Question on Waiting (NA) Tables

This is something that I’ve wondered about endlessly, but only just now had the amazing insight to ask actual waiters/waitresses (servers?). If you work in a relatively nice restaurant (not uber-high end, but one where people might not wear jeans, say), do you give less-preferential service to tables not drinking alcohol? 

I’ve never worked in the food industry (by design), but I want to understand this better. Husband and I don’t drink. Not for religious reasons or anything like that. We just don’t. But we’re twenty-thirtysomethings and I know it’s expected of us. So I’ve noticed at some restaurants (not all) that after we both order Diet Cokes, we seem to get a lot less attention than some other tables. You know, we get… forgotten. 

It doesn’t make me angry or anything (unless they leave us there for over an hour without coming back). But I can almost see it in their eyes when they realize this is going to be an NA table. Face falls…and the busser ends up doing most of the work for us. I almost always want dessert if we’re spending the money to go out, but about 50% of the time they try to give us the check without asking. Ok fine, I’ll admit it, I’m a dessert junkie and it upsets me if I have to give them back the check and ASK for a dessert menu. 

I should add that we always leave a 20% or better tip (for whatever it’s worth on a bill without booze), which I know the waiter/waitress couldn’t possibly know beforehand, but still…

So servers, do you have some insight for me? Is it all in my head? What’s your opinion on non-drinking tables?

8 thoughts on “Question on Waiting (NA) Tables

  1. Wow, really? We never drink out at restaurants, and never seem to get less preferential service.

    I have received less-preferential service when I was younger and we’d show up to a fancy restaurant among all the senior citizens. They definitely do discriminate based on your age, because they’re expecting you not to be interested in appetizers and desserts and just to go for the cheapest items on the menu.

    Of course, now I’m going to keep an eye out. Maybe it’s just that I never noticed it before because I wasn’t looking!

    1. Well, it’s not every time, but enough that we’ve both commented on it – and I feel better when we go with friends that order beers, as backward as that is. ;)

      It may be that we look young too. Someone guessed me at 18 the other day – HA not even close.
      Thanks for the input!

  2. How odd! Chris and I are both in our twenties, and I never order anything alcoholic when we go out–sometimes he does–but even so, these days the price of bottled water or juice or pop is only a couple bucks less than a beer. I wouldn’t think it’d make that much difference to the server, unless they were expecting people to order a whole bottle of wine or several beers or something. In any case, I’ve never noticed any difference in service. But then, we rarely eat anywhere we wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing (at least, nice) jeans. :P

  3. I have noticed a slight…disappointment on the face of servers at nicer restaurants when we don’t order drinks.

    However, we usually eat at cheap-ass ethnic restaurants anyway. So I already feel a little out of my element in nicer restaurants, and also I am a terribly oblivious person who would never notice if other people were getting better service, unless it was like that time at Carrabba’s where entire tables came and went before our food showed up.

    1. Yeah, I have a “that time at Applebees” story that’s so bad, I refuse to go back there. Ever. Anyway, cheap-ass ethnic restaurants taste better! ;) And it’s really not so much noticing other people’s service as how bad our own is. We even had a manager take over our table at a brew pub once (I am only speculating that this was because the waitress didn’t want us based on her reaction to our order – they have DAMN good french onion soup or I wouldn’t even go there). Maybe it’s me?? I’m a nice person, really! Ah, well…

  4. I’m not a server and don’t work in the food industry, but I think it might not be confined to the fact that you don’t order alcohol–it could be that the server is making snap judgments about the potential for a high tip based on any number of things ranging from the very superficial to the not (really comforting, huh!!). It highlights a larger problem in the industry–workers shouldn’t have to rely on tips for their income… they should be getting fair wage in the first place. The amount of dollars they’re NOT getting paid for the amount of work they do is really staggering and I think that’s what creates disparities in the way people are served. Which sucks, for both server and servee. Sorry you’ve had such a time with it. :(

    courtney (courtneysummers.ca)

    1. Ah, and one of the many reasons I’m so glad I’m NOT a server! I would probably kill myself trying to make sure everyone got A+++ service! Hmm, I kill myself doing that as is… Anyway, you’re right. I get tips (or not) in the grooming industry, and the way people give them is unpredictable and totally beyond me.

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