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Ask The Salty Waitress: Is it okay if I'm out with a group but don't want to order anything?

Illustration for article titled Ask The Salty Waitress: Is it okay if Im out with a group but dont want to order anything?
Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio
The Salty WaitressThe Salty WaitressSalty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.

Dear Salty,

If I’m with a group of three or more but am not hungry for whatever reason, is it okay to explain as much to the server and not order?

- Seriously, I’m Just Not Hungry

Dear Not Hungry,

Even when I’m not actually hungry, I don’t know that I could ever summon the willpower not to order something. (I’m the insufferable queen of suggesting a split appetizer and then devouring 80 percent of it. Sorry.) I’m not telling you this for any particular reason other than to let you know your question took extra mental effort on my part. Not ordering food. What a concept.

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But let’s get to the bottom of this. As with many of the questions readers ask, it depends. I’m going to assume you’re not talking about a full-blown, three-course, nice dinner out, in which case it would be a little strange to sit on your hands for two hours while everyone else eats. (Though hey, it’s a free country.)

I think you’re talking about a casual lunch, brunch, or laid-back dinner situation, when maybe you’re meeting friends but happened to eat beforehand. In that case, I think it’s fine not to order food, especially if you’re having an alcoholic beverage. Servers at casual lunch places are generally used to a group ordering varying amounts of food, so this wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. And if you’re not ordering even a drink, this can still be okay if the place is casual enough and you’re not taking up a very coveted barstool. At a casual cafe or coffeeshop or sports tavern where you’re in a big group, I especially don’t think this would be that strange.

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You really need to use your powers of observation, though. If you’re at a bar nursing a water and it seems like there are drinking and eating patrons who could use your barstool, you should offer up your seat. But if you’re just hanging out at a group table or booth, I don’t see why it would make a huge difference for you to be there. The larger the group, the less noticeable it probably is for you not to order anything, since perhaps some friends are already splitting or sharing dishes.

As always, if you do require the server to do some work—getting you a drink, etc.—a small tip is always appreciated.

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DISCUSSION

azurelore
Azure Lore - Hope Rides Alone

Is there a way to tell if its your waiter or the cooking staff that messed up an order? And should I feel bad for tipping less if it isn’t actually the waiter’s fault?

Example: The wife and I went out and got lunch at Applebee’s the other day. The restaurant had pretty much just opened, it wasn’t busy at all. My wife and I both order a French Onion Soup. For my meal I order the brisket tacos, and my wife orders the chicken tenders platter. She says she does not want the coleslaw that comes with the meal.

So, a few minutes later and someone (not our waiter) brings out a single French Onion Soup. We mention there should have been two, the person says they’ll be right back with it. It took about five minutes for that second soup to get to our table. About a minute after that, our food was brought out (by yet another person who was not our waiter).

I immediately noticed something was off with my order. Mine was supposed to come with a small dish of coleslaw, but it wasn’t there. Of course my wife didn’t have coleslaw either, as requested.

So at this point we have two problems. A late soup, and an item missing from my meal. Either of these problems individually could have been ignored but together it was grating, especially since our actual waiter only came around once more during our entire meal after taking our orders (to refill our drinks). I tipped less than I normally would have, but upon leaving started to wonder if these mistakes were actually the waiter’s fault. Short of straight up asking if they screwed up, I’m wondering if there’s problems that are more commonly attributed to the cooking staff than the wait staff.