy food. If I have say $150 to spend on a nice dinner out for two, I would much prefer a place with more expensive/better food than a middle grade place with some cocktails and a bottle of wine.

                                    I never order alcholol on someone else's tab, would feel like I'm taking advantage.

                                    1. re: Rick

                                      I'm not sure if what you describe makes you "cheap"...it sounds like alcohol is not a high priority to you, but you are willing to spend $ on things that ARE a high priority to you--namely, good food. I can relate to the feeling of being more interested in food than in alcohol.

                                    2. re: Janet from Richmond

                                      I started (in my mid 30s) getting bad headaches from drinking red wine. I never know when it will happen just that if happens about 80% of the time. It's not worth the risk to me when good food is on the line.

                                  2. re: Janet from Richmond

                                    Janet, I disagree with your assumption that people that don't order alcohol are cheap or don't like to eat. We love to eat and often order a lot of food. There are a lot of reasons why we often do not order alcohol. First, there is usually a long drive home and we don't drink and drive. Another factor is the company we are with...if I am with someone who does not drink because of medical reasons or pregnancy, I am not going to drink alone. Finally, we also just don't appreciate alcohol the same way we appreciate food, so it doesn't seem worth precious stomach space. I would so much rather have an additional course than an additional drink. We are definitely not cheap--we always tip well, and when we are out with another couple we usually pay for them. I know lots of people who do not drink much alcohol who like to eat and are not cheap, I don't think it's as exceptional as you find it to be.

                                    1. re: Nicole

                                      " I would so much rather have an additional course than an additional drink."
                                      Precisely my position as well.

                                      1. re: Nicole

                                        I totally agree with you on this! I don't see any relation between drinking and enjoying your food at all. Actually, I think it's rather sad when people don't seem to be able to enjoy a meal or socialise without alcohol being involved. Also, the mark-up for wine in restaurants (especially the fancy ones) is so ridiculous that I would much rather spend my money on gorgeous food and come home to a glass of wine if I feel so inclined (by the way, I drink only occasionally when I feel like it and not as a rule).

                                        As a customer, you have the choice of what to order and there shouldn't be any expectation whatsoever from the establishment regarding how and on what you decide to spend your money. If you want to have only a starter and a glass of water, as long as you pay for it and tip proportionately to the final check, it is your right to do so.

                                      2. re: Janet from Richmond

                                        glad you're happy to hear from people who think you're wrong, Janet ;-)

                                        what about people who are:
                                        religiously opposed
                                        athletes in training
                                        taking medication
                                        or simply don't like the taste of alcohol?

                                        I can't see how any of those factors affect whether or not a person is a true food lover.

                                        1. re: danna

                                          Or allergic- like me. Even the smell of some types of alcohol will give me an asthma attack. Sigh.

                                      3. re: queencru

                                        As a former server, I can say without hesitation that I'd rather have the first party you mentioned (cocktail and entree only). Drinkers, in my experience, are better tippers. Also, the table will turn more quickly if just an entree and a couple drinks are ordered, but the check will be about the same size as the eat more, drink less party, in general.

                                        So yes, I'd rather wait on the better tipping, quicker turning, drinking table.

                                      4. re: smartie

                                        Actually you are agreeing Smartie. The question was from the point of view of the customer and jfood's position was that the service level in many cases is less when the cocktail, or wine is not ordered. And your point, as well, was that the server is maximizing the nightly tip pool by giving better service to the drinking table because an extra 5% from the $300 table is worth more to the pool than losing 5% on Jfood's $100 tab. Jfood can fulfill the latter and the server needs to hope for the former.

                                    2. I don't drink much, so I very rarely order alcohol in restaurants. I've never really noticed a difference in service based on alcohol ordered vs. not, but wouldn't deny that it happens.

                                      1. I have noticed a difference in service, once in a while, which is a shame because we are very generous tippers for good service. We do not generally drink when out, for a number of reasons.... and never order a bottle of wine because my husband does not drink it. But his tipping "scale" starts at 20% and goes up generally, and we generally drink water, have apps, and don't dally at the table.

                                        1. Nobody, so far, has mentioned that some restaurant owners put a lot of pressure on their servers to sell alcohol. There's a far higher margin of profit in alcohol than there is in food. So on top of being disappointed at the lower table total, a server might not be able to hide their disappointment about not being able to make their "quota" of alcohol served at table.

                                          Occasionally, especially if I'm driving a distance, I won't have a drink at dinner. My wife rarely drinks with dinner. It's only the poorest servers who are less than transparent about their dismay regarding us not purchasing alcohol.

                                          A few posters above have mentioned those who won't order a drink because "it's too expensive (in a restaurant)." I know people like this. They have cocktails at home (on an empty stomach) and then drive to their destination. They're posing a danger to themselves and the others on the road.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: shaogo

                                            Interesting and a bit scary. This is the first I've heard of a 'quota'. How does that work, exactly?

                                            I definitely notice that many servers look disappointed when we don't order alcohol (or when we order glasses, but not a bottle, etc..) -- but the good ones don't let that affect their overall service and I tip accordingly.

                                            1. re: cimui

                                              As far as I know, I don't think that it is 'formal' as in the servers will be penalized.
                                              Think of it more as a 'goal'.

                                              1. re: cimui

                                                I shouldn't have said "quota." But there is, nevertheless, lots of pressure put on servers to sell alcohol (and specials -- and, worst of all, stuff that's about to go bad or lobsters that will die).

                                                At my own restaurant, I don't encourage "alcohol-pushing." But I have been known to offer a $10 reward to the first server who sells a wine that's new to the wine list, and that I'd like my customers to try.

                                                1. re: shaogo

                                                  As upthread, I don't drink but my wife does. Of late we've been having a number of meals that have been multi-course tasting menus. Almost impossible to get the wine right with a single bottle, so she tends to want individual glasses. Her new strategy is throw herself on the experience of the sommelier to select - maybe a white for starters, a couple of reds and a dessert wine. We have yet to be upsold or ripped off - in fact, when we've checked later with online lists, sommelier's choice has usually been very reasonably priced, little more than the standard house red or white.

                                                  1. re: shaogo

                                                    Ah, got it, allanc and shaogo. What's the worst that can happen when servers don't make these goals? (Not at your establishment, Shaogo, which I'm sure is very humane, but other places!)

                                                    1. re: cimui

                                                      I think that it really depends on whether the restaurant is a 'one-of' or a multi-chain.
                                                      I forget the exact buzz words that this type of industry uses but basically...and this is a hypothetical example ....
                                                      The head office will suggest to the regional managers that they should try to increase the ratio of appetizers to patrons.
                                                      IOW - sell more appetizers with each entree.
                                                      This 'suggestion' will then trickle down to the general managers of the restaurant to the managers to the servers.

                                                      1. re: cimui

                                                        allanc hit the nail on the head.

                                                        Of course, no server will be in any way penalized for failing to sell wine/alcohol -- it's about what a server's customers want on a given day.

                                                        At our place, we have a pretty extensive wine list -- and, sadly, none of our servers are very wine-savvy. Therefore, the $10 challenge. It's a game they enjoy playing. Invariably the winner waits until he/she is in front of some/most of the staff, tells me they made the sale, and proffers an open palm (for the dough).

                                                        Again, let me make it clear that the incentive is *not* to sell *any old wine,* but to get wines that I'm excited about out of the cellar and into customers' glasses.

                                                2. After spending the last twenty years working in restaurants, I see it this way:

                                                  Waiters would rather wait on "diners" than "eaters."

                                                  Diners are folks who have come to enjoy the entire restaurant experience - from the food to the atmosphere to the service. Diners appreciate the service they receive and tip better.

                                                  Eaters are people just out for a meal. Their main concern is placing their order and getting it the way they ordered. Ambiance and subtleties of service are often lost on these folks. And the generally adhere to a standard tipping ratio.

                                                  Alcohol service is not the sole factor in determining who is and who isn't a "diner." But, more diners enjoy alcohol with their meal than "eaters."

                                                  36 Replies
                                                  1. re: fredeatshouston

                                                    This is a great post and something I've tried to explain to people in the past without success..especially when the "you can make it at home cheaper" police rear their heads. I dine out for many reasons that have little to do with food.

                                                    1. re: fredeatshouston

                                                      Jfood was very cool with this post until the last paragraph. If the ordering of alcohol is a primary factor in deciding between whether the patron is a diner or eater, jfood would just ask you to observe the crowds of people in sports bars.

                                                      If the jfoods are sitting in a >$25 entree place and order water, there is another reason why they did that. Jfood is there for the food, the service, the atmosphere, the relaxation, the joy of eating out with his honey, without alcohol. To now classify them as eaters or poor tippers or a table to give less service to, speaks more to the server than the patron.

                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                        Yeah Jfood! What you said! We love, love, love to eat... love good food. Don't drink so much.

                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                          Fred didn't say every "eater" is a non-drinker, nor did he say every drinker is a "diner". He simply said more "diners" choose to heighten their dining experience with alcohol. This statement was based on his TWENTY years working in restaurants. I think he's qualified to make generalizations. :)

                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                            Neat new avatar I.

                                                            "He simply said more "diners" choose to heighten their dining experience with alcohol" is a statistically flawed statement if one is using causality versus coincidence. There was an old statistics example in which it was believed that dead bodies "turn into" maggots because the presence of maggots in every dead body 48 hours after death. It was not a causality of the body turning into maggots but a coincidence that maggots appeared.

                                                            He may have TWENTY years of restaurant experience, but from a statistial perspective it is a flawed experiement for concluding it is a heightened experience versus any other variable.

                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                              Again, he didn't say "every". There will be exceptions to every rule, a la you and Mrs. J Food. Eaters won't turn into diners simply because booze is involved, nor will diners become eaters if they're abstaining.

                                                              I believe his statement is correct; there's a direct correlation between drinkers and diners, but it's more of a personal belief, since I couldn't fathom a nice dinner out without wine.

                                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                Amen. When we go to the local diner or a local "country style" place for a dinner of hamburger steak, gravy and mashed potatoes, we order iced tea. One reason is the only wine available is swill such at Sutter Home and aside from pizza and burgers it's rare for us to drink beer with a meal, but I consider that comfort food night, not "dining" as such.

                                                                1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                  OK guys to reel this in.

                                                                  Shoudl the server have a different approach to the non-drinkers versus the drinkers. Is the role of the server to maximize their revenue or maximize the pleasures of each table without reducingthe pleasures of the other tables because of the drinker vs. non-drinkers.

                                                                  Jfood knows he is looking for Nirvana in the answer since people want to maximize their own revenue, but is that a fair situation?

                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                    I think as with any business, especially service related, it's about prioritizing. Not saying anyone should get poor or substandard service, but there customers are treated differently based on spending habits from everything from airline miles, to restaurants, to retail shops. In the restaurant industry, my guess is the most common occurances of "special" treatment comes in the form of being a regular or being recognized as a big spender and/or tipper. This does not mean giving poor service to others, but it is what it is.

                                                                    Two Fridays ago, we went to a local place and the tab for our 9 top was $1100 before tip. We tipped $300. In this case it's (a) a place we frequent on a regular basis and recommend to others and (b) our per person average tab was higher than average and (c) I believe we have a reputation as being both good customers and good tippers. Yeah, I would hope the server and managment recognizes that and by the way we were treated I believe they did. That does not mean the two top ordering apps and iced tea shouldn't be treated well and given good service, but they are a different customer than we are.

                                                                    1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                      Good points. When jfood is travelling and eating solo and orders a root beer, guess the server plays the odds and the air leaves the lungs.Then jfood loves seeing their face when he orders 2-3 apps and an entree, OMG guessed wrong. The tip range is 10-40% depending on the server's next move.

                                                                      When the jfoods have a home game, the servers know them and their tipping habits so it is not a problem.

                                                                      Guess it all evens out in the end.

                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                        I've seen that look before. It's funny, if you can avoid being annoyed by it. My most memorable "OMG guessed wrong" look was from a waiter at a very popular NY restaurant. Three women, one not drinking (medication issue), two drinking very lightly (board meeting in the morning), southern accents. I got the impression he was NOT expecting his 25% tip.

                                                                      2. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                        just out of curiosity, why should the tip be bigger because your per person tab was higher than average? If anything I might have thought the opposite, since more people is more work for the server. Just curious.

                                                                        1. re: DGresh

                                                                          I didn't tip because it was higher than average. I determined the tip on the total bill, plus the level of service we add.

                                                                      3. re: jfood

                                                                        "Is the role of the server to maximize their revenue or maximize the pleasures of each table...".

                                                                        Both. ;)

                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                          It is NOT a fair situations. I don't often drink alcohol when dining out, because I am usually the one driving. I have suffered poor service because of this.
                                                                          I particularly am offended by a request for a drink order immediately after being seated and after not placing an alcohol order being ignored for a long period of time. I have walked out in situations such as that.
                                                                          My regular haunts, know me as a regular and provide good service. I was a sever all through college (more years ago than I like to admit) and learned quickly that regulars were my bread and butter, and I had better provide consistently good service.
                                                                          The worst nightmare are drinkers who drink up their funds and are left with little to tip at the end of the night. Or those who feel they tip x amount per drink delivered, whether it is a coke or a glass of single malt. When I was first of legal drinking age, the custom was to tip 25 cents a drink, not a percentage as tipped on a meal. While prices have changed, a tip per beverage delivered would not 'penalize' the server because you ordered a soda instead of whiskey.

                                                                          To sum it up>I don't tolerate poor service, nor will I accept lesser service than I see being given by the same server to another table. I will say something to a manger if this takes place.
                                                                          The chances are that my after dinner coffee and dessert order will equal the cost of the cocktail I don't have, AND the server doesn'thave to 'tip out' the bartender on my dessert.

                                                                    2. re: jfood

                                                                      jfood, the statement, "But, more diners enjoy alcohol with their meal than "eaters."" is not a statistic (nor based on an experiment). fredeatshouston simply made a single estimate based on 20 years experience. S/he did not hypothesize regarding causality.

                                                                  2. re: jfood

                                                                    I agree with jfood 100%.
                                                                    The problem with these negative generalizations (AKA "stereotypes" or "prejudices") is that even if there is some truth to them there are way too many exceptions, and they are used to justify treating people poorly.

                                                                    1. re: Nicole

                                                                      I don't think anyone has said that any customer should be treated poorly.

                                                                      1. re: Nicole

                                                                        Not trying to be a jerk, but it's always the non-drinkers (or insert negative stereotype of choice here) that don't seem to understand.

                                                                        You're a waiter. You have four tables in your station. Three of them are average tables, one of them is a big spender. You work on tips. Who are you going to give the most attention to? If you say you'd divide your time equally, you're either fibbing or you've never worked as a waiter and don't understand.

                                                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                          There is a difference between giving more attention and being plain rude. I prefer to be left alone whilst dining so I'm more than happy for servers to go and fish for tips elsewhere. However, being rude or unprofessional with those who choose not to drink alcohol is completely unacceptable in my view.

                                                                          I have had this experience in one fancy French restaurant we've been to a couple of times. The food is excellent but from the moment you step in you're beinf offered drinks and it keeps going on continuously. A lot of people fall for this tactic but it puts me off so much I would rather not drink just to make a point. And as soon as you say you're not drinking, the maitre d' (who was smiling and being extremely friendly up until then) looks at you with disgust and leaves.

                                                                          I find it amusing, really but I don't think he is doing himself or his business any favours.

                                                                          1. re: Paula76

                                                                            "There is a difference between giving more attention and being plain rude. "

                                                                            I don't believe anyone ever said it was acceptable for the waiter to be rude.

                                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                              Exactly. I was saying that there is a clear difference and that I don't mind if the servers take their attentions elsewhere insofar as they bring the food I've ordered and are easy to reach when I need to pay. Everything else to me is a nuisance as I like to have a conversation whilst dining out with the people I'm with, preferably without interruptions.

                                                                              However, I do think it's unprofessional to discriminate in terms of those who drink and those who don't. I can see how waiters and owners need to maximise their profits and earnings but they would certainly not be doing so if non-drinkers feel short-changed as they certainly will be taking their custom elsewhere.

                                                                          2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                            Paw Raised...Non-drinker or other noun (gee feels like the old Mad-Libs)

                                                                            -People do what they are paid to do...absolutely agree
                                                                            -Neither the server nor the customer have any right to be rude
                                                                            -So let's take the obvious off the table
                                                                            -Likewise for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

                                                                            If the server decides to give Platinum service to the $1,000 and receive a 30% tip while giving Tin service to the $100 table and receive the a 10% tip they cannot, repeat cannot, use the words cheap, or non-drinker, or blue rinse, or old, or young or purple or red. They made the conscious decision to allocate their time to table 1 at the expense of table 2. The increased their take-home, the restaurant's revenue at the expense of table 2.

                                                                            If you are seated at table 1, loved it, but table 2, hated it.

                                                                            Is it right or justified or any other words, in Nirvana, nope, in the economic realities, gotta understand both the server and the restaurant's POV.

                                                                            But jfood's will continue to tip based on service at his table and if the tip is reduced, he will always mention it to the MOD on the way out in case the server whines. Who knows maybe the MOD instructed the server to pamper Table 1.

                                                                            But the point is please do not call the Table 2ers names because the tip was less, it may have been the reaction, not the action.

                                                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                Sorry I, not you. jfood should have mentioned that it was others upthread that called non-drinkers "cheap".

                                                                              2. re: jfood

                                                                                jfood is correct about actions and reactions, however, what if the server was basing his judgements upon previous experiences where he had carefully given an equal level of service to drinking and none drinking tables alike?

                                                                                1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                                  then the server use of heuristic interpretation wil have a new data point which is different if server performs well or is the same if they act from history.

                                                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                                                    So you are saying that unfortunately the server who has made a judgement based on experience may well be correct and that that will negatively affect the non drinking customer but will work out well for the server. Agreed.

                                                                                    1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                                      what jfood is saying is that the server is playingthe odds based on experience. And if the serv ice to the non-drinking table meets acceptable standards and the server is able to get more from the drinking table, win for all. But when the service to the non-drinking table slips then the servers suffers the consequences and unfortunately so does the customers at that table.

                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                        And unfortunately, if the non-drinking customers tips according to the bad service, there are a lot of waiters out there who won't see it as their fault for giving less service. It will only confirm their bias that non-drinkers are cheap.

                                                                                        1. re: Sooeygun

                                                                                          that is the self-fulfilling prophesy that jfood posted initially.

                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                            Sorry to repeat. You expect me to remember something posted a week ago ;) I'm a list maker, I can't remember much :)

                                                                                            1. re: Sooeygun


                                                                                              Just let the avatar do a little more work and s/he can report out.

                                                                              3. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                No one is saying that a waiter must give equal time and attention to each table, we are saying that the fact that a table is not drinking alcohol should not be a reason to stereotype them as being cheap and treat them poorly. It seems like we all agree that it is totally fine and understandable to provide "platinum" service to a table that is spending a lot of money on alcohol, but that it is not okay to provide rude or subpar service to a table that is not drinking. Usually I get good service, whether or not I order any alcohol. But there have been times when a server has sighed and rolled his eyes when we did not order alcohol, followed by terrible service. I am not speaking of a mere lack of excellent service, but rather gross oversights like not telling us the specials, and not returning to our table again for the entire evening after our order is taken. I'm guessing that invino and others who have been servers would never treat patrons that way, and the big spenders on alcohol have never been treated that way, so they are assuming that those of us who are complaining are describing the difference between fine and excellent service. In actuality, we are describing the difference between poor and acceptable service.

                                                                          3. We don't drink alcohol... that's not a problem, but waiter's faces fall when I ask for iced water with my meal instead of something else. I'm not a cheapskate, I just don't like fizzy drinks in general OR super-sweet stuff with my meal, and I loathe artificial sweeteners. I'd much rather have plain old-fashioned water with a bit of ice in it... DH drinks enough soda for the both of us anyway! And I want to consume a few hundred extra empty calories with my meal, I'll have dessert...

                                                                            1. In my experience it varies tremendously from place to place...I would have a very hard time generalising.

                                                                              1. Simple capitalism is at play, servers spend the most effort where they're likely to get the most tips, and it's not at the table with two iced teas. Fair? Not to the rare teetotaler who is willing to spend money and leave a good tip, no. But for most diners, most of the time, the system has its own brand of justice.

                                                                                17 Replies
                                                                                1. re: juantanamera

                                                                                  I make a point of ordering the most expensive "by the glass" wine so the waiter knows I'm not cheap - I drink one single glass of white daily and dh drinks red abundantly but prefers not to order a full bottle for himself, so he usually ends up having 2 "by the glass" red wines, even 3 if he's not driving. That's how much alcohol we consume with one meal, doesn't matter if it's an upscale place or a medium scale place.

                                                                                  I do sometimes read the deception on the waiter's face when we order that first glass,
                                                                                  but if we're served decently thereafter, I don't really care what they think.

                                                                                  1. re: juantanamera

                                                                                    I couldn't have said this better myself.

                                                                                    Ahh, capitalism. It works for those who play the game, the rest whine incessantly.

                                                                                    1. re: shaogo

                                                                                      servers spend the most effort where they're likely to get the most tips. fine, capitalism at work.

                                                                                      however this whole thread has been an effort to dispel the stereotyping where servers *assume* that "teetotalers" are by definition poor tippers.

                                                                                      juantanamera says "...it's not at the table with two ice teas"...and "...not [fair] to the rare teetotaler...who is willing to spend money..."

                                                                                      but this stereotype is a self-fulfilling one...assume someone is a poor tipper and/or not worth your time, and, voila, (justifiably) lousy tip due to feeing ignored.

                                                                                    2. re: juantanamera

                                                                                      There are opportunities for optimisation on both sides. Servers are more attentive to certain types of customers to maximise their financial gain, and customers will tip according to the service they get (in the short term) and gravitate towards places where they get the experience that is best for them (in the long term).

                                                                                      1. re: juantanamera

                                                                                        that's outrageous, and total bs. you REALLY think that "teetotalers" and drinkers of "two iced teas" aren't willing to spend money and leave a good tip? I'm afraid to know what other biases you have. And your idea of "justice" is that a person get bad service for the crime of not wanting/liking/tolerating alcohol?

                                                                                        As another poster mentioned, if you have a bad attitude to people who don't order alcohol, they will know it, and tip you accordingly. If this has been your experience, I propose that you have yourself to blame.

                                                                                        BTW, I drink wine anywhere they have a decent list. I'm just outraged for the other guy.

                                                                                        1. re: juantanamera

                                                                                          "Not to the rare teetotaler who is willing to spend money and leave a good tip,"

                                                                                          Oh J...such a broad brushed statement and totally without merit.

                                                                                          1. re: juantanamera

                                                                                            I'm a teetotaler because I'm allergic. Plenty of other people have valid reasons for being teetotalers, none of which are evident upon seeing that the person is not ordering alcohol. I have other friends who drink so little that even one glass is enough to put them at a level where it is unsafe to drive, so they're obviously not going to be ordering any drinks much of the time either.

                                                                                            1. re: queencru

                                                                                              To reply to all who seem upset by my analysis:
                                                                                              There are two separate questions, the first being wether the server is harming or helping his/her income by giving more attention to guests ordering alcohol. I argue that the server helps his income by doing so. I base this on many years of experience as a server and manager, in several restaurants in several states. Does any person with experience in the business dispute that? Does anyone doubt that the check average is significantly higher for tables that order alcohol than tables that do not? Does anyone doubt that the average tip rate is higher for the drinkers?
                                                                                              Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule. However, a server must know and play the odds, just like a card player. To behave differently would be, in terms of self interest, irrational.
                                                                                              The second question is one of fairness - is it fair that a server gives more attention to those guests he expects to leave larger tips? I argue simply that it is an inherent feature of capitalism itself. A server has a limited resource - time - and he distributes that time in a way he believes will maximize his income. Other actors in the economy under similar circumstances generally act the same way. As to the question of wether capitalism itself is fair, that seems best left for a different forum.
                                                                                              Perhaps I should clarify that I do not condone rude behavior to any customer, and I firmly believe each guest has a right to expect adequate service. However, I find it very unreasonable to expect equal distribution of the server's time among guests spending unequal amounts of money.

                                                                                              1. re: juantanamera

                                                                                                "Does anyone doubt that the average tip rate is higher for the drinkers?" - insert jfood's paw raised

                                                                                                1 - Numerous discussions on whether one tips at the full rate when an expensive bottle of wine ordered. If the answer is "no" then the weighted average of the drinker is reduced.
                                                                                                2 - Need to isolate whether the delta of the two tips is (a) based on DNA of the drinker versus the non-drinker or (b) whether, as jfood has pointed out, the service level is such that both tables tip on the service received.

                                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                                  My paw is up as well. Why should the rate be higher? The amount, sure, assuming the drinkers and non-drinkers both tip 20%, then the table w/ an extra $100 in booze will leave more on the table, but what makes you think the percent would be higher? Do you think they become more generous/reckless as they get a buzz on? Possible, but there's always the possibility they forget how to add.

                                                                                                  I will grant you this, however, now that I think about it: If I were totally swamped and knew I could only give decent service to one table, I suppose I would pick the table w/ the highest bill, just for mathematical reasons. But I wouldn't care whether the bill was higher because they ordered wine or because they ordered truffles.

                                                                                                  1. re: danna

                                                                                                    I didn't say the average tip rate should be higher. I said it is. As a restaurant manager, one tracks and/or does spot checks on check averages and tip rates. Restaurant trade magazines and academic studies often look at similar data, and I've never seen a study that differed from my own findings - both the check average and the tip rate are higher when the table buys alcohol. I don't 'think' the tip rate will be higher - I know it from empirical data.
                                                                                                    Please don't take my arguments to mean that I somehow look down on those who do not drink alcohol, whatever their reason. I do not doubt for a moment that many abstainers are generous people and sophisticated diners. I'm simply describing an economic reality. On the average, drinkers spend and tip more, and, wether it's fair or not, servers with a finite amount of time often allocate more of it to the tables with the high checks. I might also add that the situation changes very little if alcohol is removed from the equation. A table ordering surf and turf generally gets more attention than a table eating tuna melts.
                                                                                                    Jfood, I understand (but do not believe) your argument: if the non-drinkers got better service, they would leave a better tip. It's irrelevant to my argument, which is that servers strive to maximize total tip income. They do so by spending the most effort on the biggest checks. They are willing to risk a lower tip rate on a smaller check to protect the tip rate on a larger check. Since the drinking tables, on average, have much higher checks, they get more attention. Once again, I'm not passing judgement, just describing an economic situation. If you consider it unfair that big spenders get the most attention, then your issue is with capitalism itself.

                                                                                                    1. re: juantanamera

                                                                                                      As jfood has pointed out multiple times on this threat, it could very well be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Servers think drinkers tip more, so they give them more service and get better tips.

                                                                                                      1. re: juantanamera

                                                                                                        Not to worry J since you are actually agreeing with jfood. What you are stating is a normal mistake many make in not differentiating causal versus correlated events. What your empirical data concludes is correct in that tables with drinkers tip more, definitely as in nominal dollar terms and probably in percentage terms. Likewise you also state that "they get more attention", so which has a greater influence on the intended outcome, is it the DNA of the drinker versus the non-drinker or is it the attention that the server provides. And jfood has stated several times that the lower service at the non-drinking table reduces the tip percentage and the increased service at the drinking table increases the tip percentage. Now when you multiply those percentage by the lower total tabe and higher tab, respectively, and decrease the total income by the form and raise by the latter, you have a higher net amount, basic math.

                                                                                                        "Jfood, I understand (but do not believe) your argument: if the non-drinkers got better service, they would leave a better tip. It's irrelevant to my argument, which is that servers strive to maximize total tip income". Actually it is the cornerstone to your argument.

                                                                                                        "I do not doubt for a moment that many abstainers are generous people and sophisticated diners" - gee thanks

                                                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                                                          Jfood, you are correct that correlation does not prove causality.
                                                                                                          My argument that a server maximizes his income by prioritizing the tables with higher checks does not depend on a higher rate of tipping by those tables. Even if higher tipping is not part of the 'DNA' of bigger spenders, even if the rate of the tip accurately reflects the level of service, the argument still holds.
                                                                                                          So our disagreement seems to come down to a single point - is the average drinker predisposed to tip more or does he tip more because he gets better service? I concede that I cannot prove either to be true.

                                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                                            jfood's implicit assumption regarding server performance and diner response is incorrect. Assumed is that when servers reduce their service by, say 7%, that diners reduce their tips by and equal 7% (od the intended tip). This assumption has server and diner interactions being mutually responsive along a continuous scale. Long threads in CH, however, suggest that diners tip in incremental fashion based on thresholds of service provided. Many are very strongly bound to the perceived 20% norm and would not tip less unless the server intentionally set them on fire. Diners say that they reduce tips to, say, 15% or perhaps to an absolute minimum of 10% if and only if servers fall below some threshold of abhorrent behavior. Servers know that the danger, then, is losing perhaps 5% of the bill in the tip if they fail. The “solution” for the server is to provide just enough service to avoid having the tip fall below the highly proscribed 20% - by coming around and being personable and professional when possible. The server, that is, maintains service above the floor value of the threshold. CH threads suggest that diners accept an ample range of service and still give 20%.

                                                                                                            Providing “good” service to the drinkers is a no-brainer. A 20% tip from the usually much higher spending table results in more income for the server. And serving drinks requires simple, friendly, no-brainer actions that are appreciated – showing up more times at the table to bring drinks, clear empties, discuss wines, open wines, pour tastes, await pronunciations, and the like.

                                                                                                            Good servers should be able to easily provide 20% tip level service to all of their tables – in part because of (American) diners’ feeling that 20% is THE norm.

                                                                                                            And, in my personal experience, people drinking often get to the point where the tip can casually and happily get bumped up to 40% or so. This may happen with non-drinkers as well, but I don’t know.

                                                                                                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                                                              Wrong Sammy. :-((

                                                                                                              His assumptions included no such thing. Each one of your examples of jfood''s implicit assumptions were not any that jfood employed. :-))

                                                                                                              There are so many falacies contained in your implict assumptions of jfood's implicit assumptions that jfood is glad you used this bad implicit assumptio analysis on CH instaed of you real job. The world needs rice. :-))

                                                                                                              Ciao Sammy

                                                                                              2. Now that I have read everything, thought I'd chime in because we are non-drinkers and I am cheap. We don't order alcohol because we don't drink alcohol ever. I know this can be hard for some to understand, but we both grew in homes where parents didn't drink, we went to a local university, so we didn't do the drinking thing since we also worked right after school (and lived at home), and most of our friends don't drink alcohol either. Not a religious or cultural thing... just worked out that way. Therefore, we can't even order alcohol just to be nice.

                                                                                                We both order water when we eat out because it's free, we're overweight, and our favorite drinks are caffinated.... We don't need the extra calories as I am about 50 lbs. overweight (so it's obvious), and DH could stand to lose about 20 lbs (less obvious). To be nice, sometimes DH will order a Coke (his fave drink) and I will order an iced tea so that I won't incur the extra calories... but that also means we won't be able to sleep at night... but we won't have to see that sad look on the server's face. But we're also wide awake at 3:00 a.m. as punishment for not standing our ground.

                                                                                                Regarding service level, I don't have high expectations anyway, so my server shouldn't disappoint me! I don't expect them to spend time chatting with me, as we are there to just eat and go - 1 hour max. I totally am fine w/my server joking w/his familiar customers, the customer who's happy from the alcohol,etc. I understand. All I want is to get my drinks around the same time as them, get my food when it's ready, have the server check on me at least once, refilling our drinks at least once, and showing up with the bill when we're done. They don't even have to smile. Just be friendly in general so that I don't feel like I'm bothering them when I ask for more sauce.

                                                                                                The main difference I see is in the minutes between when they ask if we want anything to drink and the few minutes after we say "water, please." Most of the time, once the server figures out that we are low maintenance, the service recovers. My complaint would be that they should learn to not react that way. Just smile and say "sure," but usually we get either silence or a scowl and "okay" while they walk away.

                                                                                                Back to the cheapness... because we are pretty frugal, we are able to keep eating out the same amount (some times more often) even in this economy without change any habits that some others may have had to (ordering less, tipping less, take outs, etc.)... after all, what else can we do to cut back?! :-)

                                                                                                1. I've seen both sides of this, and I don't notice the difference in service as much as you might think. I drink, and enjoy a glass of wine with my food sometimes, but I can just as easily go for weeks without a single drink. I also will go out for solo dining fairly frequently, and I think in the dining totem pole, the solo woman drinking tap water is probably rock-bottom.

                                                                                                  But I find that the sighs and eye rolls are far less frequent than you would think, a relatively small minority. Most servers have been friendly and professional, and honestly, in these times especially, it only makes sense. Good worth of mouth means a lot, and tonight's solo non-drinker is next week's anniversary dinner or family celebration.

                                                                                                  Honestly, there are plenty of restaurants with good food, but a restaurant with consistently good food and service is one that I return to with friends and family (who all drink much more than I do), and one that can make every diner feel special is worth its weight in gold. Smart restauranteurs know that and impress it on their servers.

                                                                                                  1. I really hate to say it, but I agree with you completely. I think restaurants that are not pooled houses (where you keep your own individual tips) service is based on what the table orders. If you go out to a tapas bar and have an iced tea with your tapas, your 16-20% grat will be less then the table who drank 4 drinks (or an extra 50.00). its an insentive for the server to work faster, to follow up and get you the next drink etc. Pooled houses, like danny meyer restaurants service is better because they work for the restaurant, not themselves. If the restaurant does well so do they.

                                                                                                    16 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: ChanceTDaily

                                                                                                      Nicole, I must interject here..... I AM saying that a good server MUST give equal time and attention to every table, regardless of what they order, how much they order, and how much they might (potentially) tip. To express your disappointment that you've got a 4 top that only wants tap water will automatically dock your gratuity a certain percentage. Yes, its fact that drinkers generate bigger bills (ergo, bigger tips) but to treat non-drinkers with anything less than the same service, simply because they didn't buy into your upselling campaign, is tacky. You just have to realize that the non-drinkers are going to base their % of tip by the quality of the SERVICE they get, and if your treat them well, it could be just a lucrative as the table of drinkers who, having had too much, can forget how to calculate 18-20%, and leave you with a flat 15%.

                                                                                                      1. re: Cheflambo

                                                                                                        " I AM saying that a good server MUST give equal time and attention to every table..."

                                                                                                        If I'm waiting on a table with multiple bottles of wine, possibly decanting them, how am I going to spend the same amount of time with them as I am on the non-drinking table. It literally requires more table-side work. I would be wasting time if I just hung out at the non-srinking table shooting the shit. Some tables simply need more of the server's time than others.

                                                                                                        "Expressing your disappointment..." is much different than giving flawless, albeit minimal, service to an easier table.

                                                                                                        It certainly is not "tacky" to prioritize, in any career. Again, basic needs need to be met pleasantly for every table, regardless of order, but 20% of the $600 table is a lot more than 20% (or 30% or 40%, etc.) of the $60 table.

                                                                                                        "...could be just a lucrative as the table of drinkers who, having had too much, can forget how to calculate 18-20%..."

                                                                                                        There is a risk with every table, as tipping is discretionary. This is why I believe every table deserves adequate, friendly service, regardless of order. You're now implying that perhaps I shouldn't treat the drinkers as well as the non-drinkers because they might "forget" how to tip properly after a couple drinks? Really? That's not even an argument. You've just implied that only non-drinkers tip on the level of service they've recieved, which is ludicrous. Not everyone who enjoys wine or cocktails with their dinner is going to become an intoxicated mess, and, actually, any server who serves someone to that point SHOULD be docked on the tip, as it's illegal and putting more than the tip at risk.

                                                                                                        1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                          I'm sure this wasn't your intent, but are you actually saying you believe every table/diner deserves "adequate" service? Is that the baseline from which you then determine whether or not to give good/great/flawless service -- and if so, what factors play in to your determination to provide service at the varying levels?

                                                                                                          1. re: a213b

                                                                                                            If you reread, I also mentioned that even the easier tables deseve flawless, albeit minimal, service, which is what I consider adequate.

                                                                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                              Oh dear. As complete non-drinker married to someone who has stopped drinking, I find it disconcerting that anyone would justify giving us less than great service. Granted, I haven't noticed any particular issue (eye-rolling or the like) that would peg any service issues to my non-drinking, but since I've *never* been a drinker maybe I have nothing to compare it to?

                                                                                                              1. re: PegS

                                                                                                                Did you mean to reply to me? I just said everyone should get good service.

                                                                                                              2. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                Gotcha ... I knew I must've missed something, as you don't particularly strike me as the type to believe in giving anything other than great service.

                                                                                                                Sorry for the confusion.

                                                                                                                1. re: a213b

                                                                                                                  Regardless of what WE think. Have you ever been to a restaurant and orderd an expensive bottle of wine. It's not the right thing to do. But most of the time you end up with better service. B/C at the end of the meal, they want that 20% of the 600.00 Check.

                                                                                                                  1. re: ChanceTDaily

                                                                                                                    Ordering an expensive bottle of wine is "not the right thing to do"?

                                                                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                      not if its only because you think it will result in better service!

                                                                                                                          1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                                                                            As someone who orders a fair amount of both food and cheer in a restaurant, it's because it's what we want (whether that night it's a $30 bottle of wine or a $150 one), not because we want better service. Better service is simply an additional benefit.

                                                                                                                            1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                                                                              Since you don't order expensive wine in restaurants and I do all the time, I'll let you in on a little secret. I order expensive wine because I want to drink it. No other reason.

                                                                                                                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                                                                                                                Janet and invino, I agree with you both. I was just giving my interpretation of ChanceT's dubious logic above. It has never occured to me to order something expensive for the sole purpose of receiving better service. I also like good wine. Maybe not $600 wine though : )

                                                                                                                                1. re: haggisdragon

                                                                                                                                  No, you just read it wrong. I meant, it's not right to give better service to the people who ordered the wine, but it happens. Just to clarify. ....Dubious....I like that word. As in, when you responded to my wall post, you had a dubious presumption and assumed the wrong thing.
                                                                                                                                  Just to clarify.