Restaurant Freebies: Will They Keep You Coming Back?

Brooke's unofficial waitressing uniform.
Brooke's unofficial waitressing uniform.

At the risk of getting punched in the face and having my journalist card revoked, I'll repeat the cliché: There's no such thing as a free lunch.

But what about a few free drinks? Or a couple of appetizers, if you're friends with the staff? Casual restaurants are great because the managers and staff can usually sneak some free drinks under the table for their favorite customers, served with a wink and an extra splash of Gala, just because we like you. A freebie here or there is good for business. Or so my manager explained to me. Networking, good business, whatever you want to call it. We just need people to keep coming back.

And I get that. Give a freebie, earn a regular customer. I think that if a server wants to give away food and drinks, that's his or her prerogative. I won't do it because I'm interested in upping up my sales so my tips are higher. I'm here to make money (which also means that I'm not here to make friends, and all that).

The drama came a few weeks ago when I refused to run a round of free drinks to one of my tables. I didn't want to get stuck in a free drink vortex where I ran a handful of margaritas that wouldn't end up on the ticket, and therefore, I wouldn't get tipped for the labor. And even worse, toting drinks back and forth means I have less time to lavish on my other tables, so I lose money there too. And I work hard for the money, so you better treat me right. Ah, that's right.

After I refused to serve a round of free drinks, my co-worker became frustrated with me. "God, Brooke," he groaned. "Why can't you just do your job, and stop complaining?" I'll give you all a second to copy and paste that into the comment box down below.

Done? OK. To me, my job is to sell food and make money for me and for the restaurant. The restaurant makes money off the bar. The restaurant makes money off the food. If we give it all away every time we recognize somebody, are we not just a glorified soup kitchen?

So, burning question: Are you a regular at a restaurant, and do you typically get a few freebies? Have you ever reached a point where you expect a restaurant to throw you a bone on every visit? Do these freebies convince you to keep coming back to a restaurant? I like to think people request my section because of my staggeringly hilarious personality and shapely ass, but I could be wrong. Maybe they're just finagling for some free nachos.

Follow City of Ate on Twitter: @cityofate.

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