A few weeks ago I met a friend for lunch. We ordered beverages and the
waitress brought them quickly. She left before I noticed that though my friend
had a straw in her drink, I did not. (I had ordered water while my friend had a
The next time our server walked by I asked her for a straw. She apologized
for not bringing me one earlier and told me her manager instructed servers to
not give straws to people who order water. Then she gave me a straw. She looked
mildly embarrassed about it.
We talked about why the restaurant manager would tell servers to not give
straws to customers who ordered water. Our conclusion was that he felt water
drinkers did not deserve a straw because the water is free. People who order
soft drinks however qualify for a straw because they have PAID for it.
So, the restaurant is saving about 3 cents for every customer who does not
get a straw. Of course, they don’t save anything on customers who order water
and ask for a straw, like me.
And, to balance that savings, they are reducing the quality of experience
their “water” customers are having. In fact, the negative experience likely gets
transferred to everyone at the table, as it did with us. It can become a topic
Did this manager really want a restaurant full of people talking about how
cheap he is?
This policy is a bad one. It’s bad because it focuses on saving a few pennies
per customer at the expense of delivering the customer a good experience.
Even worse, it creates a difficult situation for servers. They either appear
unprofessional, because the customer assumes they forgot to give everyone a
straw. Or they feel compelled to explain the policy which makes the restaurant
manager look cheap and it negates the cost savings because the server then gives
the customer a straw.
And, it creates more work for the servers.
This is a classic example of managers putting the company first and not
thinking about how it affects employees or customers. The math looks good at the
manager level. But when it’s played out on the customer and employee level it
What’s worse is the manager will probably not find out until a lot of damage
is done. While servers will explain it (and apologize) to the customers, it’s
unlikely they’ll say anything to their manager.
The solution here is for the manager to have more open communication with
servers so they will feel comfortable telling the manager the weaknesses of this
policy. And there should be an easy and convenient way for customers to let the
manager know how they feel about it.
In the end, if the issue is cost, then raise the price of soft-drinks by 3
cents. That will go largely unnoticed and it will not cause a negative
experience for employees and customers.