Sexism Out To Dine

Lauren, my good friend (and former roommate), and I have the same birthday. The other day we spoke and she told me that her girlfriend, Julie, took her to Citronelle, the prominent D.C. restaurant, to celebrate. (Side note: my brother bought me, for my birthday, “Happy in the Kitchen” the new book by Citronelle chef (and culinary icon) Michele Richard. I love it!)

“How was it?” I asked.

“It was great,” she said. “We thought it would be really stuffy, but it wasn’t.”

“The service,” she continued, “was the best part. Sometimes when we go out and it’s just the two of us we get treated differently than if we’re with a man or a bigger group. But they treated us really well.”

This ties in nicely with this recent article from the New York Post. (Thanks, Megnut.) According to Tim Zagat (who’s quoted in the article): “Overwhelmingly, people say men are treated better than women [at restaurants.]”

I’m curious how my readers feel about this issue. Ladies, do you get treated differently at restaurants when you’re with other women than you do when you’re with men? Or is this just a lot of fuss about nothing? Inquiring minds want to know.

21 comments

  1. Yes, I have been treated differently than my husband while dining. One restaurant in particular the waitress was downright mean to me and treated him like he was the King of England. I was just hoping it was because I could have looked like a woman whom her husband cheated on with at one time. I needed some reasoning here.

    It always amazes me too because I am the nicest person in the world to people working in restaurants. I don’t want anyone messing with my food.

  2. The article mentions that women are generally lousier tippers that is a factor. I have to agree with that one, especially when the service is female, and just a tiny bit attractive, men will tip their ass off. Women will generally tip a 15% on the nose and less if the service was not up to the standard while men will tip more and if the service is lousy leave around 15%. I know I am making big generalizations here but I am talking about my own experience, and individuals will vary.

  3. I think it has to do with tipping. I waited tables and bartended for years, and as a general rule, men tend to spend more money and are usually much better tippers percentage-wise than women. I think this is why waiters tend to give men better service and can sometimes be outright rude to women (which of course pisses me off because I’m female and a huge tipper, having worked in the industry).

  4. As a waitress, I did tend to receive better tips from men. Also, women would be more likely to sit over endless cups of coffee (cheap, and free refils) chatting for hours, and the bill would be $5! Men on the other hand, even if they are sitting around and chatting, will be drinking beers and run up a larger bill.

  5. I have never noticed any difference in service when I am alone or dining with female friends. Sometimes we get worse service when I am dining with my husband because he annoys waiters from the start by saying he’s ready to order and then sits silently enjoying the pregnant pause until the wait staff begins to fidget, then places his order.

  6. I usually go to places where I’m already known, and then I get fantastic service, because the staff all know I treat them well and tip well, and don’t hang out forever no matter who I’m with. But yes, when I go to new places, yes, the service is noticeably different if I’m alone or with a female friend than if I’m with a man, pretty often. And I hate it when they give the check to the man, especially since I’m usually the one paying.

    When I’ve ordered the wine for the table, though I’ve never had the server give the wine to a man to taste. I suspect that’s because every time I’ve done that, my friends have very pointedly asked me to choose it, and said they know nothing about wine.

  7. I’ve been on the serving side and though I know women tend to not tip as well, I am still nice to them and provide the same service as I do to men. It’s a stereotype and stereotypes are generally based in some truth.

    Having said that, when I go out with a group of the girls (usually 5-6 of us) I don’t notice that we’re treated worse than other people. Or you know what, it might be me just assuming that if we get poor service… everyone is getting poor service. I’ve never thought “It must be because we’re women!” or anything. I guess I might be oblivious.

    I wonder if that explains my recent horrible visit to Fatty Crab, though (posted on my site)…

  8. I used to be a server and a bartender and I’ve never thought about the gender issue on either the server’s side OR the diner’s side… I’m very friendly to servers having been in their shoes so maybe that helps, but I’ve never noticed getting treated any differently when I’m out with friends as opposed to out with my husband. Something to think about, though…

  9. What I think is demeaning is when I go out with friends who are women and the server (male or female) automatically hands me the bill. Aren’t these the days of equality? How do they know the woman isn’t picking up the tab? Give me a cute gay waiter any day! jaja :) Roberto desde Miami

  10. I don’t so much notice that service is bad when I’m with my girlfriends, but I notice that it tends to be better when I’m with my boyfriend. I’ve never ordered the wine and had it presented to him, though. That would drive me batty.

    It’s a bit of a cycle though, right? When my girlfriends and I do happen to have an excellent server, we overtip. But that doesn’t usually happen–why reward perfunctory service when the waitress is lavishing attention on everyone but us?

  11. I don’t so much notice that service is bad when I’m with my girlfriends, but I notice that it tends to be better when I’m with my boyfriend. I’ve never ordered the wine and had it presented to him, though. That would drive me batty.

    It’s a bit of a cycle though, right? When my girlfriends and I do happen to have an excellent server, we overtip. But that doesn’t usually happen–why reward perfunctory service when the waitress is lavishing attention on everyone but us?

  12. Maybe there are differences in how older and younger women are treated. I usually get pretty good service now that I’m over 40 and find myself professionally dressed more often, but sometimes staff seemed to be out to intimidate me when I was younger.

    Other factors may be that I tip generoulsy, chat up the server, return often, and am usually totally oblivious to things like that.

    On the flip side, since I moved back South I’ve totally given up on getting the bill when I’m having dinner with a man, especially a much older one. When I was dating, I also gave up on trying to pay–I finally decided that if men are crazy enough to feel it’s their duty, it sure does save me money.

  13. My partner and I, when out for dinners both ‘romantic’ and regular, have sometimes suffered from markedly lousier service than nearby tables occupied by ostensibly hetero couples. This sometimes happens even with the same server. It’s hard to disentangle plain old crankiness (i.e. the ‘one of us looks like his hated ex’ factor), from homophobia, and/or sexism – but it definitely has more import, at least on us, than ‘a lot of fuss about nothing’.

  14. 1. I am female and I generally tip 20%, but I tip based on service, period. Bad service=lower tip. I’m working my way into foodservice so I see both sides of the issue.

    2. What’s wrong with leaving a 15% tip? Isn’t 15-20% the norm?

    3. And men, in my opinion, generally over-tip regardless of service because they’re too damn lazy to do the math! Take 10% of the total and double it! Duh!

    4. I’ve either never been been a victim of ‘restaurant gender profiling’ or have been too oblivious to realize it was happening to me. I’ll be more aware next time I dine out and see if there is a difference when I’m with my fiance or a girlfriend.

  15. I have eaten in excellent restaurants all over the country. I have found whether with my husband or a girlfriend that I receive excellent service most of the time. I have heard about the idea of gender bias but I have never been aware of it. Maybe I am less picky than others because come to think of it, I cannot remember a time when I have had bad service. Certainly, I am aware of exceptional service, but otherwise, it usually feels pretty darn good.

  16. I agree with many of the comments above. I read something about this a really long time ago and ever since I have made an effort to pay particular attention to women when I am waiting on them. I think in a weird way, women judge each other and have a tendency to treat each other worse then men & women; this goes way beyond service in restaurants, by the way, but at some point I decided to always be confident and treat every woman how I would want my mom or sister (or myself) to be treated, and I’ve found women respond favorably. I make every effort to pay more attention to a woman than her husband, we usually end up picking on the husband, tell him he eats too fast or whatever banter is appropriate. I think it has paid off for me. I am also a firm believer in karma, which I think helps anyone in the service business.

  17. I notice that sometimes a waitress will only make eye contact with my bf, and not with me, when she’s talking to us about the specials and stuff like that. It drives me crazy and I always make a point to be as nice and chatty as possible, to “win her over”… but it never works! Oh, and if we talk about gender, can we also discuss race and class bias?

  18. This is odd…maybe I live in a totally different part of the country, but I think I get better service because I am female.

    That said, a lot of bartenders and servers are men and being youngish, friendly, into food and drink and fairly cute, I get free things, great service, chances to meet chefs/owners, added to invite/VIP lists, etc.

    Perhaps it is regional or how you act/dress when in a restaurant? My friends and I are all PR/marketing people and are very friendly and well-connected and we usually get GREAT service, my boyfriend often moans about how great it would be to “have t**s” (he is kidding, but you get the point).

    That said, I don’t typically dine in very upscale/hushed/expensive restaurants alone or w/ girls, but if alone or with girlfriends, we pick great food choices and always have wine and/or cocktails and never the free coffee and low tip scenario (unless the service is bad and we are v. bitchy in those occasions having been servers/bartenders/cocktail waitresses ourselves).

    Interesting discussion…

  19. I am from India, and here its the exact opposite. The waiters tend to treat female customers better, and tipping is a different concept from US. Of course, the bill is generally presented to the male if its a couple, but if its a large group, then the wait staff just leave it on the table, not particularly in front of anyone. Apparently service is better here.

  20. I read your article with interest, as my daughter and I had reservations for tonight. We arrived for our 6 PM reservation on time, checked our coats, listened as the hostess was told, ” put them there” and as we were being led across the restaurant, I said under my breath, “you’re not seating us at the table by the kitchen”. She showed us the table, nearly IN the kitchen and I said, “We’ll need a different table, please.” It took a minute, but we were led to a much better table. No, we’re not regulars – this was a treat – a celebratory dinner. We ate, drank, laughed and didn’t care about the bill. Our waiter caught on immediately and was wonderful. He educated us and took care of the two of as. Of his tables tonight. I think he’ll remember us – not only for the tip but for how much we enjoyed the dinner experience. I’m going to send your article to management as “food for thought.”

    And thanks for all I’ve learned from food websites – tonight’s dinner wouldn’t have been the same if we’d accepted the table outside the kitchen door. Adam and Craig – have a cool drink and a dip in the pool for me!

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