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Bartender Etiquette - Dining Solo at the Bar

I frequently dine solo at bars at upscale restaurants after work. The last few times I have been asked mid-meal to "slide down" to make room for other customers. I usually do not mind provided that they are dining at the bar and not just stopping by for a sole cocktail. The other night there were 2 seats open to my left and 2 to my right and I was asked mid entree to slide down to make room for a foursome who were just waiting for a table that would be available in 20 minutes. Given that there was adequate room for 2 of them to sit and 2 to stand comfortably on either side of me, my question is was it acceptable for the bartender to have asked me to slide down? Would the answer be different depending on the amount of money that I was spending on the meal (and how much would I have had to spend to make it not ok)? Servers would never ask a twosome at a 4 top to move in the middle of eating an entry just because a party of 4 happened to walk in....

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  1. I have also dined solo at an upscale bar/restaurant and have never been asked to move. I've sat the bar and at a small table and found sitting at the bar was nicer because I didn't have to scoot my chair in or move to let people walk by.

    It was rude for the bartender to ask you to move while in mid entree when there were seats available to the left and right of you.

    No tip for him/her.


    1. nope. not cool. not even at a dive would that be cool. i bartended for 10 years and am firmly in the customer's camp on this. if it was a very informal bar/grill type place, and the single patron was a *very* cool and mellow regular. . . *maybe* i would ask the customer to do me the favor of shifting down the bar. but i wouldn't ask if s/he was eating. and i'd sure as hell comp the rudely shifted customer a drink-- twice. once at time of shifting, another one the next time the customer came in. and i'd thank her/him profusely.

      1 Reply
      1. re: soupkitten

        The bartender did offer to comp a glass of wine, however, I was drinking red wine and since they do not sell glasses of wine, only 1/2 and full bottles, he offered a glass of white that was previously opened. I think this is what really annoyed me because someone obviously sent that bottle back, so I felt that it was adding insult to injury offerring a sub-par glass of wine that didn't go w/ the meal....I did leave 10% because I do feel the bartender deserved something and the meal and wine were both excellent.

      2. If they hadn't asked you to slide down and you ended up with 2 on one side of you and 2 on the other for 20 minutes while waiting for a table I'm not sure you would have been more comfortable, especially if they talked to each other across you. It's not at all the same as being asked to move from a table for 4. If I were in your situation I would have been more annoyed if they didn't ask if I'd prefer to slide down and just seated them on either side of me, but maybe it's all in the delivery and how they ask.

        1 Reply
        1. re: hsk

          Agreed, hsk. I'd gladly scoot down to let a party of four sit together. No big deal. Plus then you aren't monkey in the middle of strangers.

          Anyway, my thought is that it is first a bar, and restaurant bars are for waiting for your table, drinking, and maybe bar snacks.

        2. "The other night there were 2 seats open to my left and 2 to my right and I was asked mid entree to slide down to make room for a foursome who were just waiting for a table that would be available in 20 minutes. "

          IMHO, that was just bad manners from the bar. When one takes a seat at the bar, that is there seat for the meal. If others come in, they are allowed to take the available seats. Now, if in a generous mood, you offer to move, that is nice. Otherwise, they can share each others' company. What happens if there are only 4 seats and a party of five comes in. Should you stand in the corner?

          Sorry, but the bar is not on top of serving the customer, only concentrating on getting the most drinks sold. They would be immediately off my list.


          1. I've never tended bar, but I do work several front of house positions. I too have been asked to move while dining solo, and it usually doesn't bug me. But given the circumstances (this wasn't for people eating) it sounds like the problem was an annoying request badly delivered. Scooting down the bar is pretty common, and shouldn't be too big of a deal. However, if done it a rude manner, it can make the diner feel unimportant- which is not the goal of any bartender or server.

            paris221966, while I agree that the bartender was probably rude, but that is no cause not to tip. At fine dining establishment, the tip you leave will be pooled amongst all the front of house workers- so you stiffing the bartender means you stiff the busboys, waitresses and runners who are working. Since it is a caveat of NY labor law that restaurants can pay below minimum wage to tipped employees, not tipping on a generous tab like a nice dinner is a real blow to their nightly earnings. And as those of us who have been stiffed trying to do the best we can to accomodate everyone's needs, it's not something we forget.

            You can read more about my experiences working in restaurants at www.underemployedinnyc.blogspot.com

            1. I used to dine at upscale bars fairly often when I travelled for business and never encountered this. If you had ordered but hadn't started eating, I think it would be OK provided that that bartender made a solicitous request - a directive in the form of a question would not fly!

              And while I agree that there is never reason to leave $0 as a tip, particularly if you have not consulted the management to resolve the problem at hand, I think this is most definitely a scenario where the tip should be well under 20% because that bartender provided rude, unsatisfactory service. The fact that his/her fault negatively impacts the rest of the crew is part of the way the entire process works - the staff relies on one another to earn money by providing good service and pressures one another and management to take action when someone is a poor performer.

              1. There's a pretty large thread posted about a similar situation:


                1. It depends. There are different quality of seats at the bar depending on if there is a game on TV, who would be at the seat next to jfood if he moved and what kind of mood and comp was in the cards. If it were a lesser seat, i.e. in the corner then nope jfood is not moving, if a bad view of the TV, nope jfood ain;t moving, bartender asks badly or just assumes he can tell versus ask politely, nope he ain;t moving. But probably 90% of the time no biggie and a piece of chocolate cake goes a long way to easing the transition.

                  To the poster who came up with the 2 on each side talking over jfood. He always has the option of telling them that he would move on his own so they can yap together or mention something to the bartender. If there are five bad reactions, jfood is up, over to the MOD and probably out the door to another place for dinner.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: jfood

                    j-then again, I doubt you'd be dining at the bar, since you don't drink.

                    I-otoh-am away three days a week and dine out alone, so often dine at the bar. Once I have started dining, I would not wish to move, especially if I had chosen the specific seat (there having been a choice when I arrived).
                    If a patron asked me to move so that his party coukld sit together, I would probably be more amenable than if asked by the establishment.

                    1. re: bagelman01

                      Believe it or not, jfood probably ate 50 meals last year solo at a bar. they serve club soda, root beer and water so jfood gets his liquid nourishment. Salumi, gnocchi, foie gras meatballs, rabbit ragu, beef, pork, cassoulet, jucy lucy's; all kinds of things, lots of choices. jfood loves the comraderie and the peacefulness of the TV, a book and a good meal. And yes, there have been incidents, 98% ended well, 2% ended with interesting discussions. 1998, bartender turned off the world series because a guitarist was coming out. Are you kidding? Bartender pointer behind jfood. It was divorcee night out, OMG. Please turn on with no sound, finally jfood convinced the bartender to turn on WS with no sound while jfood listened to Irish Ballads.

                      1. re: jfood

                        So I take it the bartender doesn't mind patrons sitting at the bar and not ordering any alchoholic beverages as long as they are ordering food, other drinks etc.

                        I wondered about that . So next time I eat at the bar I don't need to order beer or wine etc. with the food?

                        1. re: john333

                          Jfood does not know whether s/he minds or not but some will and some won't. jfood orders his food, liquid nourishment, has a good conversation and leaves a nice tip. this is his down time, not a quiz in college or a presentation to his boss where the other pary's feelings are of paramount concern.

                          1. re: jfood

                            Bagelman is on the road a few nights a week, He seldom drinks alcohol, especially when he is the only one to drive.
                            There are several restaurants that regularly ask if I mind dining at the bar--they don't want to 'waste' a four top on a solo diner. I always say I'm not drinking alcohol, and the host(ess) always replies, that I'd be doing the establishment a favor by dining at the bar. That said, the feelingings of the bartender are unimportant, let him/her take it up with management.

                            AND---my tip on my soft drink and full meal will probably be greater than the tip on two cocktails (which cost far less).

                            Plus--the bartender usually keys my food order in, and a runner serves all the food items, but bartender gets full tip.
                            Servers tip out bartenders, but bartenders don't usually tip out servers or share in a server tip pool (from my own work experience back when).

                            1. re: bagelman01

                              "Servers tip out bartenders, but bartenders don't usually tip out servers or share in a server tip pool."

                              Interesting observation, and I have to admit that I have never given that a concern. Maybe I should in the future. Thanks for pointing that out.

                              Now, I would usually choose the bar to a 2-top, as I end up with a half-dozen wine glasses, and a 2-top can get very crowded. When my wife, and I are ushered to the normal 2-top, I usually comment that this will never have enough room for all the wine glasses. At restaurants, where we are regulars, we are most often seated at 4-tops, as they know the quantity of glasses that we will soon have in front of us. At restaurants, that do not know us, I warn them, and see how they react. One very nice restaurant always seats us at what I would typify as a 6-top, as they learned early on, that their regular 4-tops would not be adequate. We are now in their "dossier."


                  2. I think the fact that you were dining solo is irrelevant. My husband and I eat at the bar quite often. We are happy to slide down to make room for others before our food is served. But, once your food (entree or appetizer) is served it is NOT ok. Your meal should not be interrupted. Period.

                    1. I can't imagine a situation where I wouldn't OFFER to slide down before I was asked!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Jetgirly

                        I absolutely agree with Jetgirly.

                      2. I'm with Jetgirly. How hard is is to slide down a seat or two at the bar? Why be territorial when you could be friendly?

                        1. I have bartended for quite a while, and I would NEVER ask a bar patron to scoot over if they had food in front of them, EVER. Just because they are alone does not mean they are not important. IMHO that Bartender was an @$$ for asking and an even bigger one for offering you a comped drink of something that was NOT what you were drinking. They should have comped the drink you had at the very least. As an frequent solo diner I loathe when I am asked to move for a larger group. I was once seated at a 4 top by a hostess, and 2 minutes into my meal was not asked but rather TOLD to move to the bar because they suddenly had a rush of customer and "needed" my 4 top and she started picking up my food and walking away! I let her walk away with my food, and I walked over to the manager and said they could keep my meal, and I would be leaving. Solo diners should be treated with the same respect as a group.

                          21 Replies
                          1. re: gryphonskeeper

                            That story is horrific! I wonder why you got sat a 4-top in the first place? It sounds like the hostess team has no clue about running a floor. I don't blame you for your anger!


                            1. re: gryphonskeeper

                              Not asking is very tactful.

                              Were I the patron, regardless of where I was in the meal, I would offer to move, just to accommodate the group. To me, it is the difference between being told, "you will support this group," and actual charity. If I am dining solo, I would much rather have happy diners beside me, then have disgruntled diners all around me. Maybe I am just an iconoclast, and modern bar etiquette is now different. Maybe I just did not get the "tweet?"


                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                Bill I don't mind of people around me ask "nicely" if I would mind if they sat together. If I am only having a burger, or something small and quick I might. But If I have a new plate in front of me, and a drink and it get moved without asking, or if the bartender starts moving it while they ask.... No way. There is being polite and then there is being treated like a leper.

                                1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                  To me, the "asking" is crucial. If I happen to observe the situation, I will always offer. If someone TELLS me to move, I will not be so amenable to the suggestion. I'm funny that way.

                                  It's like when we have a large 4-top, and see another couple waiting, we think little of offering the extra chairs - unless it's my wife's b'day, or similar.

                                  OTOH, I hate to be rushed, or moved, unless I have been consulted first. While I feel I am gracious, I am not "chopped liver," and resent being mis-treated at any level.

                                  What is that old adage, "you can catch more flies with honey, than with vinegar?"

                                  To all staff - do not go immediately for the "vinegar," as I will act like a vicious fly and bother you, and everyone else, during my stay.

                                  Ask, smile, and beg my indulgences. I will usually agree in a hurry, and carry my plate.


                                2. re: Bill Hunt

                                  If you were part of the party of four waiting for a table would you be "disgruntled" because you had to spend a few minutes making conversation in pairs at the bar waiting for your table to come available?

                                  I'm an adult. I can deal with a temporary separation of my party. I think that most others can as well.

                                  1. re: BeaN

                                    I hope you mean the party of one is just as important as the party of 4.

                                    1. re: gryphonskeeper

                                      I cannot imagine that I would become disgruntled and unpleasant to the lone diner at the bar because my party of four would have to spend a few minutes broken up into pairs while we wait for our table.

                                      If I have a choice about where to sit at the bar, I choose my particular seat for a reason. I would never expect someone to move or to be moved for me.

                                      1. re: BeaN

                                        ...and I cannot imagine that my reason for choosing a particular seat at a bar would be so important that I wouldn't be courteous and move down so a party could sit together.

                                        1. re: bhoward

                                          not to play devli's advocate, but what is so important for four adults not being capable of standing versus sitting while they wait for a table? two ladies sit while two guys stand, happens all the time. Likewise, if the restaurant is running late you can probably assume that another 4-top might arrive and then you have 2 * 4 parties each with 2 seats and 2 standers. just a thought

                                          1. re: jfood

                                            Nothing at all wrong with any of that. Perfectly fine. Nothing wrong with two guys sitting and two women standing. Nothing wrong with one man and one woman sitting and one man and one woman standing. Nothing wrong with one sitting and three standing. See, I have no control over what they do. I DO have control over what I can do and I, like many who have posted to this topic, would offer to move down and let the party of four sit together. If someone sitting at the bar chose not to offer to move to my party of four I wouldn't get bent out of shape about it. I have not addressed what I would do if the bartender asked me to move down because I would offer to move before being asked. To me it is just common courtesy that I am surprised to see that others would not do.

                                            1. re: bhoward

                                              "To me it is just common courtesy that I am surprised to see that others would not do."

                                              Jfood is not sure he would agree it is common courtesy. It is courteous at times but that means that if you choose not to move that you are being discourteous and jfood just has an issue with that one. Maybe it is an agree to disagree sorta thing, maybe it is a type of place sorta thing, maybe it has too many variables to become a black-white, courteous-discouteous thing. C'est la vie.

                                              1. re: jfood

                                                It does not logically follow that if it is courteous to move it is discourteous not to move any more than a proposition that if one is not happy one must be sad. Sliding down a bar is easy. That doesn't mean that not sliding down is difficult. This thread proves that this is an issue people disagree about. I and the posters who have said we would have moved have expressed what we would do. I have also stated that I am surprised so many posters have said they would not move but I also said I would not be upset if a solo diner chose not to move. In fact, I would be very reluctant to ask a solo diner to move down for my party. I would think that if he or she did not offer then he or she probably didn't want to move. Perhaps, as with Norm in "Cheers", it is that person's spot

                                                1. re: bhoward

                                                  or s/he is watching the game, or can watch the window for a taxi from that one place, or does not want to be interrupted while eating. . . all kinds of things. people sit down where they want to sit down, so it *is* rude and can come off as disrespectful to ask a person to instead take a seat that they did not initially select for themselves. no matter how big the party that comes in afterward, the single person, or the couple, or whatever number smaller party, has dibs on the seats and they don't need to be made to feel obligated to move, get shoved aside, take inferior or unprefered seats. . . they had their reasons for sitting down where they did and that should be respected. if they offer to move, fine-- but they shouldn't get pressured from the bt or other staff, and they also shouldn't be under social pressure from the other guests--via dirty looks or stage whispered: "well *I* would have moved and i can't conceive of why anyone else wouldn't. . ."

                                              2. re: bhoward

                                                I'm not saying that I would never move under any circumstance move, just that I shouldn't be expected to do so. Maybe I chose that seat so that I could be able to see the tv or the taxi as others have noted. Maybe I chose that seat so as to avoid the blast of an air conditioning vent or to avoid feeling claustrophobic against the wall or to not be in the path of the traffic coming out of the kitchen.

                                                If I was a part of that party of four, I'd put on my big girl panties and deal with the unspeakable trauma of a few moments of separation of my party like an adult without looking for the diner at the bar, who got there first, to accommodate me any more than I would expect him or her to surrender a table so that my party could be seated. Then maybe when my party of four reunited at our common table we'd have some extra topics of conversation as a result of our brief time apart.

                                                1. re: BeaN

                                                  soupkitten and BeaN: Your posts concern (mostly) scenarios wherein a member of the party is asking the solo diner to move. If you read my post I state that I, if a member of the party, would not request the solo to move and would not be upset if the solo diner didn't make the offer to move. And there are situations where I wouldn't move--for example if I chose that particular seat at the bar to have a good view of a game I came to watch. (I would not be offended, however, if asked to slide down to make room for a party). That is not, however, the situation discussed in the original post. I am of the mind that, unless I have a good reason not to want to move, I will gladly accomodate others no matter who makes the request. You have both given several reasons why a diner may choose not to move. Of course, there could be many reasons that the diner is eating solo but that is another topic.

                                                2. re: bhoward

                                                  IMO, acts of common courtesy should not make the other party feel weird or awkward. If I walked up to a bar with a party of four and the guy in the middle of dinner starts picking up his water glass, wine glass, soup bowl, etc. and shoving them further down the bar to make room for us to sit next each other...well...I'm not really sure what I'd say to that.

                                                  It's kind of like waiting to hold the door for the person that is really too far away. You're just making them feel like they have to hurry up. Just drop the door, eat your dinner, and don't worry about other people so much. Just treat others as you would like to be treated - when you start doing more than that, it all starts to go wrong.

                                              3. re: bhoward

                                                My personal sentiments exactly. The only catch would be if I noticed, then I'd offer, or if someone told me to move. That might get an icy stare and non-compliance, but it would be due more to perceived rudeness on the part of others, than anything else.


                                              4. re: BeaN

                                                Actually, this happened to us on Maui recently. A very large party had not vacated, when the management anticipated that they would. We were ushered to the bar, though we had confirmed reservations at our appointed time. There were 3 seats at the bar, with 2 on one side of a single, and then the other single empty stool. We had our guests take the two seats, and we stood behind them, and ordered a nice bottle of Montrachet. Had there been two vacancies on either side of the single, I would never have thought of asking them to move over. Had the offered to do so, we would probably have accepted, but it was no big deal. We had wine, and would soon have a table. We had good friends, and were close to them, so it was not an issue. Heck, we probably had better conversation, standing behind them, than if we were strung out along the bar, especially as the noise level was very high, from the group that had not left yet. Life is easy to deal with, so long as you have good wine!


                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                  Yes, as the jingle used to go, "Things Go Better With Montrachet..." You're a lucky man, Bill...Cheers!

                                                  1. re: penthouse pup

                                                    Now, if the "other diners" wish my seat, and offer me a nice Chassagne-Montrachet, I'll move to the broom closet!


                                        2. re: gryphonskeeper

                                          Right on!

                                          I am a bartender and i would never do that.

                                          On several occasions i have been told to do that by a Mgr. but I think it is bad form to say the very least.

                                          As a diner I would play nice if a party asked.

                                          If a bartender asked on his own and offered a drink i would walk and I wouldn't care how well he made an Aviator.

                                        3. the more I read this thread the more I think I would NOT move. If you sit at the bar but don't want to be at either end you have to sit somewhere. At some point others sit at the bar. People don't arrive in even numbers necessarily so if there are 2 seats on one side of you and 3 on the other and you slide down for a party of 4 to sit you may find that a little later you need to slide back again to accommodate another party.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: smartie

                                            Interesting concept, smartie. I can see your point. I probably would not move either. After all, I'm a paying customer just like everyone else.

                                            1. re: smartie

                                              Yes, you make a good point. At most bars, there are two ends: the end where the waitstaff picks up, and drops off all orders, and then the "ignore" end. Gotta's sit someplace. If openings arise beside you, but not in the exact number as the waiting party, so be it.


                                            2. I just had a brush with this, early in the week. I was dining solo at a bar/restaurant. There were originally two stools on either side of me, when I sat down and ordered my wines and food. Things changed, and then there was only one stool on either side. A young couple came up, and the gentleman offered the lady the stool to my left. As I noticed, I slid over, moved my wine and food to accommodate them as a couple. Not a big deal, at least not to me, but they appreciated the gesture. Luckily, as the evening wore on, a stool opened to their left, as another friend joined them. I was now against a column (though not closely), and had nowhere else to go. They ended up fortunate, as they turned out to be a party of 3, though with one late arrival.

                                              Had I been ordered to move, I might have taken offense, but the staff never uttered a word, and I was glad to do so, as I have been in a similar circumstance before. I too, would have appreciated the gesture. Now, they COULD have offered to buy me a premium wine... though I would have declined. [Unless it was a REALLY "premium" wine.]

                                              The way that I look at it, is that we are all in THIS together, and if I can make someone more comfortable, I am usually all for it. They thanked me for my observations, so it was a win-win for all of us.

                                              Just a recent observation,


                                              1. Honestly, this would depend on the situation for me. If someone was simply waiting for a table, and not in obvious physical distress, I may not instantly offer to move, if I already had food and wine in front of me. And really, I don't see the need to move, if they already have a table waiting for them. Essentially, as a solo diner, my seat at the bar is "my" table, once I've chosen to sit, so in a similar vent, I wouldn't expect to be moved from table to table in the main seating area in a group either. As some have said, a solo diner deserves the same respect as a couple, or four top, or whatever. It can be uncomfortable enough at times without getting shuffled all over the place, or stuck into a little corner at the end of the bar.

                                                That said, I have sat and offered to move. Such was the case when I was meeting a friend at a pizza place this past week. The place was practically empty and I sat in a booth, both for the coziness, and admittedly at the moment I'm up for putting any barriers I can between myself and crowds of diners (chemo). Plus, I just like booths. Even though the place was not full, when I sat and waited for my friend, I asked if it was ok, and also offered to move if a larger crowd arrived, even though it didn't happen. Would still have felt kind of weird to have to move plates and platters midway through the meal though.

                                                I guess sometimes there can be a fine line between courteous, and getting walked all over.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: im_nomad

                                                  You know, even if the group was only waiting for a table, and I was between the spots to accommodate them, I'd still offer to move. Maybe some fault in my nature? I always try to make room for my fellow diners.

                                                  Were my group in their position, would I anticipate another doing the same? Nah, not likely to happen, and did not at Lahaina Grill recently. That is life. One encounters all sorts. We just spit and took the surrounding stools, then passed our Montrachet behind that person, so as to interfere with their enjoyment, as little as was possible.


                                                  1. re: im_nomad

                                                    I eat alone extensively and have a few simple rules. First, I was here first and if I dont want to move, enjoy your evening....
                                                    If I notice before anyone mentions it, I will move, unless there's something wrong with the seat that I would be taking. If asked nicely, I dont mind moving. If "ordered" to move, I will drop anchor and ignore any other entreaties to move.
                                                    A little common courtesy go a very long way with me.........

                                                  2. That is complete and utter bullshit, speaking as a former bartender. If a bartender said that to me I would drop my fork and walk out without paying but only after I told him to go fuck himself.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: cookingasshole

                                                      I was kinda thinking that bar rules apply, not restaurant rules. That is, I've never sat at a bar where people were drinking and there was a lot of sliding going on. When a person is nursing a drink at a bar, he never slides over to the next seat unless he wants a better view of the game on the next TV.

                                                      1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                        Funny, I find this constantly happens. I have never been in a situation where I have not moved for others, or others have not moved for me. In a bar.

                                                        Things may be different if someone has a whole napkin-and-3-courses going on. I don't know. But that's why I am not a cheerleader for that sort of dining at the bar. Bar food, tidbits, fine. Anything else and it's a lunch counter. Just one opinion, and I am aware it is not everyone's.

                                                        1. re: Up With Olives

                                                          I never would ask, or expect the bartender to ask, anyone with food in front of them to move. As a customer in pub-like settings, I have asked people with drinks only if they would mind sliding down one if we were planning on hanging at the bar for a bit and it was obvious that they were by no means moving into a "bad" seat. Usually I or they will offer on their own before being asked. Many times, two will sit and we might pull another stool around someone so as not to disturb them. That 3rd person might be back several feet from the bar but no big deal. If someone were to be especially generous in moving on their own accord, sometimes to another table completely (I hang in "big table" pubs a lot), I have always made sure to thank him/them by personally buying them a round. Everyone is happy.