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Service biases against non-drinkers?

a
anit Dec 19, 2011 02:42 PM

I recently quit drinking and I have since had 3 negative experiences at separate places with waiter/esses that seemed pissed that I didn't order alcohol (I did order a soft drink or something similar each time). My dining companions usually also don't order alcohol if they drove into the city or also health reasons, so in each of these cases no alcohol was ordered at all at the table. First you can sort of see the disappointment in the waitresses' face - which I can understand, it is a big money maker, as I realize now that my checks have been way lower - but I do feel like service suffers too. I feel like once they know you won't order drinks they hardly come back to check on you (or at all) and the general sense that you get treated much better if you were drinking. I don't understand why you can't just go to a restaurant to eat and get what you want. I don't linger (not that the places were super crowded that and I was taking away other business) and once was during brunch -- I mean, sorry I have to be productive the rest of the day.

Am I relegated to eating at Chipotle from now on? Does anyone else get this too? Is there anything I can do (other than not going back to these places)?

  1. s
    SimplyMarie Dec 19, 2011 03:39 PM

    I go to all sorts of restaurants..and I rarely order an alcoholic beverage. I have to say I have never experienced what you are describing. If you are in a restaurant and a server "gets pissed" because you are not ordering an alcoholic beverage..ask for another server and explain to the manager why. This is extremely unprofessional behavior from any server.

    1. f
      ferventfoodie Dec 19, 2011 06:06 PM

      Unfortunately, I found this kind of "discrimination" , especially in some of the "better"
      restaurants. My husband was a real wine lover - one of the first to take the Windows on the
      World course with Zraly. taught wine courses locally and most of our trips were to wine regions here and in Europe. Then he became unable to drink alcohol for medical reasons. We noticed a marked change in our restaurant "experiences" after that. In addition to the not
      uppping the tab issue, it seemed as soon as you said you weren't ordering wine, in some places they just seemed to write you off immediateiy as though if you didn't inmibe, you must not appreciate good wine OR food. In some cases, when we later got into discussions about
      the food (i.e.,questions about prep, sources, etc.) and even wine, and they realized
      how much knowledge and experience we had, the attitude changed - but not always.

      One of these days I'll start a thread about bias against women in restaurants!

      1. h
        Harters Dec 20, 2011 05:14 AM

        It is many years since I drank alcohol and my partner only drinks very sparingly. Never had a problem, nor felt that I was receiving poorer service, whether high end Michelin starred, back street dive or anywhere in between.

        Restaurant staff who give visible signs that they are disappointed at a customer not ordering alcohol need to be quietly taken aside by their manager for a brief reminder about the nature of the hospitality industry. The manager should only ever need to do this once with an employee. Any repetition of their rudeness and discourtesy should have different and more permanent consequences.

        1. Karl S Dec 20, 2011 06:09 AM

          You may be projecting. I rarely drink alcohol with a meal, especially in the evening, and I can't ever recall having the experience you describe. I wonder if you are over-interpreting what you are witnessing; it would be a common thing to do after making this important behavioral shift (that is, you start reading other people's reactions to you through that lens).

          1 Reply
          1. re: Karl S
            danna Jan 4, 2012 07:56 AM

            I tend to agree with Karl. My husband thinks he gets attitude because he rarely orders a drink, but I don't notice it directed at him, or on the rare occasions when I *don't* order a glass of wine. I think he's just uptight about it.

            On the other hand, I'm known for being thick-skinned and rather oblivious to subtleties , so maybe that's it. I recommend this state of being to everyone ;-)

          2. c
            cleobeach Dec 20, 2011 10:06 AM

            I experienced a negative attitude once. We were at a high-end restaurant and the waiter definately gave us a hard time and even said something like "why did I bother with the wine list?" as he snatched it out of my hand.

            1. s
              silence9 Dec 20, 2011 03:08 PM

              Hi... At dinner service, neither my wife nor I drink anymore; if it is an extremely special occasion (wedding rehearsal dinner or honored guest from another continent), I will graciously accept a small pour of wine with which to 'toast'). But otherwise, no booze with our din-din. And I have unfortunately noticed a sometimes subtle/sometimes blatant shift in attention to service from a server; not always, and perhaps not even frequently - but it does occur. Usually, the slip in service is over minor matters and I am not so very demanding of being fawned over that the lack thereof causes me discomfort. What I actually find most uncomfortable is the seeming discomfort that the server might display, such as sighing and terse/abrubt responses bearing no relationship to the mutual alliance between a good patron and an otherwise good server. In a word, it nearly pains me to see a server express disappointment over an absent bar/wine tab. Sometimes I will actually order a tonic-only with lime, as my way of showing good faith in supporting the house's need to optimize its' bottom line.

              I think that perhaps the issue of slippage in service might be more likely at a restaurant that only has dinner service, where the expectation might usually be for diners to imbibe with their meal. Even at moderate-to-high end establishments that serve lunch in addition to dinner, my guess would be that a larger portion of diners-who-are-technically-drinkers might not be inclined to order booze with lunch for the usual reasons. Such an establishment would likely have a more understanding perspective as to why a table of diners is not imbibing. Whereas at dinner-only places, the paradigm might be more skewed to see non-drinkers as an unfortunate subset of their clientele...

              1. a
                armstwa Dec 21, 2011 08:01 AM

                trust me, all servers want you to order alcohol. some are just better at hiding their passive snubs with good service. big spenders on wine/alcohol will always be higher on the priority list.

                1 Reply
                1. re: armstwa
                  a
                  AsperGirl Dec 22, 2011 06:57 AM

                  I agree. staff will be more impressed and/or fawning once you start ordering fine wines or good cocktails.

                  Maybe they are noticing the servers who don't hide their disappointment well and also they are missing the love from not being high on the priority list.

                2. Bob Martinez Dec 21, 2011 12:09 PM

                  "it (alcohol) is a big money maker, as I realize now that my checks have been way lower..."

                  Tips are based on a percentage of the total bill. A much lower check translates into a much lower tip. It takes the same amount of effort for them to pour you a Coke as it does to pour you a bottle of Cabernet. In effect you're expecting the same level of service for a much lower price.

                  If this truly bothers you, you might speak to your server at be beginning of the meal and mention that your tip will be at the same level as it was when you were ordering wine or beer. I'll bet that will work.

                  30 Replies
                  1. re: Bob Martinez
                    f
                    ferventfoodie Dec 21, 2011 01:16 PM

                    I'm somewhat conflicted about your post. First, I would have to disagree that it takes the same
                    amount of effort to pour a glass of wine vs. a glass of coke. First, there's the pulling of the
                    cork, then the tasting, etc. which in itself might command a larger gratuity. It does beg the
                    question of why, unless you request decanting or some other special consideration,
                    you should tip more on a $150 dollar botlle than a $40 one.

                    That being said, ideally, I don't think your level of service should depend of the total of your
                    tab. In reality, I don't doubt that those dollar signs are registering at least somewhere in
                    your server's mind.

                    Some people have told me they don't tip on alcohol, although I always do - I was unable
                    to find any discussion of this on any of the boards.

                    1. re: ferventfoodie
                      Bob Martinez Dec 21, 2011 01:34 PM

                      "That being said, ideally, I don't think your level of service should depend of the total of your
                      tab."

                      Not "tab," TIP. A bigger tab results in a bigger tip. And as you know, servers rely on tips for the major part of their compensation. Most states allow restaurant owners to pay them minimum wage or, in some cases, less based on the idea that servers will earn their salary from tips.

                      As for the greater level of work involved in serving wine, pulling a cork and pouring a taste takes about 90 seconds yet the total cost of the wine probably doubles the amount of the tip.

                      If you pay a server less most likely you're going to get a lower level of service. They're probably going to pay more attention to the tables who are more likely to tip well.

                      In a perfect world, that wouldn't be the case. Servers would treat everyone the same regardless of how much they tip out of the goodness of their hearts. Then again, in a perfect world I'd have a full head of hair and would be dating supermodels. :-)

                      I'll repeat my earlier suggestion. The OP should smile and tell the server in advance that the tip will be the same as if the table was drinking wine. You get what you pay for.

                      1. re: Bob Martinez
                        a
                        anit Dec 21, 2011 02:24 PM

                        If I "get what I pay for" then I should get equal service. I am still paying to eat the food at the restaurant and the 20% tip I pay is to cover the service for the food and dining portion of the visit. The 20% tip you pay on alcohol is for the service of bringing you glasses, filling your glasses, etc. I don't think this portion should trump the other. It is a shame they judge you out based on what you eat. It is like saying you deserve better treatment better if you order a $35 entree vs. a $30 entree. You are still a paying customer and service is still provided with your meal. I never expect anyone to provide anything "out of the goodness out their heart" -- I completely know it is a business transaction, they are not my friends nor am I eating at mom's house.

                        You said, "In effect you're expecting the same level of service for a much lower price." I disagree. The price for good service is 20% no matter what you order - so I am paying the same rate as everyone else. So I do believe I deserve the same level of service. Obviously I need less visits to the table to refill wine glasses etc., so I don't expect the same exact number of visits but as a diner, I shouldn't be written off completely.

                        I am just saying it's a bit sad that it has come down to this. I shouldn't have to convince the waiter that I am not going to cause trouble, not going to be fussy, will tip them 20%, eat my food and leave promptly after and in general be a good customer even though I do not drink. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone tells their waiter ahead of time how they as a customer will behave and how the waiter should behave?

                        If it were something blatant like what cleobeach experienced, I would have no problem talking to the manager. Usually it is something subtle and unquantifiable about most of my experiences that make it difficult to report without say, being accused of "projecting."

                        1. re: anit
                          Bob Martinez Dec 21, 2011 03:59 PM

                          "If I "get what I pay for" then I should get equal service. I am still paying to eat the food at the restaurant and the 20% tip I pay is to cover the service for the food and dining portion of the visit. The 20% tip you pay on alcohol is for the service of bringing you glasses, filling your glasses, etc. I don't think this portion should trump the other. "

                          So, how's that strategy working out for you?

                          1. re: Bob Martinez
                            a
                            anit Dec 21, 2011 04:45 PM

                            The fact that this is what service has come to these days and the fact that customers put up with it - well maybe it is what it is - but it doesn't make it right. Restaurants should act like restaurants, if alcohol is so important to their profit margin that those customers imbibing are the only ones they care about, maybe they should rethink their business model. I believe it is called a bar.

                            1. re: anit
                              Bob Martinez Dec 21, 2011 10:38 PM

                              Servers and tips. Servers and tips. Servers and tips.

                              This shouldn't be tricky. Servers pay the most attention to people who tip them the most. People who don't drink generate lower checks and because tips are based on a percentage of the bill, lower tips.

                              It's not some grand conspiracy by restaurants to encourage drinking, it's servers paying extra attention to people who will tip them more.

                              I've explained it. I've even offered a way to insure good service, even if you don't drink. Just tip your server more and tell them in advance.

                              The fact that a number of people have reported the same issue tells me that we're dealing with a widespread phenomenon, not an isolated incident. Complaining about this on an Internet message board isn't going to change anything. It's fundamental human nature for servers to give the most attention to customers who pay them the most.

                              There are some people who don't want to accept this but the real world doesn't always conform to our expectations.

                              Tip more and you'll get better service.

                              1. re: Bob Martinez
                                f
                                freia Jan 1, 2012 01:14 PM

                                Yikes! So this is what it comes down to? I accept crap service because I'm not giving you extra money? So I'll give you money to treat me better, dear server, don't worry, I'm going to tip you X dollars, just be nice to me?????
                                A restaurant is in the business of dining experiences. They may or may not include alcohol. They may or may not include a coffee and dessert order. The final bill is variable. But IMHO all diners are there to have the same dining experience. If the servers are clearly ignoring your table because your total table tab doesn't meet their expected tip requirements, I'd be finding another restaurant.
                                Last time I checked, wasn't the amount of a tip discretionary? It sounds like it is now a mandatory thing. And the amount seems mandatory. Sounds like a privilege extended has become a right expected, and now one is urged to compensate a waiter for a lower total table tab in order to get a decent dining experience...wow....

                                1. re: freia
                                  Bob Martinez Jan 1, 2012 01:25 PM

                                  Yep, that's right. Shocking as it might be, people who tip more get better service.

                                  1. re: Bob Martinez
                                    f
                                    freia Jan 1, 2012 01:35 PM

                                    No, I think you missed the point of what I was saying.
                                    I know that those perceived to have the potential to tip well get more server attention.
                                    My point was the suggestion that one must pre-empt that by pulling aside a server and saying "I'll give you X dollars to treat me better". That's what is scary to me.
                                    You go for dinner for the dining experience, you should have a certain level of ensuing service regardless of your final bill. I think the OP was saying that the minimal level isn't there based on a prejudgement.
                                    The suggestion to preempt this with a predetermined "gift" of money is what was a bit shocking, and perhaps THIS is creating the problem. It acknowledges that you believe as a patron that a tip is mandatory, that a certain percentage is mandatory and that poor service is acceptable if a certain amount of tip is not forthcoming. Enough of the tipping in anticipation of a low dinner tab means that it becomes accepted practice at the establishment. Yikes....

                                    1. re: freia
                                      Bob Martinez Jan 1, 2012 02:52 PM

                                      Compensating for an artificially low bill by tipping more isn't a "gift." The total amount of time a server will spend attending to the table will be pretty much the same as if they uncorked a bottle of wine and topped up the occasional glass. The real "gift" would be to a group of diners who tip significantly less and yet expect to receive the same level of services as diners who tip more.

                                      A series of people on this thread complained that as non drinkers they often seem to get a lesser level of service than tables who order wine. I explained why and offered a solution. Tip more. It may seem crass but servers are working for a living. Money matters.

                                      1. re: Bob Martinez
                                        f
                                        ferventfoodie Jan 2, 2012 07:26 AM

                                        So what happens if you offer a larger gratuity and the service is still
                                        inadequate? Do you leave a smaller tip and explain to the server and/or
                                        manager? Personally, I would not dine at an establishment where I felt
                                        I had to bribe the wait staff for good service. We've seen your "solution"
                                        several times and obviously some of us ar not going to be persuaded
                                        to agree with it. Everyone has a right to their own opinion, even if it
                                        means with dealing with "negative" consequences - once. I would return not
                                        to a restaurant where I felt my service was reduced based on any
                                        kind of bias.

                                        1. re: ferventfoodie
                                          Bob Martinez Jan 2, 2012 09:53 AM

                                          "So what happens if you offer a larger gratuity and the service is still
                                          inadequate?"

                                          An excellent question. Here's the thing - even when DRINKERS leave a full tip they don't always get good service. Leaving a full tip is not an ironclad guarantee of seamless and professional service. It's just a way of increasing the odds.

                                          If you leave a good tip, drinker or non drinker, and the service is bad you've got a judgment call to make. Is the server bad all the time or were they having a bad night? Sometimes a kitchen screws up and the server has to cover for them. Dishes may be wrong or late but the chef doesn't come out to the table to apologize.

                                          Maybe that particular server is bad, maybe the others are good. (Bad servers in good restaurants tend to get fired.) Or maybe the restaurant is a slipshod operation and *all* the servers are bad.

                                          In my case, if I like the food but I got subpar service I'll give them another chance. If the service continues to be a problem I have a decision to make. Is the quality of the food enough for me to overlook the service issues? If yes, I'll keep going back but cut my tip to the %15 minimum. (I don't like to reward bad behavior.) If the food is average, I'll move on.

                                          Assuming that non drinkers tip the same as drinkers, you ought to be on a level playing field. I think that's all you can ask for.

                                          1. re: Bob Martinez
                                            f
                                            freia Jan 2, 2012 10:46 AM

                                            I'll personally never, ever do that. Never. If the service is less than adequate regardless of my order, I'll find somewheres else to go. There's been talk before on CH about upselling. Booze, coffee, dessert. I may not order wine. OR I may not order dessert or coffee. But I'll be darned if I give extra money over to anyone to ensure I have fair service. Not going to happen. And those who do just instill this philosophy amongst the particular restaurant. Ridiculous, IMHO. it just seems like totally bizarre behaviour to me.

                                            1. re: Bob Martinez
                                              t
                                              tastesgoodwhatisit Jan 2, 2012 10:55 PM

                                              But you don't tip until *after* the meal is over.

                                              So if you are a regular at a restaurant, they'll remember you as a high tipper, and give extra special good service - then buying better service works. If you're not - if you only go to the restaurant once or twice, or are on vacation - them the non psychic server won't know that you're going to tip extra, and you'll still get bad service for not ordering an expensive meal with lots of alcohol.

                                              If the server gives me bad service because I didn't order lots of alcohol, or the full appetizer/main/drinks/dessert/coffee routine, then my solution isn't to pull them aside and try bribe them into doing their job. Instead, I'm going to give them a tip that's appropriate for crappy service, complain to the manager if its egregious enough, not go back, and possibly tell my friends about the horrible service I got at the restaurant.

                                      2. re: Bob Martinez
                                        a
                                        anit Jan 1, 2012 02:43 PM

                                        Interesting. I thought the order of events goes: people who get better service will tip more.

                                        Re: below, yes I did mean that minimal level of service was lacking.
                                        I agree, yikes indeed.

                                  2. re: anit
                                    EWSflash Dec 23, 2011 09:51 AM

                                    +1, anit

                              2. re: Bob Martinez
                                f
                                ferventfoodie Dec 21, 2011 02:36 PM

                                I think we are agreeing one some but not all points here. You said "If you pay a server less most likely you are going to get a lower level of service". That is what I was
                                implying when I said your level of service shouldn't depend of the total of your tab.
                                And how does the server know what you're going to "pay" before you tip them -
                                I don't think the the implied "bribe" of a big tip should be required to insure good service.
                                But as you say, this is not a perfect world.

                                1. re: ferventfoodie
                                  h
                                  Harters Dec 21, 2011 03:13 PM

                                  "how does the server know what you're going to "pay" before you tip them"

                                  Reading many Chowhound tipping threads, I conclude that Americans are pretty consistent in what they tip, almost regardless of the level of service (unlesss it is truly awful). I presume servers will see the same thing each and every shift.

                                  1. re: Harters
                                    f
                                    ferventfoodie Dec 21, 2011 03:30 PM

                                    Most Chowhounders probably tip generously if the service is good, but I'm not
                                    sure about Americans in general. Some of my non-foodie friends and people
                                    I've dined with outside of metro areas seem to stick with 15%, some as low
                                    as 10 - and I find myself overtipping to compensate.

                                    1. re: ferventfoodie
                                      h
                                      Harters Dec 22, 2011 02:00 AM

                                      Exactly my point, ff. If you know your non-foodie friends generally tip at 15% , then servers know that as well. In most cases, the server would really have to screw things up for them to tip less than 15%.

                                2. re: Bob Martinez
                                  jgg13 Jan 3, 2012 04:36 PM

                                  In response to the questions on this board as to why one should tip the same %age on a very expensive bottle of wine vs. a cheaper bottle of wine, one argument that is often raised by industry folks is that there's a lot more that goes into a restaurant serving you an expensive bottle of wine - servers need to know more about what's being provided, there's often more service involved (theoretically), etc.

                                  If that's true your comparison of a pour of coke & wine being equal is *not* true as I don't think servers need to know much about the sorts of coke available from the cooler. And if those posters' opinions are *not* true, well, we need to have a conversation regarding tipping on expensive wine again.

                              3. re: Bob Martinez
                                l
                                LeoLioness Dec 22, 2011 10:57 AM

                                I'm curious by what you mean by "ordering beer or wine". Do you tip as though you ordered two drafts? A glass of wine? A bottle from the upper-middle price point from the wine list?

                                1. re: LeoLioness
                                  Bob Martinez Dec 22, 2011 12:21 PM

                                  My assumption is that we are talking about mid to upper scale restaurants. Most people, not all but *most*, will drink more than a single glass of wine over the course of a 2 hour dinner.

                                  Lets stick to wine as a basis for our calculation. Assume that the average bottle of wine is $40. (Split between 2 people that comes out to 2 1/2 glasses each over 2 hours. That's not hard to drink at all.) 15% of the purchase price would be $6. Round it up a bit and it comes to $7. If I was a non drinker I'd add an extra $7 on to the tip and let the server know in advance.

                                  The conversation needn't be awkward. At the point the server was taking the order I'd mention that we wouldn't be drinking wine but we know how hard working they were and we wanted to be fair, so we'd adjust out tip up.

                                  Most likely the server would protest that it wasn't necessary but you know what? The server would really appreciate the gesture and I'll bet the service would be great..

                                  Of course good service can't be guaranteed. Although I order wine with meals around 10% of the time the service is off, even though I'm tipping well. Stuff like happens but I've never had the service problems described by a number of posters on this thread.

                                  1. re: Bob Martinez
                                    j
                                    jenhen2 Jan 2, 2012 07:22 AM

                                    I think that's really tacky. You should not have to tell your server in advance what the tip will be, or how you will adjust it to compensate for something you will not be consuming. That's just crazy to me.

                                    1. re: Bob Martinez
                                      h
                                      Harters Jan 2, 2012 07:37 AM

                                      You're obviously entitled to your view, Bob.

                                      Maybe such a conversation would be culturally acceptable where you are in the world. To me, it just seems an incredibly tacky and patronising conversation to have with a server.

                                      1. re: Harters
                                        Bob Martinez Jan 2, 2012 09:41 AM

                                        Money is tacky? Maybe we should have menus without prices too. We can pretend that we're going over to a friend's house to eat. Sorry. Going to a restaurant is a commercial transaction.

                                        I've suggested both a cause and a solution to the problem. (I have no doubt that the issue is a real one.)

                                        My suggestion is to eliminate the tip inequality by having non drinkers tip the same as drinkers. It seems the only alternative people are offering is to find restaurants where the servers cheerfully accept the fact that non drinkers will tip less. The fact that so many people are reporting the problem leads me to believe that restaurants staffed by altruistic servers who work out of pure professionalism are few and far between. We can lament that fact but it doesn't change it.

                                        1. re: Bob Martinez
                                          h
                                          Harters Jan 2, 2012 10:06 AM

                                          "Going to a restaurant is a commercial transaction."

                                          Absolutely correct. However your proposed method screws the way "business is done". IMO, of course.

                                          But then, I've never had a server sneer at me, or made me feel I was getting lower service because I don't drink alcohol. Or don't order a dessert. Or order a menu item that is not the most expensive. Or whatever.

                                          I do expect (and usually receive) a professional standard of service from hospitality professionals. I am sorry that others, wherever they are in the world, have experienced other than that. Such a condemnation of those restaurants.

                                          1. re: Harters
                                            f
                                            ferventfoodie Jan 2, 2012 10:58 AM

                                            Yes, going to a restaurant is a "commercial transaction" but the hospitality
                                            industry is a SERVICE business, perhaps the quintesential service business -
                                            should someone who brings three shirts a week to the dry cleaners have to
                                            promise them a tip to ensure the same level of service received by someone
                                            who brings in six shirts and a suit?

                                            To Harters: Never having been to Britain (It's on the bucket list), I don't know
                                            how the tipping system works there. Is it like the US or more like France
                                            where the bulk of the gratuity is included in the bill? If the latter is the case,
                                            it might at least partially explain why you have not had negative experiences.
                                            Or maybe the service staffs in Europe are more professional - for many
                                            it is their life's work, not a fill-in job while they're waiting for their break
                                            on Broadway!

                                            1. re: ferventfoodie
                                              h
                                              Harters Jan 2, 2012 11:16 AM

                                              FF

                                              Tipping in the UK falls into two categories. First (and most common) is the cash tip - such as you have in America - although it is much more discretionary about the percentage or, indeed, if you tip at all. I normally tip at 10% which, traditionally has been the "going rate". I tip on what I order - not on some fictitious nominal concept of what I think the server might like me to have ordered.

                                              A growing number of places ( mainly in London or upscale) add a service charge to the bill (London rate now seems to be 12.5% , 10% rest oi the country). Again, it's entirely discretionary although I suspect most people pay it. This is actually the system I personally prefer (although I really prefer the French or Spanish system where tipping is pretty much not required as you indicate. )

                                              So, to answer the question that I think was possibly in your mind - yes, tip (or servce charge) income is important to servers here. Dunno if British servers are generally more professional than American ones. My experience in both countries suggests that, whilst the style fo service is certainly different, I doubt whether there's really much difference in professionalism.

                                              I come back to my basic tenet in this discussion. We are talking about hospitality here. And , if a server cannot avoid sneering at a customer or gives them noticably poorer service simply because they havnt ordered alcohol, the solution rests with the restaurant management - server should be given a single warning about their attitude. No second chances - do it again to a customer and they get fired. Businesses, on whichever side of the Atlantic, simply cannot afford to employ staff with so little aptitude for the job. Simple.

                                              1. re: Harters
                                                f
                                                ferventfoodie Jan 2, 2012 09:53 PM

                                                Harters -

                                                Thanks for the reply - I particularly appreciated your comment on not tipping on
                                                "some fictitious nominal concept of what I think the server might like me to have
                                                ordered".

                                                I agree with your opinion on management's responsibility in cases such as
                                                this, but I admit that I have not always been as pro-active as I should about
                                                bringing the situation to their attention. Actually, I'm more likely to mention
                                                a problem to a manager, owner or chef I know because I don't want to
                                                happen to another diner and possibly adversely affect their business . complain

                                2. s
                                  sueatmo Dec 21, 2011 12:46 PM

                                  I am sure that servers are disappointed that we don't imbibe. But even when we eat at fine places, we generally still get good service. I do note the faces of the servers, though. I am sure they wish we would order alcohol of some sort. The worst I ever saw was many years ago when we entered a fine eatery, were seated and didn't order wine. The next couple that came in was under age, and the manager was obviously very unhappy as he removed their wine glasses.

                                  The degree of disappointment might reflect the quality level of the restaurant. A lovely high-end place will offer fine wine, and I suppose they want everyone to drink freely.

                                  1. tracylee Dec 21, 2011 12:50 PM

                                    I can no longer drink alcohol, but go out to dinner with my folks who do. I order water, and usually end up having to drink Mom's water too, because as often as the wait staff goes by, I either can't get their attention for a refill, or they conveniently forget - even while bringing wine refills for others. It's really frustrating for me, since I go through alot of water while dining out.

                                    1. p
                                      Pookipichu Dec 21, 2011 02:13 PM

                                      It makes me angry that I've received negative attitude from servers at some of the most expensive restaurants in New York simply because I do not drink alcohol. I've received looks of disappointment, stares, persistence (asking again after the first refusal), hastily snatched wine glasses or wine menus... After my most recent experience having this happen (at an upscale American restaurant), I just got fed up.

                                      In the past, I would over-order to compensate but I asked myself, why should I feel guilty for not ordering something I cannot drink? It could be for religious reasons, or because I'm a recovering alcoholic, or pregnant. What right does a server have to make me feel bad during my meal? What does service and hospitality mean in the service and hospitality industry? Without drinks the meal came to over $200 for two, the tip was $35. I'm sorry but that's a lot of money to be spending at dinner. Were we supposed to spend $300? $500? What's enough? Getting $35 to take our order and not check on us once during our entire meal except to bring us our bill... that's more than plenty.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: Pookipichu
                                        a
                                        anit Dec 21, 2011 02:37 PM

                                        Well put. My sentiments exactly. Maybe these restaurants should say upfront, if you spend $500 you deserve our highest of service. If you spend $250 you'll only get something half-assed, so don't bother coming here to just eat food. You better believe I won't go. They should appreciate all their good customers and treat them accordingly.

                                        1. re: anit
                                          s
                                          silence9 Dec 21, 2011 03:46 PM

                                          " Maybe these restaurants should say upfront, if you spend $500 you deserve our highest of service. If you spend $250 you'll only get something half-assed...".
                                          -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                          Kinda like with airlines - you have 1st class, business class, and economy class (and within economy class one now has the option to upgrade by purchasing several more precious inches of leg room). Those unwilling to cough up the leg room upgrade fee are relegated to a silent grudging suffering for several hours; the airlines are in effect saying that they acknowledge that their regular version of economy is sub-standard, so just upgrade to feel more 'normal'. But at least the ground rules with airlines are clear - pay a little more, get a little more; pay alot more, get alot more. "No $$$, no soup for you! One year!!"

                                          1. re: silence9
                                            p
                                            Pookipichu Dec 22, 2011 10:45 AM

                                            A different way to look at it is like this: It's not about economy class vs. first class. For example, it's like if the stewardess in first class ignored you or gave you attitude because you declined to purchase the caviar supplement to your in-flight meal.

                                            The restaurants at which I've experienced alcohol related service bias have all been expensive, with or without alcohol.

                                            Or how about this, movie theatres make the majority of their profits at the concession stand. Would you get worse seats if your refuse to buy popcorn? Or have the concession stand operator shake his fist at you in anger? Or blow raspberries as you pass by?

                                            Bad attitude is just not acceptable, especially as a passive aggressive tactic to make people spend money.

                                            1. re: Pookipichu
                                              monavano Dec 22, 2011 02:17 PM

                                              Good examples. Or, what if you go to a salon and you get a haircut and other customers get the works? The cut, the color, the highlights and low lights, the conditioning, and straightening (oh, it gets complicated!)... should you be scoffed at or paid less attention because your bill and thus your tip, will be lower?
                                              Put it this way, you have no pride in what you do if this affects your performance and execution of your job duties.

                                              1. re: monavano
                                                f
                                                ferventfoodie Dec 22, 2011 06:09 PM

                                                Thanks, monavano. I was trying to come up with an example that illustrated
                                                the same point, but nothing really was suitable. Your choice is great -
                                                my stylist does a great job for me whether I'm there for just a trim or "the
                                                works", but then she already knows I'm a good tipper.

                                      2. monavano Dec 21, 2011 04:04 PM

                                        I have noticed this from time to time and usually in finer establishments. i resent feeling guilty or pressured into ordering alcohol and don't think I should have to compensate in my tip. I do order a bottle of sparkling water from time to time, or a cranberry/seltzer drink. The former is generally dumped into my glass to empty the bottle as soon as humanly possible and the latter is generally ignored for refills.
                                        Frankly, I drink water when I'm home so I don't like having to consumer more calories or spend money on what should be free.

                                        1. s
                                          smartie Dec 22, 2011 05:47 AM

                                          If I go into a clothing store and spend ages trying on the clothes on the sale rail with a view to buying just one thing at $20 I still should get the same service from the salesperson than if I want to buy a $300 dress no?

                                          A customer today that is not drinking and spending could be a customer tomorrow with a party of 8 who will.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: smartie
                                            c
                                            Cachetes Dec 22, 2011 06:29 AM

                                            Bingo. It is cheaper to keep a returning customer than to find a new one, so the primary goal should be retention of a good customer. We also know that a bad experience gets told by people many more times than a good one, so a single bad experience for one non-wine ordering couple can have a ripple effect. And as you suggest, one evening's non-drinking party of two can turn into a special event that can bring in a lot of bucks.

                                            In my mind, any professional restaurant will treat every customer as a priority, and will compel waitstaff to as well. I understand how waitstaff, because it affects their immediate tips and they likely have little sense of or don't care about the longterm impact, might respond in some of the ways above. But for owners or managers to allow that to happen, or engage in it themselves, have lost sight of the big business picture.

                                            1. re: Cachetes
                                              f
                                              ferventfoodie Dec 22, 2011 10:16 AM

                                              Exactly my feelings. At the very first restaurant I reviewed, they recited a long list of
                                              specials without prices (a pet peeve). On two separate visits, the server mentioned a dish to a near-by table that had not been offered to us. Because it happened more than once,
                                              I mentioned it in the review. The owner called to complain to my editor, who asked that
                                              I talk to him directly. When I did, he found several other faults with the review but of
                                              this one he asked "if I only have six orders of something in the kitchen, don't I have
                                              the right to offer them ro my regulars". I told him he had the "right" to do whatever he
                                              wanted but that he had to be prepared to deal with the perception of it by the other
                                              diners.

                                              As I often suggest to my friends in the business, treat everyone well - the next
                                              customer through the door could become a regular, or could be a reviewer!

                                          2. l
                                            LeoLioness Dec 22, 2011 10:59 AM

                                            I can forgive servers a lot of things, but not this. Considering all the valid, good reasons there are for not consuming alcohol (and I say this as someone who frequently consumes alcohol), it's pretty shitty for a server to punish a diner for not ordering booze.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: LeoLioness
                                              EWSflash Dec 23, 2011 12:24 PM

                                              You are absolutely right.

                                            2. t
                                              timxph Dec 23, 2011 01:01 PM

                                              Ideally all restaurants want to make sure each diner has an enjoyable experience, regardless of how much they spend. It's always easier and better to get repeat business and good word of mouth. You have to let management know if you feel your service is substandard. That is the only way to change it. Substandard is never good, regardless of the reason.

                                              There are a lot of biases out there by many servers, and restaurant professionals, especially in fine dining. Whether it's against not drinkers, vegetarians/vegans, solo diners, children, special occasion peeps on a budget, grouponers et al, the people that order the inexpensive wine, etc... A lot of the biases are not meant to be rude though. A lot of restaurants spend a lot of time and money on a great wine program and amazing chef and knowlegable staff, so sometimes it is disappointing if a guest doesn't come for the "full experience". But they understand people have different dietary, religious needs, etc, but it's still disappointing for them that you can't fully experience all they have to offer.

                                              The good servers and restaruants don't let it show, and know every customer is valued. But unfortunately at high end places a lot of employees get spoiled with a majority of great customers that appreciate wine and food, (like many hounds) and spend lots of money and also usually tip 20% at least, and that means great money for many of the servers. So yes sometimes service may fall short if you are spending less then the average diner, especially if the restaurant is busy. Serving is afterall mostly about prioritizing many things at once. And frankly lots of them don't really care if you come back or say bad things about the restaurant, but managers care. And those servers need to be weeded out.

                                              Please keep in mind, many managers aren't going to overhear a snide comment or a rude look when ordering, so it's up to you to say something. Especially if you feel you were ignored and not served properly! No manager wants an employee like that.

                                              But yes, it's all about tips for a server. The more you spend, the more they make...

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: timxph
                                                f
                                                ferventfoodie Dec 23, 2011 05:13 PM

                                                The more you spend, they more they make..."

                                                Not if you lower your tip to the level of their "lack" of service, if that is the case. However,
                                                as a woman I often hesitate to to so because a server with a "the more they spend"
                                                attitude will probably think a lower tip does not reflect his/her lower level of service but
                                                rather means that women are "cheap" and treat them accordingly. Perhaps I should
                                                start a thread on service biases against woman!

                                              2. p
                                                poloprincess Dec 31, 2011 04:10 PM

                                                I stopped drinking about 3 years ago and have never experienced any bias/discrimination. People are often surprised that I don't order a drink (especially as I live in [French culture] Quebec and it is almost unheard of to order a restaurant meal without a few drinks), but nothing beyond that.

                                                1. janetofreno Jan 1, 2012 06:31 PM

                                                  I'm interested to know if you have ever experienced the same bias at a bar (or do you go to bars at all?). My son told me a story about his visit to a well-known bar in Vegas while he was visiting us here this past week. A classmate of his was in town playing tourist so he met her down on the strip and spent the evening with her. She rarely if ever drinks but has no moral or religious opposition to alcohol; its simply a matter of taste. They saw the bar in question and decided it would be fun to have a drink there (a tourist place). Frankly, cost is an issue for them; they are students after all. Son ordered a beer and his friend a diet coke. The waitress sneered at her "Don't you want a cocktail?" (No, the bar did not have a minimum or cover at least at that hour). She felt so badly she ended up ordering a beer, taking two sips, and letting son finish the rest. I would think that if two people go out for drinks and one chooses not to drink that the waitperson should assume s/he is driving and not try and talk them into booze. Besides, is a beer really that much more than a coke? Of course not, and we're not talking depriving the waitress of the tip on 100 dollars worth of booze here....

                                                  5 Replies
                                                  1. re: janetofreno
                                                    h
                                                    Harters Jan 2, 2012 01:59 AM

                                                    "one chooses not to drink that the waitperson should assume s/he is driving"

                                                    Actually I think the waitperson should assume that the customer has just chosen not to drink. Frankly, I could not give a shit what a waitperson thinks of my ordering choices.

                                                    And, if a waitperson ever sneered at me, I would be wanting to have a discussion with the manager about her/his attitude and whether the manager thinks their continued employment is in the best interests of the bar.

                                                    1. re: janetofreno
                                                      viperlush Jan 2, 2012 05:51 AM

                                                      I tend to get the opposite when I don't drink at a bar. My water glass is kept full and my soda is usually free. But then again I don't really notice (not saying that there isn't ) a bias when I don't drink at restaurants, so I don't know how that compares.

                                                      1. re: viperlush
                                                        m
                                                        mpjmph Jan 3, 2012 10:01 AM

                                                        That has been my experience as well - I think bartenders/managers are relieved to know my large group of friends has someone sober with them, plus it takes more effort/time/resources than it's worth to process a transaction for a $2 glass of diet coke.

                                                        For restaurants, I fortunately live in a part of the world where many people don't drink at all, so there is no expectation for ordering alcohol at most restaurants.

                                                      2. re: janetofreno
                                                        prima Jan 2, 2012 08:46 AM

                                                        I'd think it's quite likely that the waitress was using hard sales to improve her nightly sales, and is probably under pressure from the bar's management to do so. I would expect that type of sales pressure in any bar, since bars mostly exist to serve people alchoholic drinks, and waitresses are in the business of selling drinks.

                                                        Decent bartenders in even half-decent bars (and especially in a well-known bar in Vegas) can usually come up with something tastier, possibly healthier and more interesting than Coke, that shouldn't cost much more than a beer.

                                                        1. re: prima
                                                          janetofreno Jan 2, 2012 07:05 PM

                                                          The comment above about assuming one is driving is well-taken; my bad. And prima is right, my first thought when I heard the story was that if the waitress was trying to upsell, she might have nicely said: "We have some special non-alcoholic cocktails that the bartender makes; would you be interested in trying one?" (Or something to that effect). I think all bars should have some interesting non-alcoholic options...especially during the holiday season when folks might want to order something that feels "special" even if it isn't alcoholic.....

                                                      3. s
                                                        smartie Jan 2, 2012 06:29 AM

                                                        Unless you are a regular at any bar or restaurant I don't see how the server would know what the tip is going to be up ahead. Check $30 say so the tip can be anything from $3 if patron is very stingy to $6-8. Check $50 tip can be from $5 to $10 or more. So assuming that the server would be ok with $7 the payoff is close enough to be the same give or take a buck.

                                                        It's only on high total checks that the tip changes significantly in financial terms to the server. A boozing and high end eating table is hopefully the high tipping table but not always. I go out with a group of women on occasion and some are notoriously frugal tippers where one or 2 calculate their tip to the exact cent at 15% and sometimes less. Yes it's embarrassing and the rest of us are left to add a few dollars more. Like I said the server can't possible know up ahead of time.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: smartie
                                                          j
                                                          Janet from Richmond Jan 3, 2012 06:53 AM

                                                          Servers will tell you women's groups are notoriously low tippers and high maintenance. The server knows his/her odds of a good tip when a group of women are seated.

                                                          I'm a big believer in tipping well and tipping karma. People are amazed we never get bad service. I also make a point of engaging the server from the get go.

                                                        2. jmcarthur8 Jan 2, 2012 08:29 AM

                                                          Wow. I had never heard of this. I guess I wouldn't have recognized a 'What? you're not drinking?' sneer, from a waiter's itchy nose.

                                                          Does this also mean if I don't order dessert, I get another sneer?
                                                          What if I order salad instead of steak?
                                                          I haven't had a drink in 7 years, due to medical issues, and honestly, I never noticed any negative response to my request for water with lemon, club soda or diet cola. But then, I didn't know to look for it, either.
                                                          Oh, dear.

                                                          2 Replies
                                                          1. re: jmcarthur8
                                                            p
                                                            poloprincess Jan 2, 2012 11:28 AM

                                                            I am also a non-drinker, 3 years sobriety, and have never experienced any sort of reaction. I really have to wonder what kind of places people are going? Is this also perhaps a bit unique to the United States, which seems to place more emphasis on the tip for cultural/tax/wage reasons? I am in Canada, not the US.

                                                            I have been to one proper restaurant in the US in the past 3 years, where everyone was drinking (dinner cruise in Seattle), but I was 7 months obviously pregnant so they didn't even offer me my complimentary wines. So, I don't know if I would have experienced any discrimination had I not been obviously pregnant.

                                                            1. re: poloprincess
                                                              prima Jan 2, 2012 11:43 AM

                                                              Here in Canada, I've had servers assume I'm pregnant, maybe because I haven't been drinking, maybe because I've been dining with pregnant friends and/or maybe because I'm 20 lbs overweight and can pass for someone who's slightly pregnant. I think some servers are a little friendlier to non-drinkers they assume are pregnant. ;-)

                                                          2. prima Jan 2, 2012 08:36 AM

                                                            If I'm visiting a restaurant that I haven't visited before, I will sometimes ask the server if the bartender makes any special non-alcoholic cocktails. Other times I'll order bottled water. This seems to convey to the server that I'm not trying to be frugal, I just don't drink much alchohol. I also tend to tip more generously when I'm not ordering alchohol (or when I'm ordering 2 appetizers instead of an app & main to stick to a lower calorie diet), which sometimes means a better service experience on the next visit.

                                                            Good luck ;-)

                                                            1. OnBlank Jan 2, 2012 11:45 AM

                                                              Ha! I've received bad service BECAUSE I ordered alcohol. Very memorable experience: sports "grill" with a few specialty beers. When I asked the waitress what one type was like she got indignant and replied with, "I don't drink." The rest of the meal was weird and she coolly ignored us for most of it. Of course, I'm in Utah. Maybe you should come out here!

                                                              1. rockandroller1 Jan 3, 2012 05:01 AM

                                                                I have worked in a lot of chain restaurants (obviously not fine dining) and there is not only CONSIDERABLE pressure from management to sell alcohol, you are also at some places REQUIRED to re-offer it at a certain point in the meal, as part of your "steps of service." Chains have a lot of secret shoppers. You can't just randomly skip doing or saying things that are required to be said by you as a step of service because you never know if a manager is passing by or if you are being shopped. So for example, whether you ordered a beer or a soda at the start of the meal, when the food is served, you would hear me telling you about our wonderful house wine and offering you a glass with your meal. Let me tell you, after someone has ordered beer, or a coke, or a margarita or anything else that's basically NOT wine and then you push wine on them mid-meal, you get some strange looks. So some of it could be the pressure being put on from management. Sometimes there are incentives or contests around who can sell the most of X type of drink on a given evening. Or sometimes it's the stick instead of the carrot, and if you have X% of checks where no alcohol is given, you miss out on getting a small treat at the end of the night that other servers will all get because they managed to sell more alcohol than you did. Sometimes during a busy, harried night of unsuccessful selling, it's tough to hide the disappointment when someone declines to order alcohol. Yes, we're all professionals and the guests should never see this, but we're also human and sometimes it's hard to fake it.

                                                                9 Replies
                                                                1. re: rockandroller1
                                                                  s
                                                                  sueatmo Jan 3, 2012 06:45 AM

                                                                  I appreciate your sharing this. We eat fairly frequently at one chain, and I've noticed that we routinely get the offer of an alcoholic beverage at the beginning of the meal, but paired with that is also the offer of some sort of flavored iced tea or some such. I have assumed that the the suggestion/offer up front is required by management. Here I don't see much disappointment when we refuse, but we tend to eat earlier in the evening. It is too bad that managers push servers to push a product that only a portion of their customers will consume. I suppose this is because the profit margin is higher for it.

                                                                  1. re: sueatmo
                                                                    rockandroller1 Jan 3, 2012 09:42 AM

                                                                    It's not because profit margins are higher, they do the same thing with apps, desserts and upsells. It's because study after study after study shows that when servers push items, they are often sold, even when people didn't necessarily want them and would not have asked for them on their own. The studies further show that SPECIFIC mentions of products increase the likelihood. That's why you won't hear a (good, chain) server saying, "Do you want dessert" (where the answer is an easy "No") but they'll say, "Today we have delicious key lime pie baked fresh this morning, or would you care to share one of our famous brownie sundaes? No room? Ok, would you care for coffee, or perhaps a Bailey's on the rocks would hit the spot."

                                                                    1. re: rockandroller1
                                                                      monavano Jan 3, 2012 10:24 AM

                                                                      I find it fascinating how the Invisible Hand moves one in a restaurant. Knowledge is power.

                                                                      1. re: monavano
                                                                        rockandroller1 Jan 3, 2012 10:42 AM

                                                                        Totally.

                                                                      2. re: rockandroller1
                                                                        s
                                                                        sueatmo Jan 3, 2012 01:02 PM

                                                                        We are seldom asked about a specific dessert, although I have heard this. Usually it is, "did you save room for dessert?" I think at the last really high end dinner, dessert offereings were specifically mentioned, and because it was our anniversary we splurged.

                                                                    2. re: rockandroller1
                                                                      babette feasts Jan 3, 2012 04:50 PM

                                                                      I drink, but I think pushing alcohol like that is messed up.

                                                                      1. re: babette feasts
                                                                        rockandroller1 Jan 4, 2012 06:19 AM

                                                                        eh, it's not just alcohol though. That's just more obvious.

                                                                        1. re: rockandroller1
                                                                          babette feasts Jan 4, 2012 09:23 AM

                                                                          The upselling as a whole is uncomfortable but arguably necessary. Alcohol causes so many problems in so many lives...not many people hurt by drivers who had one too many bottles of evian instead of tap.

                                                                          1. re: babette feasts
                                                                            rockandroller1 Jan 4, 2012 09:26 AM

                                                                            Well, I don't think they push anyone to drink an unreasonable amount. 1-2 drinks with dinner is not, to my mind, excessive, especially if you eat the whole upsold meal, which includes apps, mains and dessert, which is a good 1.5 hour deal at least. I think they push everything with equal weight.

                                                                    3. w
                                                                      wyogal Jan 4, 2012 09:30 AM

                                                                      Whenever I see this thread pop up, I am reminded of a time, back in 1983. I was with my husband who was playing in a band at a bar. I was 8 months pregnant, and the waitresses were PISSED that I didn't drink alcohol. In fact, they made a bit of a scene over it.
                                                                      This is also in an area that was well-known for the ability to order mixed drinks at the drive-up window of an attached liquor store.
                                                                      yep.

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