Non-Drinking Diners Ignored by Server

September 10, 2014

in Food & Drink Stories

My husband and I went to a well-known chain restaurant in Pennsylvania for dinner 5 years or so ago. They were having a special and they had a dessert that was only available for a certain time and it sounded divine.

We went on a Saturday night but were seated fairly quickly. We ordered our drinks (we both ordered sodas, we’re not drinkers) and our meals. The food was good, but our waiter basically ignored us in favor of serving the other tables who were racking up huge drink tabs.

When it came time to order dessert, I ordered the special dessert only to be told that they were out of it. I ordered something else, but what did I see someone else being delivered after we got ours? The special dessert!

The last straw was when we asked for our bill, the server didn’t even stop to hand it to us – they threw it on our table. I don’t recall what we left as a tip, if anything. But I wrote an email to corporate letting them know what happened and we were sent gift cards.

My biggest problem with servers at places where there’s a bar is when they ignore people who don’t drink in favor of tables in which all they do is drink.

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

imworthmysalt September 12, 2014 at 7:58 am

You waited FIVE years to post this? Is it really still bothering you that much?

As a former server I can tell from the occurrence and the amount of time [again, FIVE years?] to post about it – your server wasn't ignoring you because you weren't drinking alcohol. They were avoiding you because of your attitude.

It's not easy serving people who run up huge bar tabs for big tips [as you implied] – and a lot of times it isn't worth the effort. But we all do our jobs. If you are being slighted by your server it could be any one of a number of things, but trust it isn't the lack of liquor consumption.

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Ali K June 8, 2016 at 10:18 pm

Exactly! We don't care if you don't drink. People always assume this, looking for an excuse to get pouty.
Also, the other table probably ordered the last dessert. This is how it works. Some people.

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Sharon June 8, 2016 at 11:25 pm

I would not have cared personally if it had just been being ignored. However, the last straw as I said in my post as her throwing the check folder on our table as she rushed by. No thank you for coming, have a nice night, nothing. We have been out to eat enough to know that it's what a good server does, not tosses the folder on the table as she flies by. We are not in any way expecting a conversation, just common courtesy. How long does it take a server to say, "Thank you for coming and have a good night?" That's not even 10 words. If she had taken a minute to lay down the check, we would have forgotten everything else and probably would have gone back there. As it is, my husband refuses to return there and we haven't been back since.

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Sharon September 23, 2014 at 10:21 pm

First of all, I only recently found this site. So, how could I post it if I didn't know about it? Reading these posts have made me think of my own experience. Secondly it takes my husband and I a LOT to get upset. We are always willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt. But being passed by time and again is a little frustrating. And then seeing someone else get the dessert I had requested was the icing on the cake.

Having been in retail and working with the public, I understand that things can happen. But for you to assume that we were mean to our server is just wrong. We are not two of 'those people' who complain about every little thing.

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rachel February 24, 2015 at 4:20 pm

I will say Sharon, that the most likely explanation to your feeling neglected by the server is that tables, especially large ones require much more attention than a "two top" like yours and those that are non stop drinking. A table like that can be quite time consuming. Also, the dessert issue could be chalked up simply to the table requesting that dessert and server ringing it before you, but perhaps wanting to wait until a certain time to receive it. All this being said though, there is no excuse for a bad attitude if such was the case.

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saffie October 2, 2014 at 8:02 pm

We've experienced the exact same thing Sharon. Waiters do indeed get pissy if you don't order alcohol with your food. And before salt jumps, we're VERY considerate diners. We don't run our server ragged, we tip 20 percent MINIMUM and most of our dining experiences are very pleasant. But every now and then we'll get someone who plunks down wine glasses, asks us what we're drinking that night and when we inform them we don't drink, they grab the wine glasses off the table like they could hit us with them, and the rest of the dinner we have to make due with the ice that is melting in our glass from our ONE water or soda. I'm not sure if it's a matter of upselling or just wait staff at that particular location being snotty, but it does indeed happen. I'd say out of every ten times I've ever eaten out, the 11th time I've experienced the snubbed sommelier wannabe.

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julia November 20, 2014 at 8:17 pm

I don't live in the states and therefore don't work for gratuity so i can't speak for whether or not the server ignored you cause you weren't drinking or not. However, with regards to the "special dessert" being out and then you seeing it go out… well… when a server says they are out of something, it doesn't mean there are physically none at all, it means the available portions have all been ordered. So the dessert you saw go out may have been the last one, ordered just before you. It is not the server's fault it was a popular dish, and they were doing there job by letting you know then that there was none left to order, rather than wait until there were LITERALLY none left and have you change your order.

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sexygal May 16, 2015 at 7:05 pm

You state "…and then you seeing it go out…well… when a server says they're out of something, it doesn't mean there are physically none at all, it means the available portions have all been ordered."

WHY don't the wait people "tell" us that?!!?

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FoodServiceNinja October 6, 2016 at 10:22 pm

so they are supposed to give a complicated story which someone who is looking to find fault with the place will interpret as a slight vs them.

Also servers do not know whats the situation at any given moment. Unless a manager is aware an item is low and has put a count into the POS system they have NO IDEA how many dessert x ARE LEFT. And we could care less. Table 1 wants napkins. Table 2 says they are ready to order but after standing at their table fro 5 mins thy cant order. Table 3 wants a round. table 4 wants to know where the fries they didnt actually order are at. So as you can see the sdessert count isnt a priority for me just now.

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Sharon November 20, 2014 at 8:22 pm

I understand, Julia. If that had been the only problem, i could have overlooked it. I'm not unreasonable. It was just the icing on the cake. Thanks for the reply. 🙂

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Max December 18, 2014 at 4:59 pm

Unfortunately, non-drinking customers can easily be given poor service…people tip based on the check total, which with cocktails and wine is easily double the figure. If it's a busy evening, guess which table is going to receive less than stellar service. REALITY CHECK. so, after tipping your server poorly, you STILL complained in writing, and got free gift cards …which, when you return, will greatly reduce the check total … and you are almost surely thinking/planning on tipping on the reduced figure …. you should tip 50% … because your meal was free. Please….never show up in any restaurant where I work ! Please stay home !!! We do not want your business.

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Sharon Hendricks December 18, 2014 at 5:15 pm

FYI, Max, anytime my husband and I go out to eat, whether we are paying cash or we are using a gift card (we often get gift cards for gifts for Christmas/birthdays), we ALWAYS tip based on the total and not what we are paying. The only exception would be when we are given less than stellar service.

A recent example of when we showed our appreciation greatly was when we took my mother in law and her mother out for a belated birthday dinner to a local chain steak place. My husband and I had been there before, our guests had not. One of our guests is 96. She asked the waitress (whom we had had before) a lot of questions and she was very patietnt. Our waitress got a 30% tip for her kindness.

If you treat us well you will be treated well. If you treat us like crap and ignore us because we aren't boozing it up, well you have missed out on a good tip.

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James December 19, 2014 at 2:11 pm

I noted recently at a restaurant that had "recommended tip" at the bottom of the credit card receipt that it bases its recommendations on the price after the discounts were applied.

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Metalcraze September 4, 2016 at 4:14 pm

Max,That attitude is losing business for your boss,who probably does want all tthe customers he can get. Server need to realize the dining experiance is about happy customers not catering to the waitstaff.

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ScubaSteve February 2, 2015 at 8:39 am

I've experienced exactly the same thing. I don't drink but like to go to bars for the atmosphere, meet people, listen to music, watch sports, listen to a live band but I'm really disappointed in the rudeness that I receive when I order a soda. I even try to order bottled water which is not a free fill up thinking I would get the same degree of courtesy as the obnoxious drunk sitting next to me but no.

I am polite and tip well regardless of what I'm drinking, with a diet coke, this can sometimes be 400%!!!

I just don't want to drink, I don't see why it makes a difference. I dont want to stop going to bars but I feel they're beating me down with the crap service so I will either cave and begin drinking beer again or not go out and stay at home. Come one people, this is stupid beyond words!!!!

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Marie-Chantal September 11, 2016 at 11:21 pm

Bars are for drinking. McDonalds is for soda.

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Amy May 16, 2017 at 11:57 pm

Are you serious right now? There are PLENTY of people that don't drink who go to bars. Some go because of the atmosphere, some go for the music, lots of bars in Texas have live local bands and people go to hear their favorites. Bars aren't JUST for drinking and EVERY customer should be treated the same. MOST bars will encourage at least 1 member of a group to not drink so that there will be a designated driver. I hope you don't own a bar, because you will not be in business long with an attitude like that.

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cary May 5, 2015 at 10:07 am

I am a server and have run into this with guests. Its very simple, guests that are ordering drinks and apps simply require more attention than those that only order sodas and entrees. Im shocked that people think that we are supposed to stand there and watch them even if they require nothing. Servers dont bake desserts either. Restaurants set pars for their food items meaning they only make an estimated amount that they believe will sell in an evening. When the item is gone, its gone. The people that recieved the dessert ordered it before you did and was either the last one or close to the last one. Please stop being so self important.

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Sharon Hendricks May 5, 2015 at 10:59 am

I would have been fine if she had even stopped by once in a while to ask if we needed refills or anything but she passed our table over and over again without asking how things were. IIRC we finally had to flag her down to order desserts. And I notice you did not say anything about her throwing the check on the table. We have been in very busy restaurants before and never have I seen anything so rude as what that waitress did. You know what my husband and I remember from that night most? Not the fact that I didn't get the dessert, not that the server ignored us. But the server throwing the check, complete with the folder, onto the table as she flew by.

We were two people. Yes, our tab was maybe $50. Yes we would not give as big of a tip as a table of 8. But excuse me, we still deserve to be treated with respect and courtesy. To throw the folder on the table as she rushed by was not acceptable. It takes a lot for my husband and I to get pissed off. But we were ticked off this time, and rightfully so. We would probably not have complained if it hadn't been for that last action by the waitress. It was the icing on the cake.

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sexygal May 16, 2015 at 7:08 pm

Just because they require more attention doesn't mean they should be "slighted!."

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Amber May 9, 2016 at 3:33 pm

The problem being is even sodas need to be refilled, which means whether I simply order a soda and it needs to be refilled or I order multiple alcoholic drinks that need to continually be brought out all tables need the same attention when it comes to drinks. The difference is I'll notice when you fail to offer me a refill on my soda, and it will affect your tip.

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theblonde October 9, 2016 at 8:05 am

"all tables need the same attention when it comes to drinks."

Nope. While I agree the server should have at least glanced and noticed if the sodas were low, but alcoholic drinks are definitely more time-consuming and require more work. While I can just go top off a Coke, a Long Island requires me to ring it in and wait for the bartender to have a second to make it.

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theblonde June 14, 2016 at 12:34 am

I don't think she was ignoring you because of the drinks, based on what I'm reading. Depending on the place you were in, she may have had to get the drinks from the bar while still running food and taking orders. As someone who works in a restaurant like that, I can see how it may have seemed that you were "low priority" while she was running checks and double-checking to see if the (possibly busy especially if all the other tables are drinking) bartender has put up your cocktails.
Having explained the above, your server might have had bad timing and ordered your dessert after the last one and thus someone else got it.

Very possible that your server could have explained a lot of things better, but everything you've complained about is shooting the messenger and it sounds like you're looking for a reason not to tip.

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Sharon June 14, 2016 at 12:42 am

That may have been the case had she not thrown the check folder at us as she rushed by. Did you read that? We were willing to overlook everything else and the night would have ended differently. My husband and I always tip very well for good service. We know that servers work hard.

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theblonde June 14, 2016 at 8:56 am

Yes, I did, and I guess without being there it's a little difficult to judge.
But based on the other things you dealt with, if that was the straw, it must have been bad!

I guess my point is/was that I'm not sure if it was because you weren't having cocktails, but rather a busy night and a poor server.

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Mel November 1, 2016 at 3:18 pm

I call BS on this whole thing. Servers don't ignore non-drinkers. It's actually sometimes better to not have heavy drinkers as they get belligerent, especially when you try to cut them off. Plus, you don't necessary get larger tips just because a tab is larger. A lot of the times, you get stiffed even worse because math is hard for people. Plus, the waitress was probably telling the truth about the dessert. The last dessert of that kind could've been ordered before you did (some people order dessert along with their entrees). Looking for an excuse to not tip and a free meal.

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Original poster November 1, 2016 at 3:34 pm

I don't care if you think it's BS or not it all happened. My husband and I don't just complain when things go bad. There have been plenty of times when I have contacted a restaurant to compliment the server and let them know how happy we were with the service. If it had been that we simply had to wait for her to come back and ask if we needed more to drink or they were out of dessert it wouldn't have been an issue but the fact that she actually threw the check at us as she rushed by was the final straw. And for the record she did get a tip though not nearly as much as she would have gotten had she done her job graciously.

We reward good service with great tips. The service we got wasn't even close.

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Dbla May 16, 2017 at 9:22 pm

I am a server/bartender and I completely agree with you. There is absolutely no excuse for that. At all. It was not because you were not drinking. It was from poor management and poor personal. It does not matter how busy a server is, if they have the scruples to realize how they have a job, it wouldn't matter. Every guest matters, booze or not, tip or not. If you do not leave happy, I have done my job. As far as you getting attacked online for your sustandard service, that is not right. You have done not one thing wrong. That is just the keyboard warriors.

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Sharon May 16, 2017 at 9:26 pm

Thank you so much. I really appreciate this comment. 🙂

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