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Service biases against non-drinkers?

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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)?

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  1. 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. 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. 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. 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

            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. 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.