Thursday, August 21, 2008

Drinking in a Down Economy

This post started as a comment on Rick Sellers Pacific Brew News Blog and it quickly got too long to be contained in the comments section. Rick observed that some people may be reducing the amount they tip during these times of high gas prices, falling home values and increasing costs at the grocery stores. He brings up one of my favorite drinking etiquette rules from the Modern Drunkard: "If you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to drink in a bar. Go to a liquor store."

I don't go out nearly as much as I would like because I subscribe to the Modern Drunkard ethos whole heartedly. I tip for good service and tip large for great service. I just consider it a cost of dining out. The beer community isn't limited to producers and drinkers, it is these men and women in the service industry that bring the two together. At my regular spots they take great care of me and I take great care of them.

I was just talking with my wife about the fact that so many people have never worked in a restaurant that there is no appreciation for what goes into the job. Many of the places we frequent are staffed by professionals. Service is their job and tips are their primary source of income. How would you like it if every time gas climbed above $4.00 per gallon your boss gave you a 5% pay cut? They are already feeling the pinch by people not dining out as frequently these days, why rub salt in the wound? Most of these folks work hard so you can sit relax and have the luxury of beer and food brought right to you and have the dirty dishes whisked away.

That being said, the choice between going out to a bar or drinking at home is where this tipping tangent came from. Our "to go" beer sales (growlers, kegs, bottles) are strong, in fact they are matching our highest sales ever as a percentage to total sales. The trouble I have with that trend is that a big part of the brewing scene is community and for some reason it feels like something is missing without gathering at a third place instead of hanging out at home with a brew.

The book Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam that examines how our "social capital" has been diminished over the years as in modern society we have fewer and fewer social outlets and are becoming increasingly isolated individuals. If people are increasingly taking beer home to drink because of the costs of going out it can only contribute to our diminished community connections.

I think a compromise is in order that solves both of these problems. Go out with friends, share a pitcher as they are generally cheaper than 4 individual pints. Split a pizza, share an appetizer, or dine during happy hour. If money is tight perhaps you don't order that additional beer or extra course if you can't afford it but don't skimp on the tip!

1 comment:

Rick Sellers said...

I worked behind a bar for a couple years, served at various restaurants for more - in my hay day I even got to manage a pizza joint. I certainly sympathize with those who bust their asses off to make a dining or drinking experience as good as it can be.