Restaurant Backpedals After Ordering Customers to Stop Sharing So Much Food

restaurants and sharing, freestyle

Ever go out to eat at a restaurant and decide to split a meal? Of course you have. Would you share food at one of those big group dinners?

One restaurant owner is sick of seeing large parties taking up tables without everyone ordering something, while other would-be customers are forced to wait. 

Stewing over the fact that some of his guests at those tables are merely sipping water without buying anything on the menu, Martin Duncan of eatery Freestyle Tout in Australia decided to do something about it. He posted a new policy on Facebook: Everyone in parties of 10 to 20 has to buy something during peak hours.

But is that really fair?


I'd say yes. As a mom who often has a pack of ravenous kids with her, I find it extremely aggravating to see people taking up space as they linger endlessly over coffee, or worse -- water. So I can only imagine how frustrating it is for this restaurant's guests to see tables occupied by visitors instead of patrons. I can definitely appreciate Duncan's stance.

Don't get me wrong -- I get why people are so annoyed. There are times when I know my three picky eaters aren't going to enjoy a restaurant's rustic take on macaroni and cheese. (Just the mention of smoked gouda would have them protesting in unison!) Many times, I've fed them before arriving, since an errant red pepper could blow the chance of them eating a simple quesadilla. Should I really have to buy something just so the rest of us can enjoy a meal? 

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Said Duncan:

Dear Freestylers,
During peak times, we would really really appreciate each individual guest purchasing a meal or dessert and a beverage.
We would like to reserve table space for paying customers.
Sorry to put it plainly but large groups not eating or drinking does not pay our rent or the wages of our fabulous staff
If you must share please purchase a drink.
We hope you understand and look forward to seeing you soon...
Thank you Martin, Dima, Angel & crew.

The subsequent backlash by customers who threatened to boycott the eatery forced him to backpedal.

"To help set the record straight there are no ‘rules’ regarding dining at Freestyle Tout," Duncan wrote on Facebook, saying his message was "misconstrued." "We are in the business of hospitality and as such, everyone is welcome whether you are part of a large group, a solo diner, or a small party of two."

But citing rent and wage bills, he said he felt he had to address the issue of people in large parties buying nothing at all.

"There is no issue with people sharing meals," he said. "The sharing of food is one of life’s great joys." He's more concerned with large parties of 10 to 20 ordering just a few meals or coffees between them -- or "even worse, bringing their their own food from home, especially when there are customers waiting for a seat."

meal sharing during peak hours

I don't blame Duncan for being annoyed. Can you imagine taking a homemade meal to a restaurant without having a serious dietary condition that warranted it? Some places charge extra for diners who share plates -- is that any different? 

I've been there. I remember a big lunch meeting with coworkers at a local place with only four of us buying something off the menu -- yet we all sat for over an hour chatting and taking advantage of the free WiFi. As the crowd picked up and waiters juggled soups and salads while trying to seat customers, the owner came over and asked us to leave.

Our supervisor tried to argue, but to no avail. Though we were ushered out into the cold, I got the owner's point. If I'd been there under other circumstances, I wouldn't have wanted to stand around wasting my time.

Would the outspoken owner of Freestyle Tout have been satisfied with a large party coming in simply for coffee and dessert? We may never know. But it's his right to ask.

Should restaurants have policies like this or not? Which side are you on?


Images via CorbisImages/LarsLangemeier & Facebook/Freestyle Tout

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