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Ordering coffee after dinner - what did we do wrong?

This happened in four of the eight places we ate out on our recent US trip, so wondered if Chowhounders could set us right.

We like coffee after dinner. In the UK, you order dessert and then when the waiter/ waitress comes to take your plate from dessert, he or she asks if you would like coffee. Sometimes you are asked if you would like coffee when the dessert order is taken, and then we always emphasise, yes, but after dessert. Either way, we get coffee.

Our first dinner, we ordered dessert, there was no offer or mention of coffee when the order was taken and then the check arrived while we were still eating dessert. On that occasion, we just went elsewhere for coffee, but when it happened again (and again!) we asked for coffee and a new check. In these cases, the waiter/waitress seemed quite surprised. We on the other hand were surprised when not offered coffee - surely it must be a high margin item for restaurants?

This happened in high end and less high end places. So, what's the magic time to order coffee?

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  1. Typically, coffee/tea are ordered and served with dessert, not after.

    1 Reply
    1. Sometimes I get strange looks when I order coffee with my entrée.

      1 Reply
      1. re: treb

        not so strange in the south, in my experience, but strange everywhere else. maybe not midwest? I don't know.

      2. Yes, in the U.S. the time to ask for coffee is when you order dessert. They probably assumed that if you didn't order during dessert you didn't want any.

        1. Not surprised that casual/low end places did not ask if you wanted coffee with or after your dessert, or that the check was dropped off while you were still eating. Agree with the others that say the time to ask is when ordering dessert, even if it is not offered by the server.

          Higher end/fine dining establishments are usually good about asking if there is anything else that you would like before presenting the check, especially if service is more on the formal side.

          1. I find it odd that there were no offers of coffee to you at all! We usually order coffee at the time that dessert is ordered, and they come together.
            Sometimes, DH and I just want coffee, so we order that when we turn down dessert.
            Coffee is usually a high profit item, so it's odd that you experienced so much of that!