On Sunday, Kyle and I were invited to go out to dinner with about a dozen other people to celebrate a friend’s birthday on Monday. Kyle had a volleyball game scheduled near the start of the dinner so we RSVP’d that we would be coming late. Kyle stayed at school to be there for the game and I went home to have dinner. Because of a torrential rainstorm, his game was canceled, so we were able to make it to the dinner more or less on time. Kyle ordered an entree and a soda, but because I had already eaten dinner, I didn’t order anything.
I actually do this pretty often – go to a restaurant with friends and don’t order anything. It started last year when I was very strictly following a diet plan. If a restaurant did not offer nutrition information and provide a diet-compatible dish, I wouldn’t eat anything there. (I would not choose a restaurant that failed to provide that information, but we mostly go out when invited by friends so I don’t usually choose restaurants.) Since I don’t drink anything other than water, I often do not spend any money whatsoever. I also found that this strategy saves us a lot in our eating-out budget category so that has been a reason to continue doing this occasionally even when I’m not being as strict with my eating. I used to find sitting in a restaurant with other people without any food or drink in front of me awkward, but I don’t any longer.
The only time this has caused me any trouble was when we went to a boba joint once when we were out of town with a large group of people we had just met. It turned out that the shop had a one-drink-per-seated-person minimum. Like I said earlier I never order beverages, so I explained to the server that I would not order anything but I would pay for my presence with an equivalent amount of money if necessary ($3 or $4). I was having some problems communicating this and she seemed very perplexed. Thankfully one of the other people in the group said he would order a second drink to go for his girlfriend and that seemed to resolve the situation.
I want to make clear that I do eat in restaurants sometimes – either full meals at a mealtime or an appetizer at off-hours – but I’m not going to break my no-beverages lifestyle or order something I don’t want or that I believe is unhealthy just to make someone else more comfortable. And I don’t do this when I’m out alone with Kyle, only in large groups of people. And if the waiter gives me water and refills it and I’m not with Kyle I leave a small tip (usually I just refuse any service, so this has only come up once).
I’d love to hear what you think of this behavior, especially if you work or have worked in a restaurant. I’ve never seen someone else do this on a consistent basis so it’s definitely possible that I’m committing a huge faux pas or something. If I’m not I’m going to keep doing it because I am retaining the wonderful social interaction I get with my friends without taking any hits to my waistline or wallet.
Do you think that entering a restaurant means that you must order something – am I ripping the restaurant or waiter off just by taking up a seat? Do you ever go out without buying anything or have you seen your friends do it? Do you reject any social norms on a regular basis?