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Apr 17, 2010 05:48 PM

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