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What's the least you'd order in a sit down restaurant?

chowser Aug 27, 2013 10:39 AM

I've had this happen w/ a few groups--people will want to go to a restaurant for a cup of coffee, glass of wine or even share a dessert among a few. A couple of have said they'd just accompany and not order anything. I've always refused to go because it seems wrong to tie up a table for that but I'm always the odd person out. It's not Starbucks! What's the least you'd feel comfortable ordering? An appetizer? A shared entree?

  1. h
    Hobbert Aug 27, 2013 10:44 AM

    Several appetizers would probably be my minimum.

    1. MGZ Aug 27, 2013 10:46 AM

      When others at the table are ordering food, I've never had a problem just settling for a liquid lunch. Hell, in a lot of places, my two or three martinis probably resulted in more income to the place and tip for the server then had I ordered a salad and an iced tea.

      4 Replies
      1. re: MGZ
        Dirtywextraolives Aug 27, 2013 10:50 AM

        I agree. If you are with a group that is ordering, nothing is wrong with just ordering a drink or three. But if it's just you, sit at the bar. If I was at a table with others that were ordering food, I'd in the very least order a drink. Maybe an app or salad to share.

        1. re: Dirtywextraolives
          IndyGirl Aug 28, 2013 12:35 PM

          I agree too.

        2. re: MGZ
          jrvedivici Aug 28, 2013 12:32 PM

          This is why you're my hero.

          1. re: jrvedivici
            MGZ Aug 28, 2013 01:10 PM

            Nothing worse than being in a restaurant and settling for a salad and an unsweetened, iced tea for lunch. Just the thought of it makes me feel kinda lightheaded.

        3. v
          Violatp Aug 27, 2013 10:51 AM

          Depends on the place. A diner, I've (well, in the past) just ordered fries and coffee and sat with my book.

          Granted, I wouldn't do that on a Sunday morning!

          A nicer place, I've had a couple apps and a drink or two. But not by myself - when others at the table are ordering fuller meals.

          1. pinehurst Aug 27, 2013 10:55 AM

            A couple of appetizers and a beverage. I actually do this once in a while when dining solo....I'll get a crock of onion soup, an appetizer (usually a salad topped with chicken/salmon) and an iced tea.

            Never just dessert/coffee.

            1. h
              Harters Aug 27, 2013 01:11 PM

              Can't see myself ever ordering less than a main course.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Harters
                westsidegal Aug 27, 2013 10:38 PM

                Harters: <<<Can't see myself ever ordering less than a main course.>>
                let me introduce you to Chicago Ribs.
                maybe it will help you see your way to ordering less. . . . .

                1. re: westsidegal
                  Harters Aug 28, 2013 04:33 AM

                  A long journey for me just to avoid a main course order :-0

                  1. re: Harters
                    westsidegal Aug 29, 2013 09:30 AM

                    there are all sorts of learning experiences.

              2. chowser Aug 27, 2013 01:28 PM

                To clarify, these were nicer places (as in price point, not getting into quality of food), not diners, eg. McCormick and Schmicks. Chart House.

                My personal feeling is that it should be equivalent to an entree per person, at least. Plus you don't sit for two hours, which one group did (I didn't stay).

                1 Reply
                1. re: chowser
                  cresyd Aug 29, 2013 02:20 AM

                  Personally, I think that even in a nicer place there's always wiggle room, but requires a sensitive judgement call. If the place has a wait, then I find it inappropriate. If the place is basically ready to close or you're into hour 2 and are the last table there, then I find it inappropriate. Also - if it's a more quiet, low key dining environment and you're showing up with 5 friends to order one dessert and some coffees while likely being the noisiest table in the room - I find it less appropriate. Though not as big a deal as my other two points.

                  But, if the place seems semi-full, not about to close any time soon, and it's a louder environment - I don't see the problem. What I do think is courteous in that situation is to at least order a drink. Even if it's a coffee or soda water, I think it's some way of signaling to the server that you plan on leaving some kind of a tip. And perhaps will be kind and tip more heavily given how little you're ordering.

                2. alliegator Aug 27, 2013 01:28 PM

                  If I'm seated at a table with cloth napkins, I wouldn't go less than an entrée. If I'm seated at a bar in the restaurant, an app and drink suffice. I go for that option a lot when having lunch or if traveling alone. I'm not big on big portions, and find the bar in these situations is more enjoyable.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: alliegator
                    fldhkybnva Aug 27, 2013 03:49 PM

                    I agree which is often why I generally sit at the bar. Also it's handy when different people in the party want to order varying amounts of food.

                  2. m
                    mike0989 Aug 27, 2013 01:32 PM

                    Salad. I used to do that a lot when I was dating. Load up at a fast food joint first and then meet my Date for dinner. Look at the menu and then declare "You know, I think i'll just have a salad". Saved me tons of money. There are few women out there that will order more than a guy when they go out.

                    17 Replies
                    1. re: mike0989
                      alliegator Aug 27, 2013 01:36 PM

                      I don't date much as my husband would get pissy about it, but I would be that chick that orders more.

                      1. re: alliegator
                        juliejulez Aug 27, 2013 02:20 PM

                        Same here. And I'd think the guy was weird for only ordering a salad.

                        1. re: juliejulez
                          Dirtywextraolives Aug 27, 2013 02:33 PM

                          Oh totally! I'd even feel guilty later on and write him off as there was no freaking way I was going to go out with a guy who ate less or weighed less than me.....

                          1. re: juliejulez
                            alliegator Aug 27, 2013 03:17 PM

                            Same here, sister. I would insist on splitting the check, and block his #.
                            I guess it's good I married young, because I'd have been a nightmare to date :P

                          2. re: alliegator
                            westsidegal Aug 27, 2013 10:39 PM

                            +2 alligator
                            if i'm in a restaurant that serves good food, i will order enough to be satisfied.

                          3. re: mike0989
                            fldhkybnva Aug 27, 2013 03:50 PM

                            You haven't met me yet. I routinely eat SO's leftovers at restaurants :)

                            1. re: mike0989
                              Hobbert Aug 28, 2013 04:15 AM

                              It never occurred to me to eat what my husband eats... I usually order first though so I don't know how I would do that. I will say, though, he usually gets a salad or a fish dish and I get a steak. They routinely give him my food and vice versa. Maybe I just married a man with priorities other than judging what I eat.

                              1. re: mike0989
                                chartreauxx Aug 29, 2013 08:00 AM

                                i wouldn't date someone with these kinds of assumptions about women, eating, food, and money.

                                1. re: chartreauxx
                                  hotoynoodle Aug 29, 2013 09:10 AM

                                  and starting a relationship based on a ruse is such a good idea! i'd be fuming when i found out.

                                  1. re: hotoynoodle
                                    chartreauxx Aug 29, 2013 09:19 AM

                                    no kidding! if you didn't want to pay, why wouldn't you pick a cheaper spot, suggest something less costly such as a picnic or coffee, or ask if i'd mind splitting the bill? or heck, do something non-food, like go to the park and play frisbee, or go bowling. yeesh. hey, 1952 called, they want their financial gender binary back...

                                    1. re: chartreauxx
                                      Dirtywextraolives Aug 29, 2013 10:48 AM

                                      Wow, not sure why you'd take this so personally......

                                      1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                        westsidegal Aug 29, 2013 01:48 PM

                                        chartreauxx's position and response is very easily understandable.

                                        manipulative, boorish behavior on a date is something most of us (both men and women) have experienced.
                                        it's disgusting on so many levels. . . . . .

                                        1. re: westsidegal
                                          Dirtywextraolives Aug 29, 2013 04:00 PM

                                          I guess what I don't understand, is the last line, which as I read it, is attacking him as chauvinist. It's not like HE took HER out on a date so why such a personal, defensive comment?

                                          Guess I've been super lucky and have never encountered manipulative (and it's arguable he is manipulative in this instance) and boorish behavior on a date.

                                          1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                            chartreauxx Aug 29, 2013 04:51 PM

                                            i have no idea if mike0989 is a chauvinist. i also didn't call him one. i was having a dialogue with some other people who agreed with my first remark.

                                            as far as the 1950s comment, i think that the blanket notion of going into a date assuming 1) that the man will be shouldering the bill, and 2) that in order to minimize this apparent burden, a good idea is to exploit a (common) insecurity of women's around body size and food, is a pretty offensive concept. and yeah, it seems pretty obsolete, in addition to being sexist and dishonest. the person who posted it might very well be a great guy, but his dating "scheme" kind of grosses me out. sorry you find that troubling.

                                      2. re: chartreauxx
                                        juliejulez Sep 5, 2013 11:14 AM

                                        That's kind of what I was thinking. In my experience (ie me and my friends), all women care about is that a guy wants to spend time with them and get to know them. No need to take her to a restaurant they can't afford anyway in an attempt to impress her. Some of my very favorite dates I've ever had (and I've had A LOT) were pretty low cost.

                                        I was pretty actively dating before I met my SO. I went out with one guy who took me to a rather expensive restaurant, and I kept feeling like he wasn't being himself, trying to impress me, etc etc. It was rather uncomfortable. I also went out with a guy who took me to an art gallery (ie free), and then to a hole in the wall Vietnamese restaurant (ie inexpensive). Very laid back vibe to the whole thing. Want to guess which one I had a better time on and who I wanted to see a second time?

                                        And, I'm pretty old fashioned, I expect a guy to pay if he invites me out. But again, it's not about the money spent.

                                  2. re: mike0989
                                    Isolda Aug 29, 2013 10:44 AM

                                    I would be unlikely to go on a second date with a guy who only ordered salad. Therefore, I'd feel very comfortable ordering the steak-frites and a couple of glasses of wine. If the guy is gonna be weird about food, I might as well enjoy dinner anyway.

                                    1. re: Isolda
                                      westsidegal Aug 29, 2013 05:05 PM

                                      isolda: don't forget the dessert.
                                      i'd definitely order dessert too, especially if any chocolate desserts were being offered.
                                      fwiw, if you were having red wine with your steak-frites: i've found that many times a good red wine pairs well with chocolate.

                                  3. fldhkybnva Aug 27, 2013 03:52 PM

                                    If I sit down at a restaurant I typically will order at least an entree, unless at the bar when a drink at least. I find it sometimes challenging when different people in the party would like varying amounts of food. For example, often it's nice to have someone come along who might have plans later or had plans before who really doesn't want anything or at the maximum something small. It can be awkward when everyone else is chowing down and that person is sort of just sitting there. When I'm that person, I generally will just commit to ordering something small and take most of it to go or nibble. I think if the party is any bigger than 3 people and only 1 orders an entree, that's a bit uncomfortable.

                                    1. ipsedixit Aug 27, 2013 03:55 PM

                                      As long as you tip appropriately (i.e. not the usu. 20-25%), then it's ok with me.

                                      So let's say 3 people decide to go to a nicer place, 2 decide to share one dessert, and each gets a glass of wine, and the 3rd person is on an "oxygen diet".

                                      And lets say you're taking up a four-top, and linger over coffee and dessert for about an hour. The total bill for 2 glasses of wine and the dessert is, say, something like $30, I would easily leave a tip of $30, if not a bit more.

                                      15 Replies
                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                        genoO Aug 27, 2013 04:04 PM

                                        Those are the words of a person who serves food for a living. I would never tip 100%. ever.
                                        And I don't tip 25%. ever

                                        1. re: genoO
                                          emglow101 Aug 27, 2013 04:14 PM

                                          I have,and I do tip 25%.

                                          1. re: emglow101
                                            westsidegal Aug 29, 2013 09:58 AM

                                            concur with emglow AND i tip much higher than 25% if i'm taking advantage of a good happy hour deal or something along those lines. just because the restaurant chooses to use a happy hour promotion to fill the restaurant, doesn't mean that the workload is reduced for the servers.
                                            simply a matter of fairness, imho.

                                            1. re: westsidegal
                                              linus Aug 29, 2013 02:35 PM

                                              hold everything.
                                              are we tipping 25 percent now? 20 percent is over and done?
                                              why didn't i get the memo?

                                              and, btw, is this pre- or post- tax?

                                              1. re: linus
                                                Chemicalkinetics Aug 29, 2013 02:39 PM

                                                I admit that I have not read the previous messages. Anyway, I try to tip around 20%, sometime lower, but often time up >25%. I think it depends on the situation.

                                                1. re: linus
                                                  westsidegal Aug 29, 2013 05:12 PM

                                                  1)i normally eat in "reasonably priced" restaurants to start with.
                                                  this means that 25% of the after tax bill is not a huge sum of money.
                                                  it is especially not a huge sum of money if i've been taking advantage of a "special deal" like a happy hour promotion.

                                                  2)i eat out frequently and i have a regular rotation, which means i am a REGULAR at a number of restaurants.
                                                  there are all sorts of obvious reasons why it's a good idea to tip generously in restaurants at which you are a regular.

                                                  1. re: westsidegal
                                                    linus Aug 29, 2013 10:37 PM

                                                    every time i think about only tipping on the pre tax amount, whatever price level it's at, i feel cheap. never had the courage to do it.

                                                    i was just wondering if the "standard" tip level had bumped up a bit.

                                                    i think everyone has their "rules" for when they tip more or less.

                                                    1. re: linus
                                                      westsidegal Aug 30, 2013 02:19 AM

                                                      i think you are right about that.

                                                      my own "rules" aren't all that simple.
                                                      i tip a much higher percentage on meals that are inherently low cost, yet difficult to serve correctly (i.e. breakfast with eggs. eggs are unforgiving about service. imho, cold eggs are yuck and i'll send them back. ratatouille or a salad, on the other hand are much more forgiving of slow service and i will accept them even at room temperature.)

                                                      i tip a more "normal" percentage on wine (it really doesn't take more time and effort to decant and serve an $80 bottle of wine than it does a $50 bottle of wine and, conversely, i will tip a higher percentage if i've ordered the cheapest wine on the menu)

                                                      1. re: westsidegal
                                                        linus Aug 30, 2013 10:06 AM

                                                        it's cool we're all different.

                                                        sometimes i tip more, sometimes i tip less, and for much more capricious reasons.
                                                        although i guess i do tip bigger at places i go to regularly.

                                                        oddly, the biggest tip (percentage wise) i ever gave was for a truly incompetent server.
                                                        i figured she was in for a bad day of tips.

                                                      2. re: linus
                                                        Harters Aug 30, 2013 03:26 AM

                                                        My "rules" are simple. I try to establish what's the tipping culture wherever I'm visiting (I know what it is at home). If there actually is a tipping culture, I establish what the customary level is and, assuming that the service has been at least adequate, then I tip at that level. Any "more or less" from the norm is more dependent on convenience of paying in the notes I have available, than anything to do with minor isssues with the service.

                                              2. re: genoO
                                                Chemicalkinetics Aug 27, 2013 07:47 PM

                                                What do you mean by you don't tip 25%? You mean that you tip above that or below that?

                                                I don't always tip above 25% but sometime it is just easier and makes more sense. For example, I have eaten alone for a small appetizer. The bill may just come at ~$4. I am not going to leave less than a $1, right?

                                                (long story why I eat just a small appetizer)

                                                Beside that, I have also tip >30% for other reasons.

                                              3. re: ipsedixit
                                                Kalivs Aug 30, 2013 03:45 AM

                                                Many years ago there was a restaurant in SD I used to go to for their chocolate cake and Irish coffees. I would tell the host up front what I was going to get and let them seat me where they thought was appropriate. And, I tipped an amount that was commensurate with the time I spent & service I received.

                                                1. re: Kalivs
                                                  ipsedixit Aug 30, 2013 06:58 AM

                                                  With a lot of these situations, the 20-25% rule is merely a rough guideline, if not an unenforceable suggestion.

                                                  At the end of the day, you should tip with whatever amount doesn't make you feel like a total creep.

                                                  This is my litmus test: "The tip I leave, will I be able to wake up the next morning, look in the mirror and feel OK looking at that person staring back at me?"

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit
                                                    linus Aug 30, 2013 10:03 AM


                                                    i keep waiting for that to happen, regardless of how much i tip.

                                                    1. re: linus
                                                      ipsedixit Aug 30, 2013 08:35 PM

                                                      Then apparently you have bigger issues than just tipping appropriately.

                                              4. Chemicalkinetics Aug 27, 2013 03:56 PM

                                                The least I would order can be in different forms. (A) a small entree, (B) one or two appetizers or desserts along with a glass of beer, (C) an appetizer, but also an takeout order.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                  Chemicalkinetics Aug 28, 2013 12:30 PM

                                                  You know. I take it back. I have been to a restaurant and solely order just on appetizer, but those are special cases.

                                                  I know the owner. I was full already and didn't care to eat. The owner saw me on the street, and we continue to chat in his restaurant. I felt I should order something, so I order just one small appetizer.

                                                  I probably did that like 3-4 times.

                                                2. Bill Hunt Aug 27, 2013 07:36 PM

                                                  We find ourselves in various venues, and often for just a glass of wine, before dinner.

                                                  We always tell our host/hostess exactly what we plan to do, and then usually do just that. In a couple of instances, we have found some appetizer on the menu, and nibbled on that, along with the wine. However, it is usually just the wine.

                                                  If they wish to seat us off to the side, so be it, but they always know what we are after.


                                                  9 Replies
                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                    Dirtywextraolives Aug 27, 2013 07:42 PM

                                                    You're a Stellar customer, Hunt....

                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                      thursday Aug 27, 2013 10:57 PM

                                                      I'm not nearly as classy as Hunt, not frequent the same types of places on a regular basis, but honesty is always my go-to as well: If we don't plan on eating, we tell the hostess and let her seat or reject us as she may. "We just want to have a few glasses of wine; do you mind if we take a table?" Most places will be quite accommodating, or at least seat us at the "bad" table (edge of the room/patio where the servers overlook you), and sometimes they'll say they'll too busy and we leave without rancor, but generally it works out well for all concerned. We overtip as a thank you, and the servers can focus on the tables that want their attention.

                                                      1. re: thursday
                                                        Bill Hunt Aug 28, 2013 06:49 PM

                                                        I can only recall one instance, over the last ten, or so, years, where things did not work out, as they normally do. All other situations, from mid-level, up to almost the very top, they are happy to accommodate us, and serve us some wine, and maybe a light app.

                                                        Recently, we decided to do lunch, at the restaurant, where we were dining that night. When we arrived, we explained that we would be back in about 5 hours, really wanted some wines, and very light fare. They were busy, but seated us right on the water. We looked ordered the wines, and looked over the menus. The server came over, and worked closely with us, to keep it very light, but to also give us a taste of what we had in store for us, later that night. The kitchen did a great app. combo, that was not on the menu, just for us. Wow, what more could we have asked for. As things turned out, though it was not one of the highest-rated restaurants on our Sydney trip, the meal that night (same servers were still on duty, lined up, and greeted us, commenting that we "cleaned up pretty well,") was one of the major highlights of the trip - just flat great food. It was also probably the only evening meal, that was not a Chef's Tasting, but our apps., and then our mains, were the stars of the whole trip. That was a very good surprise, but considering how very accommodating they were for lunch, I should have expected it.


                                                        1. re: thursday
                                                          genoO Aug 29, 2013 12:19 PM

                                                          so if they out you in left field, you will over tip because...why? so the servers can focus on some other table. ??

                                                        2. re: Bill Hunt
                                                          thimes Aug 28, 2013 07:30 AM

                                                          This is always our plan as well when in this situation.

                                                          Having worked in restaurants years ago, by doing this with the hostess it also doesn't "count against" the server either. Several restaurants I worked in used to seat people in certain stations to try to give each server as similar of a head count as possible for the night. So if a table of 6 came in but they were only going to have a glass of wine or dessert, it wouldn't ding their nightly head count which would have resulted in a double-ding essentially (as a table of 6 having a full meal would have been a much higher bill and higher tip).

                                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                            GraydonCarter Aug 28, 2013 11:48 AM

                                                            My minister, despite the limited financial means of a pastor's salary, would take his wife out to a fancy restaurant once a month for tea and dessert. They tipped well, but not as well as someone who had ordered a full meal with wine. I think the wait staff tolerated them because they were regulars, were very sweet, and arrived early.

                                                            If ever a laborer was worthy of his reward...

                                                            1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                              Violatp Aug 28, 2013 12:09 PM

                                                              It seems kind of sad to me that a paying regular customer, regardless of the bill, who is kind and polite, is only tolerated and not welcomed.

                                                              1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                Bill Hunt Aug 28, 2013 06:54 PM

                                                                I am glad that they GOT that reward. Hope that they enjoyed their "date night," as they should.

                                                                We sort of do similar, but with a difference. We host a meal for the Sisters, twice per year. They do not get to dine at the same restaurants, that are so common to us. We take them out, I pull out most of the stops on the wines (these are on our personal account, as they cannot be expensed), and then insist that they also order ANYTHING, and to their heart's content. They have great fun, as do we. The situation is totally different, as we are picking up a full meal tab for a party of about 12, so the restaurant does not realize who our guests are. We feel good, as they all work very hard, seldom get the gratitude, that they deserve, and those dinners are a major treat for them - and for us, as well.


                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                  pine time Aug 29, 2013 09:35 AM

                                                                  Bless you for this.

                                                            2. t
                                                              tastesgoodwhatisit Aug 27, 2013 10:28 PM

                                                              Depends a bit on the type of place, the number of people and the time of day.

                                                              So 8 pm for coffee and dessert, I'd be fine just ordering a coffee.

                                                              If it's dinner time, the place is busy, and there are just two of us, I'd order at least an appetizer or a salad. I figure if the restaurant serves an appetizer that contains half the daily recommended calorie intake for an adult, they can't legitimately object if that's all I order.

                                                              21 Replies
                                                              1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit
                                                                hotoynoodle Aug 28, 2013 08:53 AM

                                                                where are you in the world?

                                                                8:00 pm remains part of the peak dinner time.

                                                                1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                  pollymerase Aug 29, 2013 05:22 AM

                                                                  Once you get outside of larger cities (in the US) you will find that the windows when people eat shift. I grew up in the rural midwest and the dinner rush on weeknights was usually considered from 5:30 to 7:30. Many restaurants in smaller towns may close by 9 and have started to cut staff even earlier if they aren't busy. Likewise, it's not uncommon to eat lunch before noon.

                                                                  1. re: pollymerase
                                                                    hotoynoodle Aug 29, 2013 05:43 AM

                                                                    is this some magical land where people get to leave work exactly at 5:00 and walk home whistling and happy? :)

                                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                      sedimental Aug 29, 2013 05:49 AM

                                                                      That's funny. But pollymerase is correct. 8 pm in my neck of the woods is not dinnertime. Only in the city (Seattle). Most restaurants are closing by 9 pm in my smaller city.

                                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                        pollymerase Aug 29, 2013 09:37 AM

                                                                        No, no magical land. Just different demographics for places that you haven't experienced. As others have already stated, people work different hours, not everyone works 9 to 7 and has an hour plus commute.

                                                                        When I was a child my dad worked in a cold-storage warehouse and my mom was a manager at the local steakhouse so she worked most nights. I don't know what time dad went to work, but he was home every day by 4 which was when my mom would leave for work. My dad had dinner on the table every night at 5:30 sharp. This always posed a problem as our next door neighbors had dinner at 5:00 sharp so they would always come over at exactly 5:35 to see if we could play. Their dad worked at a facility that employed disabled adults from a local halfway home. His day started at 5am and he was usually home by mid-afternoon. His wife was also home from her support staff position at a law firm by 4pm every day. None of this was unusual or magical, it was just the way of life. As we got older and had after school activities our schedules changed and we had dinner later at 6:30 after we would get home from sports practice, but nothing magical.

                                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                          Bkeats Aug 29, 2013 12:08 PM

                                                                          I had the magical 8 hour job when I worked summers in high school. These days, 10 hours is a short day and sometimes 12 hours doesn't give me enough time to get everything done. At least I don't also have to work the sunset to the sunrise hours like I did when I was first starting out after grad school.

                                                                        2. re: pollymerase
                                                                          Harters Aug 29, 2013 06:13 AM

                                                                          I wonder if there are other countries in the world, where it is common to dine so early, as seems quite common in America?

                                                                          Here in the UK, "dinner time" would generally be 8pm and that tends be early for some European countries.

                                                                          1. re: Harters
                                                                            hotoynoodle Aug 29, 2013 06:20 AM

                                                                            i feel like that early dinner time is a hold-over from farm-life, when everybody was up at dawn and in bed when darkness fell. very few of us live that life these days.

                                                                            seriously? except for retirees, who is finished work at 5:00 anymore? or is this regional too? my "9-5" friends are rarely out of the office before 6:00.

                                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                              sedimental Aug 29, 2013 06:38 AM

                                                                              Almost everyone I know is finished by 5:00...or is "supposed to be" :) typical business hours are still 8 to 4 or 9 to 5. This does not apply if you work in retail or a hospitality industry.

                                                                              At my office (a private practice) most of my office staff work 8 to 4 and often, I let most of my staff go home early on Friday (at 3:00) if it is slower or they have plans. It has nothing to do with being retired.

                                                                              Most of America doesn't live in a big city. Prime dinner time is not at 8 pm when you work 8 to 4 or 9 to 5...that would be silly.

                                                                              Oh...an happy hour starts at 3:00 and typically ends at 5 or 6, because they know dinner starts then.

                                                                              1. re: sedimental
                                                                                hotoynoodle Aug 29, 2013 06:43 AM

                                                                                many would envy an actual 8-hour workday. :)

                                                                              2. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                                MGZ Aug 29, 2013 07:02 AM

                                                                                I'm usually home by 5 (and that includes the walk there). So are plenty of my neighbors - at least those who don't work a 10 to 6 schedule or commute to The City. Local restaurants here in many of the small towns at the Shore are definitely winding down service by 9 pm - especially once Summer is over. That being said, I know plenty of people who are still trapped on the wheel. I hopped off a decade ago myself, deciding that less is sometimes more.

                                                                                It's sad that financial desperation and corporate power have altered the schedule of the social contract so dramatically. I realize there are other factors that have led to the dehumanizing of so much of the American workforce, but the bottom line is that it really sucks to work longer and harder in order subsist at a level below that of previous generations. Add in the fear that grips so many folks and it's pretty defeating. I've long wondered why some sort of Cubicle Workers of America Union has not arisen (or maybe the Middle Management Guild?).

                                                                                1. re: MGZ
                                                                                  hotoynoodle Aug 29, 2013 07:18 AM

                                                                                  much of that fear manifests in not wanting to leave before your boss, and certainly never being the first one to go home for the day. i live in boston and for a smallish city, we have some very large financial institutions and important law firms. yes, these guys get paid to walk the walk, but i know many who have had heart attacks before turning 50.

                                                                                  quality of life, yo.

                                                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                                    MGZ Aug 29, 2013 07:39 AM

                                                                                    "[I] know many who have had heart attacks before turning 50"

                                                                                    That's why I put the white shoes back on the tree and the suits back in the closet. There's very little value to money you can't enjoy. (I will, however, dismount from my existentialist soapbox now . . . .)

                                                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                                      GraydonCarter Aug 29, 2013 09:27 AM

                                                                                      I audited a small software contractor in Kansas (somewhere between "Minneapolis" and "Manhattan") where some of these programmers were among the highest paid people in town. Sure they worked hard, but also hunted and fished after work.
                                                                                      This town is small but now has half a dozen hotels. Here is a steakhouse that lists their Friday and Saturday night hours as closing at 10pm. http://www.tucsonssteakhouse.com/

                                                                                  2. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                                    alliegator Aug 29, 2013 07:55 AM

                                                                                    If my husband walked in the door before 6:30, I'd assume he wasn't feeling well or something like that. We generally eat at 8 or 8:30.

                                                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                                      pollymerase Aug 29, 2013 09:59 AM

                                                                                      I think if you look at the general population of the United States, not just where you live or who you know or the population that posts on Chowhound, you'd find that more than a few are done with work by 5:00. Not everyone works 9 to 5. Throughout the country people work in factories or other industries (yes, that means those old time agricultural people as well) that have work shifts that start and end at times other than 9 am and 5 pm. Not everyone wears a suit and slaves at a desk for 10+ hours a day.

                                                                                      1. re: pollymerase
                                                                                        hotoynoodle Aug 29, 2013 10:34 AM

                                                                                        i know plenty of folks from all walks of life. didn't mean to sound obtuse or sheltered. i admit my perception is colored from working in boston, in fine dining. "prime time" is 6-8 during the week, 6-9ish on friday and anytime, lol, on saturday. very few places close before 10 during the week and most are open til 11 or 12 on fridays and saturdays.

                                                                                        just because my nurse friends may be finished working at 2:00pm, doesn't mean they expect everybody else to meet them at 3:00, or even 5:00, for dinner.

                                                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                                          pollymerase Aug 29, 2013 11:11 AM

                                                                                          I agree that they shouldn't expect everybody else to meet them at 5 for dinner, but I don't think it's unusual or strange if that is the time they decide to eat. I may still be working, but I'm not about to begrudge them if they are off work and feel like eating their dinner.

                                                                                          I'm not trying to discredit your experience. I completely understand and agree that in many places, especially large cities and places that are fine dining, that 8pm is a prime eating time. I'm just trying to point out that in many places and for many people it could be considered a time when restaurants are winding down.

                                                                                      2. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                                        Kajikit Aug 31, 2013 05:33 AM

                                                                                        DH works in the bank. He's theoretically supposed to be 'on the clock' for dealing with emergencies until 6pm, but in reality he's almost always out of the branch and on his way home by four. So we can eat at five or six pm because when he gets home his first question is 'what's for dinner?'

                                                                                  3. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                                    alliegator Aug 29, 2013 08:05 AM

                                                                                    This whole what time thing is pretty interesting to me. I started another thread here---

                                                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                                      westsidegal Aug 29, 2013 02:02 PM

                                                                                      hotoynoodle: one of my favorite restaurants CLOSES at 8pm.
                                                                                      most of their clientele work in the construction industry and report to work at about 6:30AM.
                                                                                      many of the construction permits issued in my town don't allow the actual construction work to start until around 8am. this means that in order to actually start at 8am, all the materials, equiptment, etc. has to be transported to the site, often from very distant locations, BEFORE that time.
                                                                                      6:30 am starts are not at all uncommon.

                                                                                      my daughter is an emt. most emts end up having staggered shifts over 24 hours so that all the ambulances don't have to try to leave the lot or return to station at the same time. 8pm is not a prime dinnertime for most emts.

                                                                                      my neighbor, who trades financial securities, is at his desk by 5AM.

                                                                                      there are LOTS of people from all walks of life who DO go to restaurants but DON'T consider 8pm to be peak dinner time.

                                                                                  4. westsidegal Aug 27, 2013 10:33 PM

                                                                                    ordering a few non-alcoholic drinks can normally generate an acceptable level of profit margin IF you are NOT getting one of those bottomless glasses/cups.

                                                                                    also, ordering a couple of inedible desserts will do the same thing.

                                                                                    if my party is a large one (> 8 people) and all the others are ordering full meals (with desserts and beverage) i'm not likely to feel guilty enough to order more than water.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: westsidegal
                                                                                      khoffdenver Aug 28, 2013 08:03 PM

                                                                                      Why would you order inedible desserts? Or did you mean incredible desserts? (Quite a difference!)

                                                                                      1. re: khoffdenver
                                                                                        Isolda Aug 29, 2013 10:51 AM

                                                                                        Actually, ordering an inedible dessert (tiramisu, say, or anything with white chocolate) would be a brilliant way to ensure I did not eat it. I imagine this could be a good diet strategy for people trying to lose weight or cut back on sugar. The restaurant doesn't lose, but you might! ;)

                                                                                    2. MidwesternerTT Aug 28, 2013 05:03 AM

                                                                                      Business is business - a cup of coffee or glass of iced tea is enough for anyone at the table. I'd have a tough time resisting any dessert menu, however.

                                                                                      1. s
                                                                                        Steve Aug 28, 2013 07:44 AM

                                                                                        I'd be okay with ordering anything at all no matter how little.

                                                                                        I think it's unfortunate that people feel shamed into over-ordering, over-spending, and over-eating.

                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: Steve
                                                                                          latindancer Aug 28, 2013 08:33 AM

                                                                                          I agree with this.

                                                                                          At the very least I'd order a small salad, along with a drink of choice, if I was with people who're ordering dinner.
                                                                                          I wouldn't order more than I wanted just because everyone else is.

                                                                                          1. re: Steve
                                                                                            Isolda Aug 29, 2013 10:53 AM

                                                                                            "I think it's unfortunate that people feel shamed into over-ordering, over-spending, and over-eating."

                                                                                            Or, in the case of Mike0989's dates, under-eating.

                                                                                          2. hotoynoodle Aug 28, 2013 08:56 AM

                                                                                            i frequently order just an appetizer anyway, with most places simply serving more food than i want. however, i usually have a drink or two, so my bill is not small.

                                                                                            if i didn't want to eat or drink anything? i would not bother going to a restaurant.

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                                              EWSflash Sep 12, 2013 05:29 PM

                                                                                              Good point, hotoynoodle

                                                                                            2. c
                                                                                              cleobeach Aug 28, 2013 11:52 AM

                                                                                              I used to work in a restaurant/nightclub where people thought it was acceptable to order one appetizer for 4 people and rounds of water to occupy a table from 8pm to 2pm. It was part of my job to tell "move them along" so my opinion is colored by my experience, I can't stand freeloaders.

                                                                                              The least spent would depend on time of day.

                                                                                              Mid-afternoon when the place is mostly empty? A round of drinks and something to nibble. I always tell the hostess our intentions. More than once I have been told that tables were for "food" only and when I tell him/her that I intend to spend more than the average entrée, we always get a table (as opposed to sitting at the bar).

                                                                                              During a peak time? A dollar amount comparable to the average cost of an entrée and one drink.

                                                                                              I would never occupy a seat a restaurant if I wasn't spending money.

                                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: cleobeach
                                                                                                Dirtywextraolives Aug 28, 2013 12:56 PM

                                                                                                Did you mean 2 AM?

                                                                                                1. re: Dirtywextraolives
                                                                                                  cleobeach Aug 28, 2013 01:11 PM

                                                                                                  Ha! yes a.m. but sometimes it did feel like a 18 hour shift.

                                                                                                  1. re: cleobeach
                                                                                                    hotoynoodle Aug 29, 2013 05:38 AM

                                                                                                    have worked MANY years in fine dining, if guests explain to the front that they are only eating dessert or apps and if it's early in the shift, that's one thing. it's butts in the seats. but if you know your check is going to be substantially less than a normal table, please don't linger.

                                                                                                    as for "late night just dessert and coffee"? i can't tell you how many times i was nearly out the door as a server and then got some people who wanted to split a dessert and have coffee. it's enough to make a server stabby, sorry. if i'm hustling all night for folks spending $100+ pp and now my night is suddenly an hour longer with people spending under $20? yikes, ya know?

                                                                                                    as for those in big groups who don't order anything? why are you in a restaurant? do you go to a hair salon just to read the magazines?

                                                                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                                                      latindancer Aug 29, 2013 08:34 AM

                                                                                                      I cannot agree more.

                                                                                                      It's been only once I can remember when I've ordered only a small salad when everyone else was ordering multiple courses.

                                                                                                      It's only because my friend did it and I, for some unknown stupid reason, followed suit. She also ordered nothing but water to drink. There's alot of that where I live...people watching their weight obsessively and not ordering much food when they dine.

                                                                                              2. p
                                                                                                pine time Aug 29, 2013 09:40 AM

                                                                                                The Mr. and I had a favorite Indian haunt where we were regulars. A friend had never had Indian food before, and for lunch once, I suggested we go there for a sampling menu. To give her a wide tasting opportunity, we wanted to order about 6 appetizers (which would have been actually more expensive than 2 entrees). The owner refused our order, requiring us to have entrees. We left, and the Mr and I have never returned.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: pine time
                                                                                                  Kajikit Aug 31, 2013 05:38 AM

                                                                                                  That was very short-sighted of the owner!

                                                                                                2. westsidegal Aug 29, 2013 09:49 AM

                                                                                                  my decision is made based on the specific restaurant selected and the situation we are likely to encounter there.

                                                                                                  1) if the group selects a restaurant that has awful food and is probably close to EMPTY on a friday or saturday night, i'll go because my presence there would still be a positive for the restaurant. i'd be playing the role of a shill.

                                                                                                  2) if the group selects a restaurant that serves good food, i'd go with Thursday's approach and apprise the hostess of the situation and let the hostess make the call.
                                                                                                  (Of course, if the restaurant actually served good food, even if the other members of the group didn't eat, i probably would be the odd man out and order a full meal.
                                                                                                  if i'm in a good restaurant some primal urge/genetic flaw/deep seated addiction kicks in that forces me to order and eat the food. . . . . )

                                                                                                  1. Monica Aug 29, 2013 09:55 AM

                                                                                                    My husband I always order 2 appetizers, 2 entrees adn 2 desserts along with a bottle of wine. Otherwise, I don't see the point of going out to a restaurant. If i want something to drink, i'd go to cafe or a dessert place where there is no wait service.

                                                                                                    1. i
                                                                                                      Isolda Aug 29, 2013 10:40 AM

                                                                                                      I just tell the host or hostess that we are there just for apps or dessert and let him or her make the decision about whether to seat us or have us go to the bar. If it's a crowded night, we'll automatically go to the bar if we don't want a full meal.

                                                                                                      1. Kajikit Aug 31, 2013 05:18 AM

                                                                                                        The cheapest thing on the menu... or a fancy drink if I didn't want to eat (I usually only drink water, I'm not much for paying money for water with flavourings)

                                                                                                        1. PotatoHouse Sep 1, 2013 08:51 AM

                                                                                                          I have ordered an appetizer or two and a drink as a meal rather than ordering an entree because my wife was hungrier than I and she wanted an entree.

                                                                                                          1. b
                                                                                                            BuildingMyBento Sep 2, 2013 10:33 PM

                                                                                                            Embarrassingly, when I used to collect Hard Rock Café shirts, I ordered a water at the Key West one just to say I've been. The tip was alright, though.


                                                                                                            1. Monica Sep 5, 2013 07:49 AM

                                                                                                              This thread actually reminds me of bald fat guy who sat at a bar and said to the waitress, I want the cheapest red wine on the menu. The way he said was pretty funny I had to try not to laugh too much. He said it proudly too...haha. This was at the Grand central oyster bar in NYC.

                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: Monica
                                                                                                                MGZ Sep 5, 2013 07:59 AM

                                                                                                                I think that was my Father-in-Law. At least, it sounds exactly like something he'd do alone in The City. Did he order two oysters and then ask for the nut bowl to be refilled?

                                                                                                                1. re: MGZ
                                                                                                                  jrvedivici Sep 5, 2013 08:06 AM

                                                                                                                  Based on that description I could be your father in law too! Is it proper etiquette to order food before you ask to fill he nut bowl? I'm like school on Sunday, no class!

                                                                                                                  1. re: MGZ
                                                                                                                    Monica Sep 5, 2013 11:19 AM

                                                                                                                    LOL, i forgot to ask him if he was your FIL.

                                                                                                                2. Gastronomos Sep 5, 2013 08:52 AM

                                                                                                                  here in the New York / New Jersey area we have large diner/restaurants/factories. i don't care for them at all. four on each corner, one worse than the next. if invited i try to be pleasant and order something. if anything maybe just a dry toasted english muffin, butter on the side.

                                                                                                                  1. viperlush Sep 5, 2013 12:31 PM

                                                                                                                    Assuming that my dining companions are ordering food, just a glass of water. I'm not going to force myself to eat food that I don't want or can't eat. But that isn't a situation that I frequently find myself it (thankfully).

                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: viperlush
                                                                                                                      chowser Sep 5, 2013 12:35 PM

                                                                                                                      Would you be okay w/ your large group only getting glasses of water if only a couple had a glass of wine? No one in the group was ordering a meal. I think it's odd and wouldn't tie up a table so I just didn't go.

                                                                                                                      1. re: chowser
                                                                                                                        viperlush Sep 5, 2013 05:21 PM

                                                                                                                        No. But the question was "What's the least you'd feel comfortable ordering? An appetizer? A shared entree?". That's the least I'm willing to order as long as everyone else is ordering food.

                                                                                                                        If they weren't ordering food I'd ask why the hell are we at a restaurant and not a cafe or bar?

                                                                                                                        1. re: viperlush
                                                                                                                          chowser Sep 5, 2013 06:00 PM

                                                                                                                          Yes, that's where there was a lead in to those questions. I was wondering if I was the only one who wouldn't go to a restaurant w/ a group when the group didn't want to eat, or barely wanted to eat, i.e. share a dessert. It's been interesting to read all the different responses.

                                                                                                                        2. re: chowser
                                                                                                                          hotoynoodle Sep 6, 2013 07:00 PM

                                                                                                                          if nobody is eating, why are they in a restaurant? go sit in the park.

                                                                                                                          1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                                                                                            chowser Sep 7, 2013 05:15 AM

                                                                                                                            Yeah, my thoughts exactly. They wanted a place to sit around a table.

                                                                                                                      2. k
                                                                                                                        Kelli2006 Sep 6, 2013 11:01 PM

                                                                                                                        A bowl of soup or 2 appetizers.

                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: Kelli2006
                                                                                                                          chowser Sep 7, 2013 05:16 AM

                                                                                                                          I was thinking I hadn't seen you around much on the boards. It could be that I missed them but good to see you here!

                                                                                                                          1. re: chowser
                                                                                                                            Kelli2006 Sep 7, 2013 08:28 AM

                                                                                                                            I doubt that I have posted more than 10 times in the past year or so.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Kelli2006
                                                                                                                              chowser Sep 7, 2013 09:57 AM

                                                                                                                              You've been missed.

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