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Aug 1, 2013 08:36 PM

How to get "free" drinks (not spam.)

I'm a middle aged guy who often, surprisingly, finds my drinks are comp'd. My wife is pretty and looks younger than I do and she doesn't get this benefit -- partly b/c the expectation is that guys buy girls drinks. Still, people ask me how/why I get so many free drinks...

How to get free drinks:

Sit at the bar -- you can order food here too and can get good service. (If you follow all the advice your drinks might not even appear when you sit at a table.)

Go to a restaurant/bar that doesn't measure by electronic and/or measured stoppers, and avoid chains...

Go early or late so that they come to know you and not the crush of folks behind you. At least once or twice a month.

Be friendly, but don't assume that just asking the bartender's name or saying 'bro' will earn you points. (Don't ignore or forget the name either, provided you hear it -- be subtle.)

In addition to going there somewhat regularly, ask the staff about themselves. Are they studying for a degree? What shows are they looking forward to? What tattoo artist is best around here? What new wines/beers are coming in and why? Carefully -- IF not this, what are they hoping to do? *Avoid sports*. Even most of the guys probably don't care a bit as much as you do!! Really!!

**Show some appreciation for their knowledge. If they know beer, talk about hop schedules, etc.. If they know wine, talk about varietals, regions, dry vs semi-sweet, etc.. Ask their advice, and be honest about how their advice has helped you. They let you taste and X and you didn't care for it, tell them 2x more times about how much you appreciate the *Y* they let you taste and you then went on to order.

Don't be impatient. They will get busy. If you are sitting at the bar, they will get busy with orders for the seated tables. Just wait.

Don't try to be slick or flirty!

If you are respectful and give a nod to their understanding of their profession you will find drinks disappearing from your check!


PS ALSO, be sure sure to tip AS IF you got all of the drinks you ordered. Maybe add a bit to compensate if they bought for you at cost to them (still small, but a cost). Even if I tip at 25%-50% on the theoretical total I'm ahead vs 20% on the actual total.

PPS the bottom line is be a nice and genuinely friendly person. If you aren't getting free drinks already, maybe you aren't as nice as you think you are. :)

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  1. yes depending on the place anybody not even following those rules and TIPS WELL can get a drink comped out of 3 or 4 bought.

    knock knock

    1. Yes of course. If you're a really nice, likeable person who's genuinely friendly and interested in having pleasant conversation that is interesting and you're also a regular, well.. you're bound to get a few drinks comped now and again.
      If you're going to an establishment and striking up conversation for the specific goal of trying to get free drinks it will come off as disingenuous and be obvious unless you're really good at pretending.

      1. i've never intentionally tried to get comped,
        however i DO:
        all the things you mentioned
        because i want to support the restaurants on my rotation i bring in my nice, well-tipping, friends and talk up the restaurant and help my friends navigate the menu so that they get the best dishes their first visit.

        my main objective is not to get comped. my main objective is to have the restaurants that i like be successful and survive and not experience financial pressure to reduce the food quality. after all, you can get the same wine or booze at any of many places, but if a restaurant serves terrific food, that is much harder to come by.

        normally the restaurants take care of me one way or another. sometimes the care comes in the form of a comp, sometimes it comes in other ways. the management comes to know me and it is not a situation where the bartender has to "slip" me something extra. everything is on the up and up.

        the lifeblood of a restaurant is made up of the REGULAR, patient, pleasant, well-tipping, people that order enough to consistently contribute to the ROI.
        everyone from the management down to the parking attendant WANTS you to return.

        3 Replies
        1. re: westsidegal

          Right on WSG. I go to my regular places because I like going there. Not looking for free anything. But its always nice when they comp me because they appreciate my business.

          1. re: Bkeats

            I would not be nice to someone who works in a bar or restaurant just for free drinks.
            I could drink for cheap/free at many other places.

            I think you should be nice to the bartender/server because you want to be.

            I would not sit there have a whole convo about wine,food unless I am really interested either.

            Often I've gone to a Lebanese bakery or some Indian restaurant that is fairly small- and end up talking to the personj who runs the place.

            I go to one Lebanese bakery and always end up talking to the owner if it is not too busy and he usually ends up giving me a extra pastry or let me try some of the things he is working on.
            -I got to try some of the fillings he uses for cakes, that was kind of neat as you can not walk in and buy a cake and they have to be ordered!

            I know also the Japanese restaurant I get take out from, I've been going there for years and the sushi chef sometimes will add an extra order of vegetable sushi to my take out :)
            I never expect that, so it is kind of nice if they do that.

            1. re: MiriamOttawa

              I don't think the point is to actually score the drinks, just to facilitate it happening if it's possible.

              after all, lagniappe sought is lagniappe never found.

        2. I commend you for being nice.....but the bartenders are committing theft from the owners.

          4 Replies
          1. re: fourunder

            Not necessarily. We frequent a place where our bartender will occasionally comp us. The same will happen from our regular waitress when we don't eat at the bar. We often "comp" them too by offering him a glass of an exceptional wine we may order. The owners are very much aware of this and consider it part of their outstanding service. The POS system has a complimentary button and the server rings in the free drink.

            1. re: foodieX2


              1. yes, there are always exceptions.

              2. There is not POS system in the OP's suggestion

              * Go to a restaurant/bar that doesn't measure by electronic and/or measured stoppers, and avoid chains...*

              Clearly this is to avoid detection.

              3. I don't know of any restaurant that gives multiple free drinks to a semi regular customer.

              *I get so many free drinks...*

              1. re: fourunder

                Not to be argumentative but a POS (point of sale) system is just the cash register. In our case it does not have any thing to do with the measure/pouring of drinks.

                I am not saying that the bartenders in the OP examples aren't thieves but many owners do give leeway. Our regular bartender usually comps us at least one or two drinks every other visit. We are there about 4-5 times a month. As a % to total of what we the spend the cost to the owner is minimal. Even if you times that by a couple dozen "regulars" the cost remains small and the ROI is big.

                The big difference from us and the OP? We are never looking for the free drink. It is not why we go there-if the food was not stellar and the wine list not great a 100 free drinks wouldn't keep us coming back.

                1. re: foodieX2

                  Most people realize the POS system is recording sales and inventory used, it's a computer or documentor... not just a cash register. ...and electronic measuring is controlled pours. If both do not add up, i.e., sales recorded and liquor dispensed and no longer in physical inventory....then there is a problem. The indication to avoid certain record and inventory control safeguards and measures has only one purpose...criminal activity.....not comps. A true and legitimate comp would have no reason to avoid what the OP has expressed and should have no fear of being recorded if leeway is given.

          2. Lots of work for a free drink. Back in the Jurassic days when I tended bar all a patron had to do was be nice and tip well and I took care of them. Before POS we had this clunky thing called a cash register which actually had a specific buy back key. The owner was fine with keeping his best customers happy, I was very fine with keeping my best tippers happy and my best customers were happy getting a free drink every 3rd or 4th. Win, win, win. The customer probably ended up spending just as much in the end after his big tip.
            Men vs. women - I'll probably start a fight but men were always much better tippers. 90+ % of the time, if I got a really good tip from a woman, she was in the industry.

            2 Replies
            1. re: bobbert

              I am responding to the idea. of" a lot of work for a free drink".....

              When I go out for a drink, I am usually in the company of someone I choose to be with ( I.e. a friend) I have no desire to schmooze with a stranger, most of the time. A drink is cheap. I make a living talking with people all day. I am typically in the mood for talking with people of my own choosing when I want to the clock.

              I have no understanding of the concept of scoring a free drink from an establishment/ business. In fact, I think it is kinda weird. The business is there to make money, not have their employees give away the product.

              Just my opinion. Not trying to be argumentative. Just not interested. I am kind of interested in others opinions on this though.

              1. re: sedimental

                I don't see it as much different from a supermarket or hotel chain or airline offering loyalty discounts. They know that they're not the only game in town, so it's worth the investment to give something away once in a while to keep you coming back.

                We don't know (or at least I don't know) how the OP makes his living. Maybe, like you, he also talks to people all day, and he's so good at it that for him it's effortless and he can turn it on just like that, without it feeling like a lot of work or seeming contrived/obvious, while still managing to engage and relax with the people he's out with. If I had that kind of skill, I'd use it to my advantage, too, even just for a free drink.