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May 13, 2014 08:46 AM

How to ask guest to pay for meal/drinks at dinner?

I am having a surprise party at a restaurant. I am doing crawfish (which I am paying for) however I know some people do not eat crawfish and if they choose to order something how can I word that on an evite that I am only paying for crawfish. I am also NOT paying for drinks. I just want to word it nicely.

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  1. I really don't think there's a nice way to tell guests that you'll pay for the food you specify but not a different meal. Is there a reason for this?

    33 Replies
    1. re: Hobbert

      Usually at a crawfish place, meals are ordered for a certain number of people in advance, and that is what gets paid for.

        1. re: Hobbert

          Of course you can!! But for larger parties, most places need to be ready and have product on hand, and this person is clearly planning a party!!

          1. re: mamachef

            That's what I figured. I realize they're planning a party. My point is that there's no polite way to tell some people their meal gets paid for and others that theirs does not. Gotta scale back and treat the guests like guests.

            1. re: Hobbert

              I disagree. There are wide varieties of familial/social groups that function quite well with different kinds of hosting. The opportunity for problems arise when expectations aren't clear.

              If such a clearly stated invite offends you - then you either decline or vent/then attend because the relationship has greater priority. However, if it's the end of the night and then someone springs a bill on you - that's when you really wade into "rude" territory.

              1. re: cresyd

                I'm sure many groups do well with this sort of thing but it seems like the OP's does not since s/he is asking how to word the invitation.

                If I got this invitation, I wouldn't be offended. I'd go if I want to socialize with everyone and decline if I didn't. I would, however, conclude the host is cheap.

                1. re: Hobbert

                  What would be the difference if I had it at my house as a crawfish boil only and
                  BYOB I'm not cheap it's just that it's a "crawfish boil"

                  1. re: Jojo34

                    It's an appearance issue. If I present an invite as "I'm inviting you to Thanksgiving dinner, please bring a side of potatoes/veggies/etc" - that's totally within the realm of an expected behavior. If I say "I'm making Thanksgiving dinner, please only bring yourself and $15" - that's not within the realm of expected behavior.

                    Now in scenario 1, I may only intend on making the turkey and stuffing while providing the setting for Thanksgiving dinner - and have all of my guests provide all sides, drinks and desserts. This fits within the model of family style potluck, and the accompanying etiquette.

                    However, I have been in a situation where scenario #2 was the appropriate call - but it doesn't fit neatly into prescribed etiquette of "hosting".

                    1. re: Jojo34

                      So a 'crawfish boil' means you, the host, supply the crawfish and then everyone brings their own sides and booze?

                      1. re: latindancer

                        The sides at a crawfish boil are traditionally corn and potatoes, sometimes sausage, boiled with the crawfish, provided by the host. Beer or wine is usually brought by the guests, at least here in crawfish country. Crawfish is also quite expensive, 6 to 7 bucks a pound at restaurants, 2 bucks depending on size sold live in 40 pound sacks, Houston prices.

                        1. re: latindancer

                          Crawfish boil includes potatoes and corn. Those are the sides but yes usually the guest BYOB or whatever they want to drink

                          1. re: Jojo34

                            Well, that's a meal, for sure, and people can opt for the sides and not the crawfish.

                            1. re: Jojo34

                              Then that's a meal. I say you're good. I'd include non-alcohol drinks to round things out but that's me.

                          2. re: Jojo34

                            I'm not saying you're cheap. That would just be my conclusion based on the facts at hand. If you had it at home, I assume you'd provided beverages, maybe a cake, and possibly some sides. Plus, there just wouldn't be anything else for people to order and pay for and compare the fact that they had to pay and others didn't.

                            1. re: Hobbert

                              How is concluding from the facts at hand that a host is cheap, not calling a host cheap?

                              1. re: cresyd

                                Well, s/he might conclude from the facts at hand in this thread that I'm an asshole. In fact, I'm delightful. I have no idea if the OP is cheap or not- I don't know them. It's a cheap way to throw a party but I wouldn't call them cheap unless I had a better sense of them. Maybe s/he donates a thousand dollars a day to the poor. Who knows? I'm just talking about this party.

                                1. re: Hobbert

                                  The post was not "should I host a party if I can not pay for all the drinks/off menu orders" - but rather - "how to phrase this on an invite". However, many commenters feel very comfortable telling the person to cancel the party, hold the party in an alternative fashion, or invite fewer people.

                                  I think it's unfortunate. It doesn't acknowledge folks of different ages or life circumstances where life presents uneven options. But many posters feel the need to heavily populate these posts with "have a completely different kind of party!" and "you're being rude/cheap/not a host!"

                                  1. re: cresyd

                                    The OP said they wanted to "word it nicely". In my opinion, there is no nice way to give people this specific message. You can't politely say an impolite thing.

                                    1. re: Hobbert

                                      I fear that we're going to mince words regarding what "nice" versus "polite" is - but the tendency on CH unfortunately seems to presume there remains one rigid set of terms by which to "politely" hold an event (not getting into the variations of what it means to 'host') which I find to be very limited.

                                      This post was looking for suggestions on how to word an invitation. Essentially only a few commenters provided actual suggestions.

                                      1. re: cresyd

                                        Threads often drift into nuances, and there certainly are here.

                                        Maybe this type of partial hosting is common in the OP's circle.
                                        Maybe it isn't.

                                        1. re: monavano

                                          Yes - I guess I have a more general CH complaint on hosting etiquette or rather "hosting suggestion" questions as they often tend to drift towards "there remains only one right way to host an event".

                                          1. re: cresyd

                                            I posted earlier about crawfish prices, 6 to 7 dollars a pound Houston. Down here 3 pounds is the opening bid for most males, It's to the point where I cook them at home now instead of taking the wifeacita out, Lets see, 5 pounds, a couple of drinks each, tax, tip, and we're looking at 80 dollars for two to eat freakin' crawfish. You, madam, are not cheap.

                                        2. re: cresyd

                                          "This post was looking for suggestions on how to word an invitation. Essentially only a few commentators provided actual suggestions."

                                          So what's your suggestion?

                                          1. re: carolinadawg

                                            I suggest not making it an issue. If an invitation requires some type of tricky wording, that is very telling IMO.

                                            1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                              That's telling, IMO.

                                              If this is SOP where the OP is, and is SOP in her family and social circle, then why need to explain?

                                              That said, I would be very clear on the invite.

                                              No surprises or unmet expectations.

                                2. re: Hobbert

                                  Crawfish comes with sides - potatoes and corn and if it were at my house NO I would not provide alcohol

                                  1. re: Jojo34

                                    Beverages did not mean alcohol in this case, just FYI.

                              2. re: Hobbert

                                Introduce me to any social/familial group - and no doubt there will be someone who has complaints about someone who is prone to impolite/rude behavior. I think trying to find a way to address this situation in the best way possible (vs an ineffective way) doesn't mean it's out of the norm.

                                I used to live outside the US amongst an expat community where in my social circle folks had a pretty wide range of incomes and lived far from family. This meant that finding ways to include everyone - particularly for celebrations like thanksgiving - was valued more than strict traditional hosting norms. Didn't mean that the first times we tried to plan meals with asking people to contribute money we managed to do it in the best way possible - but we learned. And for the "rules" of our social group that worked far in the long run.

                                1. re: Hobbert

                                  Actually we host a ton of parties at our house and if I was doing this at my house I would not post this. The bottom line is it's at a restaurant who serves other dishes that I am not including in my party that I am hosting

                              3. re: Hobbert

                                in this case I don't find it cheap or strange - you are being invited specifically to a "crawfish boil" its a "Thing" - you go expecting to eat crawfish - messily & communally if you don't like sucking on the heads of little spicy crustaceans then you would not expect individual accommodation. Not paying for the bar is also pretty common. Its not like being invited to a typical restaurant and being told you can only have one specific entrée.

                        2. re: Hobbert

                          If I were to do this at my house it would just be crawfish and BYOB. Basically you can't control what people order and if a few order $20+ meals and drinks it's just not in my budget!

                          1. re: Jojo34

                            Why not have it at your house? Personally, as a guest, I would be confused about whether I'm supposed to pay and annoyed that, if I wanted, I don't know, a salad or something, I'd have to shell out for that.

                            If you truly want to host, scale back. Otherwise, don't pay for anything and nobody has to wonder why they're paying for a meal and the guy next to them isn't.

                            1. re: Hobbert

                              This is a surprise at my husbands fav restaurant. I won't be able to pull it off at my house.

                        3. This may be a bit difficult to say nicely, but I'd definitely include the words "no-host bar" in there. And mention that for the diners who can't eat the (pre-paid, pre-ordered) meal that there are also other menu items available on a no-host basis.

                          1. I assume this is one of those places where you are ordering multiple pounds of crawfish and they just dump them all over the table and everyone digs in.

                            If not, good luck.

                            Maybe just word it like it's a big get together with you buying the crawfish, rather than a party where you only provide one thing. People should understand. Normally I'd say this is kinda odd, but at a casual crawfish place with close friends I doubt people would be upset.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                              I have to give a head count prior to date so they will have it ready. So no we won't be ordering on the day of it will be pre ordered and pre paid

                              1. re: Jojo34

                                I would specify in invite this is the case. And if someone decides to order something else there it would be at there cost and desire I was invited to a dinner at a restaurant for a birthday parry once. They didn't say it was not paid for. At the end of the evening everyone was asked to pay part. I was surprised. And, would have liked to know in advance

                              2. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                It is casual with close family and friends. So I know they will understand just need to make sure it is clear on invites. Thx

                                1. re: Jojo34

                                  So, on the invites, just describe it as a 'crawfish boil'…
                                  Apparently they know what that is and there shouldn't be any hard feelings.

                                  "This is a 'crawfish boil' at a restaurant. If you want booze then you pay. If you want anything besides crawfish then you pay. No gifts please".
                                  To the point, clear and concise.

                              3. If you are paying for dinner, than you can restrict to a price but not the exact meal. To do so seems churlish to this old fart. Informing people that they are responsible for their own drinks is fairly wide spread.

                                So here is my solution to wording the invite given your parameters and my definition on hosting a dinner.

                                "Mud Bug Heaven is having a special on crawdads and I would like to treat you to dinner if you only order the cheapo crawdad special. Anything else is your responsibility to pay for. Some of you tubbos are already banned at most of the AYCE places in town, so I will only suck up the check for a single order each. And since I don't trust you to have a sense of proportion on the drinks, especially alcohol, you are also responsible for that tab also.

                                Looking forward for our special evening together, so please RSVP so I can try to get a group discount or split up the table so I do not have to pay the required tip for the large number if we all sit at one table.

                                Your gracious host, Jojo34"

                                Basically, this is what you seem to be implying. Feel free to edit for your requirements. :-)

                                12 Replies
                                1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                  Wow. And I just read it as someone wanting to host a crawfish boil. I'd be hard pressed to come up with wording for the invite that would be ruder than your response to the OP. Even with your ending smiley face.

                                  The OP wants to host a party. Wants to pick the menu (which happens at shitloads of parties all over the place).

                                  I hate crawfish, by the way. I'd still go to your party if I liked you or the other invitees a lot. I'd either eat sides (if they didn't touch the icky crawfish) or be hungry. And that would be okay. Cuz I'd be with a group of friends having a good old time gathered round a table with disgusting crawfish all over it.

                                  Invite: Crawfish Boil, No Host Bar. Hope to See you there.

                                  1. re: debbiel

                                    I would hope my "friends" would make accomodations for those that don't eat crawfish.

                                    Personally, I can't imagine forcing any of my non-crawfish eating guests to just "enjoy the sides" while celebrating my husband's birthday. Not while everyone else is chowing down.

                                    I can't imagine it would cost that much extra to accomodate a few people that might not want to eat crawfish. And I am sure it would be appreciated.

                                    1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                      But it being appreciated doesn't mean someone would be offended/put off/feel like a less valued guest if the opposite happened.

                                      I was a vegetarian for 20+ years. I've despised fish and seafood my entire life. So I've been to many a party where I've just enjoyed (or not enjoyed) the sides. And it has not ruffled my feathers.

                                      1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                        A crawfish boil is crawfish, potatoes, corn, and maybe sausage, all cooked together, BYOB. Everyone knows the menu, and can come and not eat or bring their own food if they care to socialize. Ideally it's done outside and not at a restaurant, but the OP doesn't have the facilities and I don't see why she should have to shell out 20 bucks for entrees after paying a bunch for crawfish.

                                        1. re: James Cristinian

                                          Personally, I am willing to accomodate my guests. Would you invite someone with a food allergy to a party where you only served that item and figure they could just eat salad? It just seems, not rude exactly, but inconsiderate of loved ones. And to make matters worse, friends like Debbie above would sacrifice and make do in order to celebrate with you. (Not you in particular)

                                          It's not that much to offer an alternative to those few that might need something different.

                                          1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                            Again, at a crawfish boil there are no expectations of anything else, but Jojo34 is graciously providing jambalaya as an alternative. Again, again this is a crawfish boil and a bit of a pain in the ass for the host to produce and an absolute mess afterwards when done at a home so the host is not expected to produce anything else. There will be other times for the multitude of loved ones that are vegan or have allergies. Edit, it is much more than a pain in the ass to produce a crawfish boil. Buy sacks of live crawfish, purge said crawfish in water multiple times, set up propane cookers, shuck corn, wash potatoes, lay out tables with tons of newspapers and paper towels, season water and cook crawfish and sides, and repeat multiple times. Later, clean up 20-30 pounds, minimum, of heads and shells, process the inevitable leftovers so they don't spoil. A piece of cake, no problema.

                                            1. re: James Cristinian

                                              Which is probably why it would have been a good idea, on the part of the OP, to post this on a board that is more familiar (southern?) with what a Crawfish Boil is…
                                              Most likely, it could have saved a ton of chatter.

                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                But then the mods would have moved it from regional to the general board anyways

                                                1. re: Bkeats

                                                  You're, most likely, right.

                                                  I find many topics to be regional and many posters are responding without actual, accurate knowledge.
                                                  I, for one, am definitely guilty of doing it with this topic.
                                                  I had no idea what a crawfish boil is and it really is imperative to be knowledgable with this one.
                                                  If this topic had been on a board where people are familiar with what it involves it could have saved the OP some frustration.

                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                    yeah, looking back I suppose more than a few didn't realize it's prepared by the pot not the plate.

                                                2. re: latindancer

                                                  Local boards are for talking about restaurants there, not etiquette or other questions. As the OP said, this was moved here.

                                                3. re: James Cristinian

                                                  Uhh okay. That would be relevant if the OP was having it at home but as stated multiple times, she's not. Besides, if it was at a home, people would be free to bring their own alternate meal.

                                                  I see she decided to offer beverages and an alternative for those that don't eat crawfish. Good for her.

                                      2. I would state this very bluntly on the invite as I would "black tie attire"

                                        something like

                                        "Crawfish on the house! Cash bar and full menu available at request"

                                        I would also make sure the severs/bartenders know this is how the billing will work so they can start a tab for patrons who order drinks and deliver guests their own dinner checks if they order food.

                                        better to make this clear ahead of time then deal with surprises when the bill comes.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: JTPhilly

                                          This is the best way to go. As other posters have already voiced, the notion of not paying for everything is always a no-no. So let people know in the most direct way possible what is and is not on the house.