The Dessert Menu Drop

You’re done with your entrees, they’re cleared away. A busboy wipes the table clean. And then the waiter or waitress approaches, carrying dessert menus. He or she places them on the table without asking, “Dessert?” You’re forced to say, “We’re actually not having dessert tonight.” He lifts the dessert menus up, disappointed. And that’s the Dessert Menu Drop (DMD): the newest tactic I’ve noticed at restaurants that want you to spend more money, despite your level of hunger or desire for dessert. A DMD doesn’t give you the opportunity to say “no thanks” the way you might if the waiter or waitress were to ask you, “Are you still hungry for dessert?” If you’re in the middle of a conversation you may even allow the menus to be dropped surreptitiously and then you unconsciously look at them and decide to order a dessert. This is the Dessert Menu Cave In (DMCI) and it’s disastrous for the frugal diner. Luckily, if you can anticipate a DMD you’re in good shape. Ask for the check as the plates are cleared away, before the DMD takes place. This is a preemptive strike that will save you the embarrassment of having to turn away the dessert menus later. Unless you want dessert, in which case please disregard this message.

UPDATE: People have brought up good points in response to the above. Mainly: people enjoy looking at the dessert menu after a meal in case there’s something really great on it. But my point was merely the sneaky way servers (gender-neutral! nice!) slide those menus on to the table without asking first. I guess I don’t mind if it’s a blow-out dinner at an upscale place, but when you’re out for cheap Thai food how often are you craving dessert? That’s the sort of DMD I’m reacting to here. The one that’s creeped it way into mid-level dining establishments.

13 comments

  1. I love the DMD. I have no problem telling the waiter “No thanks, no dessert,” but it can be embarrassing when you’re dining with someone you don’t know very well and you really want to order dessert and you’re not sure if they do. The DMD saves you the awkwardness of saying “Yes” at the same time the other person says “No” when the waiter asks if you want to see the dessert menu.

  2. Actually, if they just drop the menu and go that’s fine. My pet peeve is when we are out with our three-year-old son and they say “does he want some ice cream?,” which then launches a chorus of “ice cream! ice cream! ice cream!” from our youngest member….grr

  3. I agree with CM and Jason! I always like to see the dessert menu, even if I don’t want to order something. It’s fun. And it speeds things right along, rather than having to silently negotiate whether you want a dessert with your dining partner.

  4. I love the DMD – sometimes when I think I don’t want dessert I’ll see something that’s just an absolute must have. So keep the dessert menus coming!

    Also, I think we’ve moved to using the gender-neutral word server and the collective word waitstaff.

  5. I crave dessert every time I’m out for cheap Thai food, meal wouldn’t be complete without my coconut custard.

  6. I have no problem with being offered (or even given a dessert menu. I don’t feel any more pressure than I do when I’m automatically given a wine list when I don’t plan to order wine.

    There’s an interesting discussion going on on Chowhound’s Manhattan board about when servers are less than enthusiastic about your ordering dessert, when their language (or body language) suggests that they’d reather turn the table and sell more entrees.

  7. Recently was out with a friend and when the DMD occured we both demurred.

    “Didn’t see anything you liked?” the server asked.

    “Oh, no, it looked fine. We’re just going to that patisierre down the street for dessert.”

    Brief pause.

    “Oh..well then let me get that check for you.” was the rather snippy reply.

  8. What I hate is when the server throws the dessert menus down on the table and doesn’t say anything–recently I had a server practically toss them across the room at us and run away. That’s not welcoming at all.

  9. I think the real issue here might not be the DMD itself, but the attitude of the server directly after the DMD. A DMD followed by a friendly, “oh, that’s ok…shall I get the check for you then?” (if dessert is rejected) would probably not be bothersome. Speaking as a server, let me say that anyone who gives you attitude for not ordering dessert, drinks, whatever is being ridiculous and greedy. I’m always amazed at the sheepish looks and apologies I get when customers turn me down after I offer these things. It’s your money, people! You wouldn’t apologize to the cashier at the Gap for buying a shirt but no socks or body spray. Let go of the guilt! I’m a server and I’m officially giving you permission!

  10. Wait, if you’re a “frugal diner”, why would it matter if you get a dessert menu after your “blow-out dinner at an upscale place”? Wouldn’t dessert be part of the blow-out?

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