Restaurant In Hot Water After Facebook Cheapskate Remarks

Owner said large parties should order food and a drink, not share

Facebook/Freestyle Tout
Restaurant owners hate seeing people take up table space when they're not eating. They really hate it when customers do this during busy hours, when the restaurant is trying to make money.

So, Martin Duncan, owner of the Brisbane, Australia restaurant Freestyle Tout, asked on his Facebook page that diners order a drink and either a meal or dessert during peak hours. "Sorry to put it plainly but large groups not eating or drinking does not pay our rent or the wages of our fabulous staff," he wrote. The result was some social media blowback and some unwanted media attention.

"We can't survive with people using us as a meeting place," Duncan said to local newspaper the Courier-Mail. "It doesn't sustain my business if they just drink tap water."

The restaurant has been open since 1996. It focuses on desserts, small individual servings of food called tapas, and cocktails with a quick lunch menu, according to its Facebook page. According to the Courier-Mail, light meals are priced from $8.90 in Australian dollars (about $8.30 US) and desserts run between $12.90 and $25. Drinks start at $7.50.

Duncan told the paper that at busy times there is often a line of people waiting for tables taken up by people spending little. "When people are waiting to get in, when you have big tables having only a couple of desserts and water, I feel for the customers [outside]," he said.

His Facebook comments had some support from customers. One wrote, "What? People come and don't order a coffee or food? That's a bit strange." Another said, "Yes, fair enough. Also don't linger forever when you have finished your meal; others are waiting."
Was it rude or understandable for the owner to ask for a food minimum or to order a beverage (not just tap water)?
It’s rude – I wouldn’t dine at a place like that.1 (50.0%)
Makes sense -- it's a restaurant, and he has employees to pay1 (50.0%)

But there were many more comments that were negative. One person wrote: "What a joke. Not everyone in a group always feels like dessert! Do they have to wait outside? You are very lucky to have the patronage you do and I find this totally ridiculous and rude! I say boycott!"

Another said: "You have now lost us as customers. We regularly go to get desserts but do not want to buy drinks or even consume anything other than water with my dessert. Off to look for an alternative now."

Struck by the tone, Duncan said in an additional comment on the discussion that his initial remarks had been "a little misconstrued" and that he was talking of extreme cases:

The issue I am speaking out about is when large groups of say, 8 or 20 people share for instance, 2 meals/desserts, or share 4 coffees or even worse, trying to bring in their own food from home, especially when there are customers waiting for a seat. This is an issue not just limited to our business, many of my fellow restaurateurs have shared similar stories with me.

However, the responses following it were still largely negative.

Duncan eventually wrote another Facebook post in which he called the experience a "major lesson learnt here for me on social media." He said that "the past few days have been upsetting and certainly a ride on the social media roller-coaster." Duncan also noted that the tone of his original note was changed in some media coverage, like turning what he tried to phrase as a request into a "demand."

Freestylers know that Freestyle has been built around the very essence of sharing yummy food and company. Half our menu is share plates and of course our desserts are all sharers! It does upset me that this has been forgotten by the headline hunters. However, as mentioned above, it's a lesson for me in social media!

And one that he ended up sharing with a pretty large party.

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We just had to wait over an hour for our guests to arrive at the restaurant. We had already been seated since it was crowded. The server brough menus and I told her we were waiting for my son and his wife. She said that was not a problem, and she would periodically stop by our table to see if we wanted our beverages or free yeast rolls while we waited. I finally let her bring me an iced water. I was so embarrassed we were taking up a table while people were waiting, we always try not to do that. Our guests finally arrived, we ordered and our server did an excellent job. She thanked us for choosing their restaurant. My husband paid the bill and gave her a generous tip. I made the decision to also tip her on my own since she had lost other tips by our having the table tied up for so long. She was so pleasant the entire time. I know tipping her extra did not put more money in the restaurant's till, but I guarantee you, we will return to that restaurant more than once.

September 16 2014 at 10:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm with the owner - every table a non-paying customer takes up means no money for those employees and for the business. Asking a server for tap water that you're not going to pay for and definitely not going to tip for simply adds insult to injury. Restaurants are not "hang-out" spots - if you want to sit and talk, go home, go to a park, go to the cafeteria at your workplace - you have plenty of options. Restaurants can avoid this by instituting some sort of minimum purchase per person. I'm also on the side of restaurant owners who ban noisy and disruptive children (and I'm a parent of four) - family restaurants are one thing and you can expect some noisy children (made up for by the lower food prices) but high-end restaurants are totally different - I know that I don't want to pay $50-100 or more for my meal and drink(s) at a place where children are screaming, running around, crying and climbing up on top of tables.

August 19 2014 at 5:10 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I worked at a fast paced coffee shop in my late teens / early twenties. It wasn't an expensive place to eat - tables turned quick, and that was how the restaurant and servers made any money. We had 4 table stations, and the tables would seat up to 4 people. We had a family of 4 that used to come in during lunch rush. The parents would each order a cup of coffee, and all got water. They sat for around 2 to 3 hours, drinking gallons coffee and water, and eating tons of free crackers. They found out grilled onions were free on burgers, so they expected unlimited grilled onions for free with their free crackers. They ran their server ragged, and only paid for those two cups of coffee. They never, ever, ever tipped. To this day, I am amazed that the restaurant allowed it. Everyone of us cringed when we saw them come in.

August 18 2014 at 8:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I agree with the resturant.

August 16 2014 at 11:45 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Patrons should be herded like cattle through gates to efficient eating troughs. As they eat the shakedown can move to phase two wherein they can be frisked to make sure all their money is extracted. When there is the assurance that these cash cows can be milked no further, they should be encouraged by special "eating police" with electric cattle prods to leave the restaurant . A costly and inefficient government study (at tax payer expense of course) should be put in place to assuage concerned restaurateurs that they are getting large enough profits. Lastly, restaurant owners should take to Twitter to bewail the unfairness of how they have been taken advantage of.

August 15 2014 at 11:45 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mgnficntoz's comment


August 16 2014 at 11:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The only people that would complain about the facebook comment are liberals, who always want something for nothing.

August 15 2014 at 9:42 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to donc703's comment

OK,I owned a small restaurant.This is my opinion.If there are plenty of empty tables, no harm done. If a person or persons not eating or drinking are sitting at a table where someone is eating and drinking , no harm done,. but to take up tables when people are waiting to be seated to eat and drink.NO!!! Your being unfair to both the people waiting, and causing the owner to lose business.

August 15 2014 at 9:36 AM Report abuse +6 rate up rate down Reply

i agree with the store owner about people just taking up space in the restaurant but if i can get a light meal for $8 but dessert is $12 i dont think id be getting dessert there! i once saw a menu for one place that charged one price for "a cup" of coffee during the week then switched to charging coffee by the hour on Sunday because people would just hang out and chat but never order food. the restaurant business is very difficult to begin with. Low profit margins, too many places to compete for the same dollar. if people are going to take up space that a paying customer could be using the business will not last long.

August 15 2014 at 5:29 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I had a jazz piamobar in Amsterdam and every nationality came there.We had every night life music and people did not pay entrencefee. Frensch people special came in and complimented us for the ambiance and the
beautiful music and they were drinking tapwater. They would leave without having to pay a penny. After this happened twoo times I put a note on the wall "minimum consumption Fl.10,00 a person and one special
.request for one number (to play special for them). I really thought the penny would drop but they rather left than
pay one penny on drinks. I was hurt but happy after a while They came back and apoligised fot their rude
behaviour and they styed all night. We hed this place fot over 10 years en the last years were one big party.
Jeannette Quaye van den Brink from The Cab Kayes Jazzpiano bar jn Amsterdam

August 15 2014 at 4:42 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
John Myers

What would scare me is the possibilities of a glass of water costing as much as a dinner itself. Maybe even more.

August 15 2014 at 4:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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