Who is responsible to pay when a customer orders a glass of wine or cocktail, takes a drink, then says they don’t like it? There’s nothing wring with it, they just don’t like it.
– Jeanette Sawi, Santorini Greek Kitchen, Indianapolis, Indiana
In this question, let’s distinguish between right and wrong; good business and bad business. Technically I think most people would agree that if the guest receives what she or he ordered, the responsibility is the guest’s. That said, in the bigger picture, we want guests to be happy, have a great time, spend money and return. Quibbling over the cost of a drink does not achieve that.
Let’s look first at what might have been done to present that problem in the first place. Are your menu descriptions of wine and cocktails clear, distinguishing wine styles with accurate descriptions? Are servers reading the guest if someone looks hesitant about what to order? Paul O’Neill, who teaches Fine Dining at Drexel University in Philadelphia says, “I always offer a sample if guests don’t feel sure about what they’re ordering. It offers you a chance to steer the guest to products you want them to try.”
If your beverage costs are in line, it shouldn’t cripple you to replace the undesired beverage with something more to the guest’s liking. And can turn a negative experience into a positive one. But it’s even better if you can use good sales and good communication to get the guest something you have confidence that they will like in the first place. That will reduce the number of drinks on your tab and keep them on your guests’.