Saturday, May 31, 2008

Ethical question: sharing meals?

We were trapped in Friday rush hour, on an unexpected errand across town.

"Let's pull in Ruby Tuesday," my husband suggested. "I'd really like a burger and salad."

As we settled into our booth, I studied the menu. "I'd like the salad bar, but the kids will probably eat just 1 mini-burger each. Hmmm...."

1 adult mini burger combo for husband, $8.99
1 salad bar for me $7.99
1 kids meal with 2 mini burgers, drink, and fries, $4.50
-or-
adult mini burgers, fries, plus salad bar, $8.99 (husband)
adult mini burgers, fries, plus salad bar $8.99 (for me and the kids)

You know me. I ordered the adult combo and asked for a small plate. The waiter raised his eyebrows, but quickly agreed.

Had I done something wrong? I only wanted a plate of salad for myself and 1 burger for each kid. Why pay $4.50 more for the exact same food?

Perhaps the ethical question arises when the sharer compensates with extra trips through the salad bar. Yet my husband ate his two burgers, plus double the salad I had.

I don't eat out too often, so I'd appreciate your opinion:

Do you ever think twice about splitting a restaurant meal? At what point are you paying for service instead of food?

114 comments:

Anonymous said...

a lot of resturants are totally ok with that and even will split the check for you. I think the only problem would be if you were also sharing the salad with the kids. That was poor behavior on the waitresses part, if it was against policy she should have just said.

Lora said...

If it's a question of the salad bar, then I usually don't *share* with the kiddos (unless it's an extra grape tomato or a crouton:). But as far as sharing a meal, I think that's totally fine and I've never had a server raise an eyebrow (except once at a Japanese steakhouse where apparently that is NOT an acceptable practice).

tutugirl1345 said...

My guess is that he was concerned that both you and your kids would all be eating from the salad bar. In addition, I think the idea behind having the salad bar be so much more on its own is because they assume that you will eat more from the salad bar by itself than you would eat from it if you also have burgers. That being said, I think what you did was totally acceptable, and I would have done the same thing in your shoes.

Amiyrah said...

When it comes to buffets or salad bars, it can get a little iffy when "sharing" but most places will jut flat out tell you if its against their policy or not. What you did wasn't wrong...maybe a little different of an order for the amount of people you had at the table and the certain night it was(a busy friday). When we go out sometimes, sonny boy and I share a meal while Hubby gets his own inexpensive one. Sonny is 2 for goodness sakes and those kids meals are too much for most kids! I think you were very smart for what you did.

Caro said...

I agree with the others who posted. If you were sharing the salad, it would probably have been better to get separate dishes. However, what you got was a package where if you had decided not to eat your burgers, they would have been put in the trash later. So it's not as if you were using more than you paid for.

I think the only thing I tend to do with shared meals at restaurants is to tip a bit more than a straight % of the check. If the service was outstanding, etc, of course. Same thing goes for when I eat out with folks and decide to just have a soda or something small. If the wait staff is just as polite to me, despite the "I'm not really eating" order, I like to reward that.

Layla said...

I think it's totally fine the way you did it (that is, I wouldn't get salads for the kids, but you eating salad and giving them the burgers seems perfectly reasonable to me). I would tip based on what the total would have been had I ordered the other way, though.

I guess I don't mind cutting into a restaurant's profit by a little, but I don't want to short my waiter -- I have too many friends and family members who've waited tables!

Kimberley said...

I think it is a fine practice, the only way I could see it being questionable is if you were sharing your meal with an adult. Good job being thrifty.

Kimberley, Oregon

Anonymous said...

I think it was fine. As another poster said, it's not like you were having the burgers and letting the kids have repeated trips to the salad bar. I would have done the same thing.

~missy

3boysmama said...

I agree--only if you were planning on feeding the kids off the salad bar too. Maybe that is what the waitress thought when she raised her eyebrows.

You were totally fine in my eyes!

Jenni said...

Would I feel awkward about it? Yes. Do I think it's unethical? No way! Think about what you are actually taking in a situation like this (like, you commented that your husband ate more salad than you did.) Though it might seem sketchier, I think it would even be fine to share food at an all-you-can-eat buffet IF you were only planning to eat half a meal's worth of food and give a little to a child. They expect people to fill their stomachs, so there's nothing wrong with taking a full stomach's worth of food and distributing it however you see fit, IMHO.

Amy said...

I see nothing wrong with sharing a meal. I wonder if the real issue is the waitresses tip at the end of the meal. Usually people pay a tip based on a certain percentage of the actual bill right? (Smaller bill = smaller tip) Who knows, maybe I have it all wrong. If a waitresses is gracious about us sharing than we usually give her a larger tip. I am sure it is hard work being a server, but that doesn't give them the right to pass judgment on patrons.

Shannon said...

As a waitress I think it's totally acceptable. I do agree that multiple trips through the salad bar to share with the family is inappropriate, but since that isn't an issue here it's moot. I will often have people come in and order one burger and split it. I think the way you did it was awesome. It's also not all that unusual for people to come in with their kids and not order for the kids. I say, why pay $5 for a kids burger when they'd be just as happy with pbj at home or part of your meal? IMO, no harm done.

I also agree with the previous poster who said that your waitress was very unprofessional in giving you a "look." If you came in and ordered 4 waters with nothing else, it's her job to serve you with a smile and a kind word. And, on a side note, chances are if she does that she'll even get a good tip on the waters. :-)

lemontartlet said...

There ain't a thing wrong with portioning out the food you pay for however you like. If the place has a problem with it, they should state it up front. onsidering most restaurants overcharge for basic food in the first place, darlin' should put her eyebrows right back down where they belong.

Anonymous said...

Girl, all waitresses and waiters raise their eyebrows for one reason or another -
To me, if they seem troubled - that's automatic deduction on their tip, and then, I'm happy b/c I didn't leave one... Miniburgers are nothing more than an appetizer to me anyway at RT - Appetizers are often shared, anyway!
In other words, you didn't blow etiquette this time -
You're just fine -
Working mama in the NW
Latrice

Bo Tai-tai said...

I agree with what Lora is saying. I don't think it is right to share the salad bar but what is served on your plates can be shared in my opinion. If there is a minimum per person charge that should be stated on the menu but considering Ruby Tuesdays I don't think that is the case.
Here is Asia is it common even in Western restaurants to see people sharing meals.

Marie said...

Honestly, they are free to refuse service to you if they don't want to serve you. Don't worry about it one more minute!

LynnMarie said...

The last time I shared a meal with someone, they charged me $3.00! They prefer you don't share and take home the extra food in a doggie bag - I've not gone back to that place!!

Lisa Q. said...

It is totally ok to split up a meal, just not the salad bar. There is a Japanese restaurant that we love, but of course is expensive. We found out that for 7.00 you can share and it is still more food than you can eat. So, one pays full price, the 2nd only 7.00. Don't feel bad.

Lisa Q.
lifewiththequeens.blogspot.com

Mary Ann said...

Usually buffets or salad bars don't allow sharing, but they should have said so if it's not allowed. As far as sharing other plates, we do it all the time. Sometimes "extra plate or sharing fees" apply, but again, they should tell you that. Just be sure you tip accordingly as the waiter took care of all of you.

Anonymous said...

We often share meals ... but not unlimited trips to a buffet or salad bar.

In fact, with some of these Mexican restaurant 'grande' meals, we have ordered two large meals and two extra plates for the 4 of us. And we all end up full.

Some restaurants charge for the extra plate. $1 or so. That's fair -- someone has to serve and wash up.

So, my 'rule' is, if you can take the leftovers home, then it's fine to share.

Jora

Anonymous said...

If it's a dinner where everything is already a particular size and served to you, I don't see any problem with dividing it between two people. However, if a portion of the meal incorporates an all-you-can-eat salad bar or buffet or drinks, then it would be absolutely wrong to try to divide that.

September Lady said...

I don't think it is wrong to share a plate of food. I have 4 children who are very picky eaters. I am not going to pay full prices for each of them to basically leave 3/4 of their food on their plate. We try to purchase something that can be easily shared. And, if possible, we use the plateware that is on the table from bread/appetizers/etc. to split the food on.
Of course, we do not share things like the salad bar or any other "all you can eat" items.
September Lady

Anonymous said...

Both options provided the same food, and Applebee's does not have a fee for plate splitting, so I believe you did nothing wrong. Definitely bad taste on the waiter's part.

Anonymous said...

These types of places can be so expensive with kids, can't they?! I don't think you did anything wrong and I certainly wouldn't worry about it. I think that it was a creative way to get everyone fed. I only wish I could feed my gang for just that amount of money when we go out. Mini burgers would barely count for an appetizer for my big boys!
Susan

Anonymous said...

It is perfectly acceptable. Sometimes my husband and I will share an entree. When he orders he will tell them- we are going to share the entree so may we have another plate. Poor training on your servers part. Hope you enjoyed your meal; we all deserve a night off!
S

Kathleen Grace said...

I never hesitate to split a meal for several reasons.
1. Restaurant meals are often way too generous for one person and results in either a doggie bag, too many calories or waste.
2. I am the customer. I don't have to come to their restaurant at all, but when I do, I have a budget and if one entree serves my needs, that is all I will buy. Why should I spend more just because the restaurant wants more money?
3. As for extra compensation in the tip, why? The wait staff only had to serve one meal. If they keep coming back and filling everyones drinks or fulfilling requests, I would take into account the extra work. If they are snooty because I am splitting a meal and give poor service, I wont.

Beck said...

Not only do I NOT have a problem with that, I frequently do it myself. You weren't sharing the salad bar with the kids, so I don't see what the problem would be.

Danette said...

I don't share buffets or salad bars, but plates of food, me and ny daughter many a times. I can't order form the kids menu, so who are they to tlel me what I can share or not.

I have even shared meals with my husband.. Not all that often but it has happened. So I Pfffft on any restaurant that tells you that you cannot share.

Anonymous said...

If there is no explicit "no sharing" policy stated on the bottom of the menu, then I don't bat an eye. We often go out and split appetizers (order 2 appetizers for 4 people).

FatcatPaulanne said...

I would think that would be fine. I have stomach issues and don't eat much and I've been known to share with a friend or my husband.

I do comment moderation on my blog too. I think it works well.

Anonymous said...

From what I read, your family of four ate out for $7.49, so I just would have made sure that the tip was based on service for four (i.e., what you might have ordered) instead of just that one meal. Your server really did serve four people and s/he likely relies on tips to support their minimum wage income.

Mod Girl said...

I am always very open about splitting meals -- "The toddler and I will share." Considering the portion sizes at most restaurants today and the hefty prices, I have no problem splitting food especially if it prevents us from ordering too much. I agree with Anon -- poor behavior on the server's part, if there is a policy against splitting he/she should have spoken up or pointed out where said policy is printed in the menu.

kate said...

Particularly in a chain restaurant I would split meals with no hesitation--you're reducing waste and most of those meals are far more than one serving. I'm sure they have marketing teams figuring out which combinations will extract the most from your wallet, so if you're not taken by that, good for you. I do usually try to go a little higher than 20% with my tip when ordering light. I don't think it's a great idea for "special occasion" dining where the table turnover is likely slow and the food is really the focus. My only exception there is dessert, since I usually only want a bite or two by the time I've eaten an entire dinner.

Chinamama4 said...

I don't think it's unethical to share a meal (with the exception of all-you-can-eat buffets and salad bars), but we do adjust the tip to reflect the service for the actual number of people served (we paid for four meals, but there were actually five people served, so we add a bit to the tip).

Jennifer said...

I love to share. My problem is no one can ever agree on what to get!

When I do share, I tip as if we had gotten 2 meals. That way, the server doesn't feel cheated out of a tip because a party of 4 ordered like a party of 1. And I bet there was water for all of you to drink that still had to be refilled, even though it was free?

I do agree that you are paying for service when you go to a restaurant and your waiter should be compensated for it.

Kristine said...

I've never found it to be a problem. I share my meal with the kids all the time. It's odd that the server gave you a look. But then again, as much as I love the food at Ruby Tuesday, we've only had not-so-good experience with our servers.

Christie@tisbutaseason said...

I share all the time with my 5yo. I learned a while ago that she never eats what she ordered - only what I'm eating. So I cut out her "order". No matter where we are or what we are eating - she and I share. I've never had anything said to me and quite honestly, I've never given it a second thought.

Also, On The Border has a "create your own meal" option. You can choose 4 things from the selected menu and you get beans and rice for 9.99 - me and both kids ALWAYS share this option...nary a look or bad word!

hmmmmmm.....

Suzy said...

I think at a restaurant you should be able to order exactly what you want. If a server has an issue with that, they are probably worried their tip might not be as big as it could be!?

Suzanne said...

I don't see why it's a big deal unless someone takes advantage of it, like going back to the salad bar 4 times or something. My husband and I share meals often when we eat out. Sometimes we've had to pay like an extra $1 or $2, but it's still cheaper. I would think the restaurants would be glad you're not going to waste food by ordering more than you can finish.

Anonymous said...

If you gave the children your burgers and fries and didn't allow them to eat from the salad bar, then I see no problem. If you got two extra plates and the kids drank water, then I would have tipped a bit more than normal, I think. Of course, if the waiter was rude about it, my tip would not be more generous!

Candace said...

I see no reason to waste money or food. I'm not sure about the salad bar issue, but my DH and I often order 1 meal, and then an extra salad or potato. We still leave a decent tip so as not to take up the time and space, but it is our money and most restaurants show no problem with it. With the economy being what it is, I would think that they would be grateful for the business.

Ames said...

I am all for sharing - why spend extra for the same thing!? The waiter probably hadn't met frugal people before :) As far as the salad bar, you knew only you were going to use it, so why not?! Friends of ours with a 5 year old and 1 year old never buy extra/different meals for the kids - they just get some of all of ours :) You go girl!

Katie said...

We do it all the time! My DH and I will split an entree and then order an extra salad. Ignore the looks.

Alison B. said...

I almost always share my meal with my daughter, unless I want something really spicy, or the kid's meal is on special or something. We buy her a separate drink and ask for another plate. However, we don't do this when it's a food buffet or salad bar.

Niki RuralWritings said...

I see nothing wrong in what you did, in fact we share meals all the times mostly because the portion sizes in many restaurants are just tooo huge.

Nancy said...

I have shared meals with my children & spouse before at a restaurant, however, not the salad bar. My thought is that it is a commonly known fact that the salad bar is per person. If it's an item off the menu, it's fine to ask for an extra plate. I even tell the waitress/waiter that I'm sharing with my child. If you're up front about it, they're usually more than happy to oblige.

Traci said...

We don't eat out often either..... but I really don't see the problem.... especially with smaller children. Most places don't find it a problem.... but I have found that the mom and pop run diners are even more receptive to doing so.

Meredith said...

Just to clarify--my husband paid for his own combo ($8.99) plus the dinner the kids and I shared ($8.99)--

so it wasn't, as someone suggested, feeding 4 people for $7.49.

Even then, it wasn't a very good meal...and I wish I could have spent $20 making a big burger cookout at home. It would have been much tastier!

We tried to be as "low maintenance" customers as possible (the restaurant was near empty at 5 pm) and tip accordingly.

I appreciate all the feedback!

Tracy said...

I know Ruby Tuesday frowns on sharing the salad bar-but that's not what you did. I say share a meal when possible!

Anonymous said...

My mother and I share a meal EVERY where we go. Never ever had a problem. One of our favorite places to eat, Marie Callender's even splits the meal for us in the kitchen and never once as a wait person ever batted an eye. I had gastric bypass surgery in 2005 and can not eat much food at a time, my mother is in a wheel chair and though she COULD eat a whole meal she would be very fat if she did. We do this to control portion size. We do not do this with an 'all you can eat salad bar' etc. My husband always gets the soup and salad bar at Marie Callender's. We do not take food off his plate. (ok, I confess it here, I sometimes snitch an olive) We always buy 2 drinks, and we leave an 'extra tip' if the service was good based on the fact that there are 3 people at the table not 2, and my mother is not the neatest person any more. She has problems because of a stroke but she still loves to go out to eat. It is a HUGE treat for her. So we take her a couple of times a month. Am I in the wrong to share a meal with my mother? I do not think so. I am not trying to cheat the restaurant in any way. It is a matter of the amount of food we can eat. When we are at Marie Callender's we often buy a piece of pie to go and enjoy the pie and coffee at home later. Roxie

emily said...

i've had great experience with splitting meals like that, but at this point, my kids are 3 yrs. & 18 mos... so most waiters look at them and think, "they won't eat that much." ha! they are really wrong about that, but most places are still really understanding about our sharing food w/ the kids. at one local "home cookin" kind of place, i like to get the all you can eat grilled fish w/ all you can eat side veggies... and they always let me share w/ the kids!! so that is a great great deal! i agree that as long as you are not splitting a salad bar, i would not feel bad. i have even been places, though, where the waitress volunteers to get a salad bar plate for the kids!

when we order a kids' meal for my kids to split, we usually use the drink that comes with it for my husband. my kids just drink water, and my husband is trying to cut down on ordering tea when we go out ($$$$!), but he's still in the weaning process. :) so we are up front about it with the servers, and usually they are happy to bring him even a couple of refills in the cute little kids' cup. this makes the kids' meal more affordable, and my husband drinks signficantly less tea! a win win for us! i have found that if i am honest about it, most servers don't make it an issue. they may walk away thinking that we are really cheap and tacky, but they always come back with a smile on their faces!

Adventures In Babywearing said...

I am all about sharing the food because I hate to order extra that I know won't get eaten. But we are always up front with our servers that we plan to split meals and what-not. I've always had great accommodations- this is so nice with a big family of kids!

Steph

Joanna said...

For my husband & I, we don't mind sharing meals- often, we'll order an appetizer & 1 meal to share, and it ends up being less expensive than buying two full meals.

Sharing "unlimited" items does seem unethical- a salad bar or a drink with free refills for example. In your case, you didn't share teh slad bar with the kids, so it was probably fine.

We do tend to tip more when we split a meal, since the server is losing out on the typical amount earned for the table, because we split the meal.

Kim said...

If your hubby had his own adult mini-burgers plate and you had one you split with the kids, I see nothing wrong with that. The waiter probably has no children and doesn't realize what birds they are at eating.

We often split things because the younger kids just don't eat much. We almost always split a dessert (when we buy one, which isn't often). I've had very little flack from waiters. I'd just ignore him. He was probably thinking about the smaller tip! lol

Anonymous said...

I agree that the way you ordered is just fine.

Sometimes I'll take the kids to Starbucks and order a small DECAF frappachino (it's really just a coffee flavored milkshake) and ask for the barista to split it into 2 cups.

The kids see this as a real treat, they always end up with almost full cups, I've controlled their portion sizes and spent less than 2 millkshakes at McD. Actually I've spent nothing b/c we only go there when we have a gift card.

Anonymous said...

I think it was fine. My dd and I do this frequently, especially when we want a sandwich and know it will be large. We tell them upfront and lots of times they just put it on two plates for us.

Salad bar is a different story. We don't share on that and it sounds like that you didn't either.

I think it was fine what you did.

Dawn

Anonymous said...

I used to be waitress and had no problem with this. My hubby and I split all the time to save calories! More people should do this for the sake of not wasting so much food too.

Anonymous said...

It's totally ok. I do that a lot, and just ask for an extra small plate. When you have small children it is a very common practice. What is NOT ok is to order a 'one trip' salad bar and then go back 2 or 3 times. But, you didn't do that. Was the waiter young? Then he obviously has no clue how little children eat! A mature female waitress would have instantly recognized why you ordered the way you did.

Jane said...

We eat out a fair amount. I think what you did is fine. I do like to tip a bit more when we share a meal so the waiter isn't penalized for my thriftyness.

If there is a plate charge for sharing, I always share. If a restaurant charges a plate charge, they have done so with the knowledge that their portions are huge and this is often requested. It has always paid off for us.

3beansalad said...

I think what you did (sharing your meal) with 2 children is OK. I, too, misread the post first and thought all 4 of you shared one meal for $7.49. Although that's not what happened, I think the latter would be pushing the bounds of good taste (no pun intended) although it would still be ethical; assuming the restaurant doesn't specify 'no sharing' rules on the menu.

*j-u-l-e-s* said...

Heck no. You ordered yourself a meal and gave the kids your burgers. nothing wrong with that!

How are you feeling, Meredith?

Angie said...

I wouldn't share food with an all you can eat salad bar or buffet, but in your case as long as the kids weren't eating the salad bar, then I don't see an issue. (As others mentioned, I'm sure the server may have thought you were going to try to share the salad bar stuff as well.)

Now, as far as food sharing in general, it's common place when my Mom and I go out to somewhere that has huge servings to split a meal. Then again, that may mean that we go ahead and splurge and get an appetizer AND a dessert, and we split both of those too. It has never even dawned on me that there could be a problem with that. Heck -- last time we ate at Joe's Crab Shack, they even brought us two little cole slaw cups instead of just one, because they knew we were sharing. We thought that was very nice.

Darla said...

Great question Meredith. We rarely eat out and when we do it's not at a place that offers salad bars, so I offer you no advice but I am learning a lot!

Christine said...

You are the guest at the establishment and as such, are entitled to order and eat whatever you like. If you consumed the same amount as a regular person who ordered the meal and salad bar then I think it's just fine.

What if you just wanted to sit and not eat? Would eyebrows have been raised then?

The minute my server raises their eyebrows at me, their tip goes down. If it's against the rules then they need to tell you. If not, they need to shut up and serve you the same as everyone else.

Tracey said...

If the restaraunt doesn't allow splitting they need to say it on the menu.....bad form on waitress's part....I wouldn't worry about it!

Tracey said...

I think you did just fine Meredith. The fact that you were thoughtful, and not greedy or sneaky, makes it more than acceptable.

Anonymous said...

Meredith,

I have owned my own restaurant and been a waitress and what you did is very common and no server or owner would look sideways at this.

My rule of thumb for my children is that when we go into a restaurant we us the items as they were intended to be used.

ie we only use sugar in the beverage we are consuming in the establishment. We don't take things to eat later from the condiment bar at Starbucks. We don't share any all-you-can-eat things, but it is perfectly common practice to split a menu item.

What you did was not only okay it is perfectly accepted. I think your server thought you were sharing the salad bar.

My husband and I do this with our children in the most expensive restaurants and have never given it a second thought.

The only caveat being that we expect our children are perfectly quiet and well behaved in all restaurants, at all times. That is the most important thing to an owner :)

Also, when I owned my own plcae you would be surprised at the number of people who would bring in their own food. Unless it's finger food for a baby or toddler that is a complete no no. Restaurants sell food to make a profit. Don't bring your own food.

Heather

:: Suzanne :: said...

Absolutely okay to share meals. They are selling those items for a fixed price and what you do with them is your own business. Not okay to share salad bar as they are selling an opportunity to one person.

Michelle Smiles said...

Absolutely nothing wrong with that in my mind. You didn't share your salad bar with the kids.

Anonymous said...

I would have done the same thing. You paid for the food, it should be yours to do with as you please, including giving some to your children or bringing it home to your dogs! I have had restaurants charge one dollar plate charge, which I'm totally okay with. Raising eyebrows was just downright rude on the waiter's part.

Chief Family Officer said...

I think what you did was fine. I would, however, tip on the larger amount. And be scrupulous about not sharing the salad bar with the kids. :)

Ruth Ann said...

My husband and I oftentimes share a meal - to save money and calories!! The portion size definitely provides enough for two. Our three kids (5,4,and 2) also usually split one kid's meal. They can do that now - so we'd best save the money while we can, right? I'm sure that when they're 15,14 and 12 - it'll be a whole different story!!

We don't ever share from a salad bar - ok, maybe a crouton here or there to quiet the little guy!

Sheree said...

When I worked at Shoney's years ago, it was against policy to let someone buy a meal with the salad bar and give the salad bar to someone else. IIRC, it wasn't cost effective for the restaurant and the management said that when one buys salad bar AND a meal that they eat less salad bar and so it isn't costing the restaurant more to give them a special combo price..but if a couple split the meal/salad bar then they were essentially getting a free meal. Now, between you and me, I totally see your point about spending so much for little kids to eat a small amount, but I just thought I would share that different perspective with you.
I don't think you did anything wrong and it isn't anything I wouldn't have done, kwim?

Karen said...

I would not think twice about sharing a restaurant meal as you have described. Possibly if it were a small, inexpensive, locally owned restaurant, I would think twice (but still probably do it).

Ruby Tuesday's will do just fine and make a decent profit from your patronage. I might leave a little extra tip for the server considering the total was less than it would otherwise be.

Wild Squirrel said...

We went to Chili's recently and the three little ones split a meal off of the plate that comes with 4 mini burgers...no strange looks for us, but a big savings! Most restaurants let you know if there is a problem with sharing by indicating same on the menu. If you didn't see something to that effect, it should be just fine!

Harper said...

I don't see anything wrong with it. My husband and I enjoy going to Persian restaurants, and the portions are always so large that we try to split them, and the waiters have no problem with it.

A waiter at the Cheesecake Factory once told me that the whole reason the make HUGE plates is so people can share.

I just think that splitting a dish rather than buying two means that one should give extra thought to making the tip a little generous.

connie said...

I no longer have small children to share with, but I share with my girlfriends ALL the time because the portions are just too big. I have never had a problem with it. We do, however, tip as if we had ordered two full meals.

gracemercyandpeace said...

Good to see so many conscientious restaurant-goers out there!

I agree with your choice Meredith.

Our RT serves DELICIOUS minis, I'm sorry yours was not tasty. Ours recently renovated to reflect a modern design edge--hanging drum shaded lights, single framed oil paintings; mercifully gone is the cluttered yard-sale memorabilia decor. Yay Ruby Tuesday New England!

deb meyers

Shannon said...

I didn't read the rest of the comments, but I did want to let one poster in on some perspective. The reason people suggest more compensation for the server is because even though you ordered only 2 meals, they still are serving a table of 4. Servers rely on tips as their livelihood, not their hourly wage. My hourly wage is a whopping $2.18 per hour, it doesn't even cover taxes on my tips. In certain parts of the country they make minimum wage, but federal law specifies a special minimum wage for servers which is below half of the regular federal minimum.

Anonymous said...

As a waitress I serve "shared" meals to folks all the time. My guess on the "look" is only what I've experienced myself... a shared meal is just as much work for the server, for half the money in tips. Personally I try very hard to never give "looks", but at the end of a very long and dissapointing shift I probably give them without even noticing. It's not that unusual for a server to spend some time in the bathroom in tears during a shift. Have mercy on your servers, please!!! If you share a meal, just tip on what it would have cost you. You are still saving money.

Anonymous said...

Alot of resturants in my area charge you for the extra plate, if you're sharing a meal. I don't see anything wrong with sharing, it sure beats wasting food.

pinkexplosion said...

I blogged about this a few weeks ago (or maybe it was last week!) and we do this when we eat out. Kids meals are over priced and they never finish it. We live in a larger society because people forget what a portin is, an average "meal" at a restaurant is usually a over two servings and normally only one person is eating it.

We have found that more often than not, after they realize we are going to "share" we get poor service.

I'm the customer, it's my money and my choice.

Meredith said...

Thanks again for sharing all your advice and strategies!

Especially to the servers who took the time to share their perspective...


Just what I was hoping to find!

At this age of our family life, eating out is hard and we usually choose family-style places instead.

Ruby Tuesdays is someplace we would usually go on a kid-free lunch date.

(And lucky for our servers, sharing a meal with my husband is never an option! I'm lucky when he doesn't start tucking into my food!)

Anonymous said...

I had a server from Ruby Tuesday suggest this same solution. I agreed with the others that it may have been a concern that they were eating off the salad bar. My grandparents used to try to do that at Ponderosa.

Amy from PA

mama k said...

Welp, I say unless they charge a plate sharing charge, which some places do, it's fine.
Of course sharing the salad bar with someone who didn't order it is not very cool.

Anonymous said...

I used to a waitress and was always more than happy to bring an extra plate to share. I often saw so much food go to waste because parents would order giant portions for their toddlers rather than sharing off their own plate or splitting meals between kids.

My husband and I often share and we've never had an issue with it, but we usually do leave a generous tip. (Habit and the memories... it was hard work being a waitress!)

I think a lot of restaurants frown on sharing buffets/salads -- that's kind of a given (like sharing a refillable soda).

Brenda

Kelly said...

My husband and I do this all the time. In fact, most restaurants we've gone to have taken the trouble to split our meals or salads or soups into seperate dishes. When a server goes out of their way to do this for us, we definately throw a little extra on the tip. Honestly, I think meal splitting is a great way to be able to afford more expensive restaurants.

Amy said...

I actually think it's unethical to waste money and food, so that's what I usually do when we go to Ruby's. Our restaurant (or at least our waiters/waitresses) are usually fine with it.

Amanda on Maui said...

Portions are out of control these days, so sometimes my boyfriend and I will split a meal at a restaurant. It's totally fine that way.

Catherine Shaffer said...

Meredith,

Others have answered your original question amply, well, but I wanted to raise a different issue--with no intent to criticize you personally, but point out something ironic about our culture. Why is it that you bought the "healthy" meal for yourself, and ordered food high in fat and low in nutritive value for your children? Again, I am not criticizing. This is what everyone does and it's so normal that no one ever bats an eyelash. In fact, kids' menus are universally filled with hot dogs, mac-n-cheese, fried foods, burgers, ice cream, etc., with hardly a vegetable to be found. So in asking this question, I only mean to point out something we rarely notice and think is normal, but is really kind of strange.

So, my comment is why didn't you order salad for your children? The usual answer is that they wouldn't eat it, but my experience as a parent is that a child will never develop a taste for veggies if they don't have a chance to eat them. So, next time, I say forget the budget and give the kids a shot at the salad bar. Salad bars are so much fun for kids anyway. It's always more fun to eat something you have "created" yourself, and when it's a bar, you don't have to take anything you don't want. Plus, it's a chance to leave your seat and wander around the restaurant. What kid could resist that?

Just something to think about. Cheers!

Misti said...

Sorry, thats just cheap, in my opinion. You go to a restaurant, each person gets a meal; anything else is pretty tight-fisted. Take home the left-overs if needs be.

Martha A. said...

It looks like everyone has the same thoughts, but I was just going to say, I have had waitresses suggest this to me, but usually I would say out loud that it was just me eating the salad bar.

Meredith said...

Catherine, good questions.

My kids ONLY get french fries at a restaurant. We NEVER eat like that at home.

Since it's easier to feed healthy foods at home, we let the kids have a special treat of ordering a "fun food" the rare times we do eat out.

If I were cooking burgers at home, I'd be using the extra-lean organic beef I bought on sale and froze. Instead of fries or chips, I have a big platter of cut up vegetables with dip. Fruit for dessert.

I just find it easier to let everyone have a treat if/when we eat out. For me, a treat is a salad bar that I don't have to wash, cut, and clean up!

Meredith said...

Misti, perhaps you'll understand when you have kids.

It is a crime to buy a toddler a $5kids meal when he will only take two bites of it.

In hindsight, we should have just gone to fast food. However, we were absolutely stuck in traffic and Ruby Tuesday was the closest restaurant.

texasmcvays said...

I'd do the same thing you did. I do not see a problem with ordering in the way you did.

nancyr said...

I think it is wrong to share your food, at a buffet, or salad bar, but not a "fixed price" item. My husband and I sometimes share a hamburger at a place that serves huge hamburgers, and they don't mind that at all. It is just the occasional family that tries to feed everyone from the buffet or salad bar, that gives sharing a bad name.

Laura said...

I think that as long as the restaurant doesn't have a policy stated on their menu regarding plate sharing and you are EXPLICIT in what you are sharing, and the establishment doesn't have a problem with it, then I would have no hesitations in sharing with the kids. If they have a problem with it, they need to properly display their policies. Otherwise, go for it. Personally, I don't share very often with my husband, but look at most restaurant meals as dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow.

Bottom line from what I read from previous comments, I think restaurants need to take a closer look at what smaller meal options, not only for older children, but for adults as well. Many of your readers don't want so much food and/or don't want to create waste. Fortunately, many places are doing just that. Kids menus are very limited and in my opinion, often not worth the money you pay and what eight-year-old needs to eat an adult sized portion?

As a past waitress where salad bars were available, I personally don't ever remember an instance where people shared a salad bar, or even split up a meal with a salad bar, however, I could have missed it being so busy. Thinking back to the server's reaction, he may have been caught off guard and was just trying to figure out how you were making it all work. Exhaustion at the end of a shift setting in...can make things fuzzy!

This post really made me consider what to do myself, since at this time I don't have any children, but do have one on the way. I think I might call ahead to see what the restaurant's policies are, and get the name of the manager/supervisor I spoke to. Or, you could ask before being seated. Is this overkill? Maybe. But, it might prevent a scene, and who wants a scene when you are on vacation or having dinner with someone? I also think that if a restaurant is accommodating, I will tip the server a bit more and explain to the server or manager that I will continue supporting their establishment (and also tell my friends about them) because they allow for me to share with my children. Win-win for everybody.

sherri said...

I share meals with my kids (6 & 8) and they share with one another regularly. We dine out at least twice a week. What I feel utterly uncomfortable sharing are 'all you can eat' situations (salad bars included). I think that is the line I dare not cross when ordering. Otherwise, sharing is encouraged in our dining.

Christine said...

Yes, my guess is that Misty will understand better if she ever has 2 kids and lives on a budget with them.

Wasting food and money is a crime. There are resources involved in producing both that we would be wise to conserve.

Anonymous said...

I think splitting a meal is fine.

Tubo Family said...

I order however I see fit (and would have ordered similarly to you), but then base the tip on having ordered a "typical" meal for each person eating table food so that the waiter doesn't come out behind. From the waiters point of view, a "4 top" (with 4 guests & 4 meals ordered) given good service should result in a bigger tip than a "2 top."

Betsy said...

I went to lunch with my toddler today (it was one of those days, and it just seemed like a great idea--LOL). He shared off my plate, and the waitress brought him an extra biscuit. I did tip a little bit more than I would have had it been me alone ($3 vs $2).

I think what you did was perfectly appropriate.

Roberta said...

You've gotten alot of feedback on this, and I don't have time to read all the comments, but had a thought. I wonder if the waiter raised his eyebrows at your request of an extra plate, because his first thought was that you would use it for the kids at the salad bar. I know you wouldn't have and he probably realized that too after a moment.

We share too. And waiters/waitresses are generally very accommodating. But are also mindful of the tip we leave, especially since we pray before the meal that kindof labels a family, and we have heard many stories about "cheap Christians" in regards to tipping. There is a witness there.

Anonymous said...

Meredith,

Why on earth should you just have gone to a fast food place? There is absolutely nothing wrong with what you did! My sister and I used to go to a nearby restaurant that had huge burgers and a heaping plate of kitchen cut fries. We ALWAYS asked for an extra plate and shared the meal as it was all the two of us could eat!

Would they have preferred you sent the burgers and fries back to be thrown out? What you did makes perfect sense to me. As to that type of food being a treat, I agree. My kids were allowed to order a soda or chocolate milk when they were young when we ate out. It was a treat, and they usually chose the milk. They didin't eat that way every day!

robyn said...

As a mom, I have been there many times too. As a previous waitress, what I usually do is make a comment or ask a question before we order to feel the server/place out. Sometimes, (if they are a mom and it is a family place and your kid is small) they say "no problem" but other times, they aren't offering you any help at all. Usually I try to order a side dish vs. a kids meal whenever possible to save $$ and eat healthy portions.

Meghan said...

I have never had anyone say anything to me about sharing food with my child & if they did, then I would leave.

Why pay for a meal when the kid eats nothing, kwim?

Anonymous said...

If it was a normal sharing of a meal, then I'd say no problem... But I think ordering a meal for somebody else, even if they are kids, and then using the unlimited salad bar as your meal is tacky. The meal package of a discounted salad bar is offered to the person with the meal... So to order a meal, then divide it up so somebody can eat from an unlimited salad bar and somebody else gets a whole meal... And this meal was divided not just among two people, but three... I'd be embarrassed if somebody at my table did that, with kids or otherwise. It crosses that line from frugal to cheap, IMHO.

I think that if you'd wanted the salad bar, you should have ordered it for yourself, and given the kids a meal with no salad bar to share. It's more expensive to order the salad bar if that's all you're getting, but you usually save a couple bucks by not adding the salad bar to a meal, so any difference in price is minor.

If the price difference of a couple bucks is too much for you to palate, then sticking to meals at home is the way to go. Eating out is expensive and I can understand wanting to save money, but I think the method you used is as bad as going to a place to eat, ordering a soda, then eating the free pre-appetizer chips or bread and not ordering anything off the menu, paying only for the soda you drank. Splitting a non-appetizer meal three ways, and getting a price discount on a menu offering for ordering that combo and giving it to a third person... Tacky.

Sandy said...

Wow, I see I'm a little late in commenting (106)!

My hubby and I always share, even on date nights. It's just what we do.

We also asked our kids to give up soda, as we figured soda x 3 kids x 1 yr (eating out) = 1 plane ticket ... somewhere.

The kids agreed. Hey, I think that could be a future post! :)

Meredith said...

But I think ordering a meal for somebody else, even if they are kids, and then using the unlimited salad bar as your meal is tacky

I only ate one plate of green salad, not 3 trips through an unlimited salad bar!

I just didn't see any reason to pay $5 more for the exact same amount of food.

I wouldn't have eaten more than 1 plate of salad even had I paid an additional $7.99 for the unlimited salad bar itself.

Anonymous said...

if a server raised an eyebrow at me when i ordered, i would ask what the restaurant's policy is, specific to that order and act accordingly or leave. no harm and no ill feelings. everyone understands each others 'position. this restaurant may not be the appropriate family place. good information to have until the children are older. anita

Tee said...

We split meals ALL the time. The portions in most places are too large, so why buy two meal when one will feed both of you. We don't share when we go to Chick-fil-A. :-)

Misti said...

Sorry Meredith, but I won't "understand when I'm a parent", (which is a pretty tired line to begin with, and, I must say, a *bit* condescending) since I'm planning to never be one.

I see parents do this all the time at restaurants and I hear my waitressing friends complain about it. How the parents expect the same level of service for 4 people, but only want to pay (and tip) for two meals. Not to mention the clean-up required after children dine. I'm sorry, I just don't buy it.

My Boaz's Ruth said...

So would these places that give meal +Salad bar options raise a fuss if you bagged the meal to take home and only ate the salad bar there?

SK and Family said...

We share every time we go out to eat--the 3 and 5 year old share a meal and I share mine with the 20 month old. After reading this, I realize that I need to make sure that I am tipping enough--I had never considered the number of people the waiter/waitress is helping.

Usually for the tip, I double the tax on our bill (which should more than cover our family), but I am going to check the next time and add it up--just in case!
:)Kat