What would you do?

Hello everyone,

I need your advice on what you would do in this situation. I’m hoping I didn’t shoot myself in the foot!!

We have a lady that wants to have a birthday party this Saturday at 11:00. She was going to have it at our local rec complex, but the weather is supposed to be bad. She is ordering about $80 in pizzas (which we gave her a 10% discount off the menu price). She has requested to bring in her own drinks for the party. There will be about 30-40 people at this party. We can only seat about 60 people, so she will be taking up 2/3 of our dining space already. She says that she will not have the party with us if we do not allow her to bring her own drinks. In our small town, we may be slammed for Saturday lunch or we may have 10 customers, so you just never know what to expect. I told her that I can’t allow her to bring in drinks but I would sell her 2 liters (something I don’t normally do for dine-ins either). I am awaiting her decision.

What would you do in this situation?

Thanks in advance


Full pop for pizzas and free drinks. Take or leave, lady! Bringing in your own drinks is illegal in some jurisdictions. If something were to happen and someone got sick because of a drink, they could still TRY to get you, and you’d have no backup from the drink company. Longshot, but it’s a sad fact.

I don’t have dine in so do not have the experience to wax eloquently on what I would do as an owner.
As a customer, I would not expect to bring in outside food or drink except maybe a birthday cake and bottles for infants.


What would I do? I’d thank her for the consideration, but let her know that my store policy prevents me from allowing outside drinks. *I do not have “discounts.” I’d encourage her to use the local rec center.

$80 simply isn’t worth 30 people taking up space and trashing your facilities. On the other hand, $500 would make it worthwhile.

$80 for 30-40 people works out to $2-3 per person. That is not worth the effort to clean the place after the party is over.

When a group takes up space in your “prime time” they need to pay a minimum charge per person for each hour they take up the space…I figure at a bare minimum you need 6.00 per hour per person…

I agree with the no outside items allowed. Also with the $80 sale for 2/3 of your capacity for the lunch hour. You make your money off of the extras…like soda. First I would not take a party at that time…you will lose 11-1 probably. Maybe a 230 or something…but dont write off your day with this at your possible lunch rush. You have fountain soda I am guessing… you gave 10% off the pizza…offer 20% on fountain and adjust the time. Why so persistant to bring own drinks? Already purchased I am guessing but still… just use that it is a store policy not to allow outside food & bev into your place.

Ditto what they all said. We’re seeing this problem manifest with folks bringing in a cake during prime dinner hours, with no one having even the courtesy to ask if it’s “ok” in the first place. The last straw was in bringing it in, not providing their own paper plates, and when it was brought to their table at their command…throwing a minor hissy-fit demanding the server cut and serve! What is wrong with people?

So…for us, from here out…NO-ZERO-NADA outside desserts brought in.

As for wanting to bring their own drinks…no way. BTW, it’d be mighty easy to bring in some of Uncle Joe’s “special” drinks wouldn’t it?

Thanks everyone for their replies. I was hoping that I wasn’t shooting myself in the foot. We did offer to sell 2 liters to her and she is going to do that. Personally, I don’t see how 7 pizzas is going to feed 30-40 people, so I think they will have to purchase more.

In the future, I will take ya’lls advice and just say NO on the outside drinks and give a small discount on my fountain drinks.

Thanks again!

Couple of thoughts,

In the future, decide on a value for the dining room.
Let’s say $100. for 2 hours.
If a group wants to rent it and bring their food, so be it.
If the food sales is less, charge the difference. If it is more, congratulations.

Also, have info ready for the next group that the rental is for a set time and you
will provide the plates, napkins etc…for the time period.

Don’t turn down the chance to “show off” your stuff for possibly new folks who
come in for this party.


This is our biggest topic of contention.

We seat 49, and have a family-style QSR with music and TVs on mute. Couples can enjoy a romantic date, families can dine for a great price, people can watch their favorite sports games…

and then we have:

The lady that reserves for 20 people, 18 of them are 7-years-old or younger, brings in a tray of cupcakes, noise-makers, hats, balloons that get untied and tangled in our ceiling fans, takes over another table for presents, opens said presents and leaves a pile of wrapping paper on the floor, cupcakes are ground into the carpet, kids running around screaming into their noisemakers…

The lady that reserves for 15, waits until the server is in the kitchen and then goes out to the car and grabs her 2.5 liter Shasta bottles and brings them in, opens them all, then asks where the cups are and “can you bring me a bucket of ice and a scoop?” and “put this cake in the fridge until we’re ready for it.”

The lady that asks to reserve for a party of 10 people, pre-orders $40 worth of pizza, then says up to 40 people may show up… and they do. They’re all parents and siblings of the kids invited to the party, and they stand around and watch the kids opening presents, uncomfortably I might add, while paying customers walk in, see the commotion, and walk out.

Policy now is that we only reserve up to 16 people on our wall bench, and we tell the person that the rest of the tables are first-come, first-serve. If they balk, we let them know that they can rent the entire dining room for $400 in food and drink sales per hour. Surprisingly, no one has taken us up on this… :o

When we get a call for a reservation, we ask immediately what they’re celebrating, and if we are told it’s a birthday party, we ask how old the “kid” is. If it’s an adult, the question is usually followed by laughter and a joke of “He’s turning 55.”

If it IS a kid under 8 years old, we mention that while we are fine with party favors, please don’t bring Kazoos or noisemakers. We then let them know that we can do a spumoni icecream dessert for only $3 per person, or if they’d prefer, we can chill a dessert that they bring in and offer a full service of it for only $1 per person – both come options come with presentation with candles for the birthday person, singing, the Cheesehead (we’re a Packers establishment), cutting, serving and cleanup of the plates and utensils.

For other celebrations, if someone brings in a cake without us knowing about it ahead of time, we let the person know who hands it to us that we’re glad to chill it and “did you bring plates or a knife or serving utensils? If not, we’re glad to do so for a small charge.”

One lady sneered at me once and said “What? Do you expect us to eat it with our hands?” to which I wanted to reply “Tables are real estate, and the staff doesn’t work for you for free.”

Instead, I smiled and said “Well you can always have an after party at your house.”

We have yet to have someone balk at the way we word this.

I’m curious if anyone else has a Party Fee or Convenience Fee…

This is a tough area. Saucy you described my mother as far as reserve for 12 and 30 show up because she cant say no! She tells and invites everyone. She works in a pharmacy now to keep busy on the side and at my daughters last bday I had 12 people & kids that I did not know. All that said…I never really care because I know that she will tip nicely and provide…I MEAN PURCHASE FROM!!!.. food and drink from wherever we are at. She ALWAYS brings cakes and such…and like others…asks for plates and flatware as needed. The places we have had parties at know she will cover it all and they know she is a lots of wrapping paper and balloons…etc…person. I know she is the exception in that she never leaves a place underpaid and I have been asked at one placed specifically…WOW, you brought a lot in!..at which point I told the mgr that there will be an additional $xx gratuity to cover any cleanup by your staff. I have never been asked to pay for dessert service but it is common in the Chicago burbs where I am from. I have also seen a good number of restaurants team up with the better local bakeries and offer custom inhouse desserts. That way you can cover the serving with a slight upcharge on the desserts and the bakeries often discount since you use them exclusively and it gets there products out there. I think the best answer here is to have a short handout to let people know what you can offer…what hours they can reserve for… and what is 100% off limits. The idea is not to push people away but you also have thousands of other customers and regulars…and I know that if I showed up at lunch or dinner at a favorite place and it was closed because an 8 year olds bday had reserved the entire dining room…I would come back but I would also remember it the next time. The whole reason places have party rooms… but those seem to be disappearing these days also. It’s all a balancing game. I guess my long story is that it is all about how your space is layed out and what steps you want to do to accommodate others needs. Balance…how often does it happen? Put your flyer together so people know what is available instead of blindly jumping in. If they have a unique request… work with them instead of an iron-fist approach. Remember it might be a pain for a couple hours but you might have dozens of new customers that otherwise would never have walked through the front door!!! :!:

My take is:

  1. You have costs and opportunity costs. You’re being reasonable. It’s unreasonable for anyone to expect free use of your facility, supplies or staff. Make a reasonable offer that you’re happy with. If the customer is reasonable and accepts, then you have a win-win.

  2. Maybe a non-peak time would suit both of you? No one should expected you to earn less money than you normally do at a peak time. Let your competitor lose those earnings… :slight_smile:

  3. If all else fails, smile and take care of your other customers. Can’t win them all, and you’re not required by law to lose time or money. Well, at least not yet…

Rainaldis I think u did the right thing by telling theme you would sell them 2 liters, and i think you are not wrong by offering a discount on pizza with that big of party they should buy more. I also think that some of the others were right you should have suggested an of peek hour, but I do not think you should sneer at any business that comes your way and if they do not tip you well then next time charge a gratuity .

Rant alert!

I think it is completely unreasonable and I think your 2 liter suggestion is more than a fine solution. Bringing other products into your facilty is ridiculous. You are there to sell your products, you wouldn’t have people bringing dominos pizzas to then sit in your nice resturant. Somepeople drive me up the wall with their efforts to safe the odd buck without think of the offence it causes to the small business owner.

The only exception I would make, to the no-outside-food rule, is for specific dietary reasons. We’re not doing gluten-free until we see what the demand is, nor vegan. In the past, I’ve had people who can only drink distilled water for whatever reason, people who have soft drinks with specific formulations, and other things. Strange, in some cases, but if they call ahead and clear it with me, and it means 3 other people WILL eat or drink our product, fine.

I can sympathize, as our place is in a very small, economically depressed, rural town.

There just isn’t a lot of money here and we make our money for the year during June - September (tourist & hunting season). The rest of the time were pretty much just making enough to pay the bills.

That being said, I put a lot of value in supporting the community. We have a back room, separate from our dining room and offer it to anyone or any group for use for free. First come first serve, but if you don’t show and no cancellation call, then I’ll let someone trump you next time.

We tell people we don’t expect them to buy anything, but the vast majority of them (90%+) buy enough pizzas to make it worth our time. The locals recognize our back room policy and respect it and want to make sure it is always available.

We have birthday parties, but only allow in cake and ice cream…stuff we do not carry. I would not allow in outside drinks or any sort of real food, UNLESS they want to pay to use the room.

So I guess the point is that in small communities like ours, if you earn their respect, they will reciprocate and make sure you stay in business. I would never even imagine this sort of policy would work in the big city though where it is dog eat dog.

we do not budge a bit when it comes to outside food and drink other than desserts. We have a party room that we are able close french pocket doors for privacy that seats 50 people…we use this room for regular diners during peak hours. We get asked all the time to reserve by people who want to order 4 pies and 2 pitchers…our comprimise is that we do not do this during peak hours. They are welcome to come and have no minimum charge but for PRIVATE use of the room they must order at least $100 worth of food per hour plus 15% gratuity…anything less will be charged a room charge for the balance

this has worked great but you need to make sure all parties are aware from the start to avoid problems

Thanks again everyone for the great replies.

Just to update: The lady accepted my offer of purchasing our 2 liters. She ended up buying a couple more pizzas and their party took up about half of our dining room for about 2 hours. There was a lot of people that came in that had never been in before, so that was a plus. She tipped our server $25, which was more than I was expecting.

All in all, some customers probably past by our shop seeing all of the cars out front thinking we were too busy, but we did about $70/hour on the party and served our pizzas to potential new customers. So it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be!!

We are thinking about starting a birthday program (geared towards the younger kids) that allows them to make their own personal pan pizzas. We would bring out the dough and portion cups of their toppings and then they would decorate and send it back to be cooked. Is anyone else currently doing this or tried it in the past?

Thanks again everyone!

a very good idea, so long as the little rat’s hands are washed…I mean, as long as proper sanitary conditions are met.