Author Topic: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?  (Read 18040 times)

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LifeOnPluto

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The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« on: February 18, 2013, 09:25:22 PM »
I believe the "alternate drop" is somewhat unique to the eastern states of Australia. So for those of you not familiar with it, this is how it works:

At a formal event, two different menus are served, with 50% of the guests getting the meals from Menu A, and 50% getting the meals from Menu B. Every second person at the table gets the "alternate" menu. For example, if you have a table of 8 people, and the main course from Menu A is chicken, and the main course from Menu B is beef, four will get the chicken, and four will get the beef. The "drop" is totally random. That is, guests don't get to choose beforehand which meal they'd like to receive.

The rationale behind the "alternate drop" is to allow for some variety in meals, without breaking the bank (as two different menus is cheaper then say, five) and more efficient (as waitstaff don't have to bother taking orders beforehand, etc. There is an unwritten rule that guests at a table are allowed to swap meals with each other. However, guests cannot swap with people from other tables - that would be considered over the top.

The problem arises when one meal is more attractive than the other and people don't want to swap. This leads me to my issue - or rather my father's.

My dad lives in Western Australia (a state which until now, hasn't embraced the Alternate Drop). He belongs to a Hobby Club that is geared towards older men (eg ages 50 - 80). Last week, the Hobby Club had their annual formal dinner. Tickets were $100 per head. The dinner was just limited to the club, so families weren't invited. This dinner featured the Alternate Drop. For most of the members, this was the first time they had experienced it. The main course for Menu A was "BBQ Meat Platter". The main course for Menu B was "Mushroom and Goat's Cheese Quiche".

Naturally, being older Aussie males, the vast majority wanted the BBQ Meat Platter! Some of the men who had received the quiche got quite upset. They complained to the waitstaff, and asked to exchange their meals for the BBQ Meat Platter. The waitstaff obliged. However, this meant that the tables who were served first (and complained first) ended up with all the BBQ Meat meals. The tables who were served last ended up with all the mushroom quiches (as the BBQ Meat meals had run out). My dad said that a few of those men are now considering demanding their money back from the organiser, as they feel shafted. My dad (luckily) got the BBQ meat platter, but he feels that these guys are completely justified, and that the whole Alternate Drop is extremely rude and silly.

Now, I'm not the biggest fan of the Alternate Drop either, but I think in this case, the guys were rude to demand the "other" meal. Unfortunately with the Alternate Drop, when you don't get your preferred meal and no one else at the table is willing to swap, the protocol is to suck it up and just eat what you've received. I also think the waitstaff were wrong for agreeing to the ones who wanted to swap the quiche with the BBQ meat meal.

But I'm interested in hearing other's thoughts. Were the guys rude? Or fine?




Surianne

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2013, 09:33:35 PM »
Hmm!  I've heard of alternate drop on the boards here before, but haven't experienced it myself, so I feel like I'd need more info. 

When they bought tickets for the banquet, how was the meal advertised?  Was it made clear that Alternate Drop would be involved, and that the meals would be so completely different?  Was it implied that BBQ meat would be served?  Or was there no info about the meal at all?

I know I'd be pretty annoyed at paying for such an expensive ticket and getting the obviously cheaper meal, but I don't know what the best way of handling it would be.   I don't think it would be rude to ask for the other meal, particularly if the men didn't know how Alternate Drop worked -- perhaps they thought there was plenty for everyone?

From the info we have, it seems like the organizers really messed up in trying to save money.  I'd see the rudeness as being with their poor planned, rather than with the guests, unless the guests were extremely over-the-top about demanding a meal from another guest, rather than politely asking for it from the waitstaff.

mrs_deb

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2013, 09:36:24 PM »
Well, it appears that they violated the rules of Alternate Drop by asking the waitstaff to swap, and rule violating is impolite.

That said, I don't think the two meals were really comparable.  For $100 I'd surely want the meat dinner, not the quiche.  I love quiche, but it's nowhere near as pricy as meat, and I feel half the attendees really didn't get the same value for their ticket as the meat recipients.  Which is also impolite - to treat one half of your guests differently than the other half - isn't it?

kudeebee

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2013, 09:43:26 PM »
Hmm!  I've heard of alternate drop on the boards here before, but haven't experienced it myself, so I feel like I'd need more info. 

When they bought tickets for the banquet, how was the meal advertised?  Was it made clear that Alternate Drop would be involved, and that the meals would be so completely different?  Was it implied that BBQ meat would be served?  Or was there no info about the meal at all?

I know I'd be pretty annoyed at paying for such an expensive ticket and getting the obviously cheaper meal, but I don't know what the best way of handling it would be.   I don't think it would be rude to ask for the other meal, particularly if the men didn't know how Alternate Drop worked -- perhaps they thought there was plenty for everyone?

From the info we have, it seems like the organizers really messed up in trying to save money.  I'd see the rudeness as being with their poor planned, rather than with the guests, unless the guests were extremely over-the-top about demanding a meal from another guest, rather than politely asking for it from the waitstaff.

I have to agree with the above.  Also, there was--in my opinion at least--quite a discrepancy between the two meals, one being meat and the other a meatless quiche.  If there is going to be an alternate drop, the two meals should be comparable, such as bbq meat and a chicken dish or bbq meat and a pork dish or two meatless dishes say a quiche and a pasta.

I do not care for alternate drop, especially if I am paying for my meal.  I understand the reasoning that it is quicker, but it really doesn't take that much longer to take orders for each table and bring out the trays with x number of meal a and y number of meal b.  If people don't want to switch, it could get very tense at a table, especially the way some people can act (they shouldn't but we all know they do) when they get a meal they don't like.

Hmmmmm

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2013, 09:48:27 PM »
I think there were several issues here.  The biggest mistake was the organizer having one dinner that would be perceived as so much more inferior than the other.  My experience with the alternate drop was something like a beef dinner alternating with a fish dinner. And diners who wanted a vegetarian option would request that specifically. 

I think the men demanding the meat option were out of line because they did know the rules of what they bought tickets for.

merryns

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2013, 09:48:54 PM »
I hate alternate drop. It offers a pale imitation of choice. It sucks to be stuck with a meal you don't like while people around you eat something that looks fabulous. It's slightly less awful when you are seated with a partner you can negotiate, and possibly other table members you know well, like a wedding. It's particularly awful in a more business setting.
In cases like the OP where there is a big desirability gap it is particularly awful. Sounds like someone thought a vegetarian option was needed without really thinking it through.

Venus193

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2013, 09:52:05 PM »
I remember there was a discussion about one where the male guests were served beef and the female ones chicken.  I like chicken, but I would find that scenario offensive.

Can you tell I hate this, too?

LazyDaisy

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2013, 09:53:32 PM »
If the organizers let guests know ahead of time then I don't think it's rude for them to have an alternate drop. It may not be what is preferred by the guests, but they had the option to decline. If the organizers didn't let guests know ahead, then I think it is rude of them. It feels like a bait and switch. I wonder, would the men have been as upset if instead of quiche, the alternate was BBQ chicken or pork instead? The inequality of the two dishes may be what is really the problem rather than the alternate drop part. I don't think the men were rude to request a change, as long as they did so politely. The wait staff was wrong (I don't know if that's the same as rude) for making the switch. It's likely they weren't trained properly if it usually isn't done.

I've experienced something similar here in the US at a formal dinner but it's usually not the main course, it's done with a less important course such as soup or dessert: one gets chocolate creme pie and the next raspberry cheese cake. The same problem happens with that too in that there are usually more people who for example prefer the chocolate than the raspberry and some are disappointed. With a less important course of the meal it doesn't seem to cause as many complaints. I can't imagine trying it with the main course though -- there are way too many dietary preferences/restrictions.
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gramma dishes

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2013, 09:55:47 PM »
I'm so sorry.   I just can't imagine this scenario.  I'm pretty easy going most of the time and rarely let my temper show, but this kind of setup makes no sense and I think it's quite offensive!  I don't blame the men for being angry.

I'm quite accustomed to having a choice of at least two meals.  Say beef and chicken.  Or a meat dish and a vegetarian dish.  But you indicate which one you want on the RSVP for the event.  There's a place for it and you just have to put a check mark in front of your choice.  That way the staff can plan how much food of each kind they'll need and find a way to make both types available at the same time so all guests can be served together.

That still cuts down on the number of different dishes the staff has to prepare (they can handle two), but people don't get stuck with a food they truly hate, can't eat for health reasons or is hideously lesser value than what the people on each side of them are eating. 

I wouldn't like the alternate drop idea at all.  Honestly, I hope it never comes to the states.

delabela

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2013, 10:03:21 PM »
If the organizers let guests know ahead of time then I don't think it's rude for them to have an alternate drop. It may not be what is preferred by the guests, but they had the option to decline. If the organizers didn't let guests know ahead, then I think it is rude of them. It feels like a bait and switch. I wonder, would the men have been as upset if instead of quiche, the alternate was BBQ chicken or pork instead? The inequality of the two dishes may be what is really the problem rather than the alternate drop part. I don't think the men were rude to request a change, as long as they did so politely. The wait staff was wrong (I don't know if that's the same as rude) for making the switch. It's likely they weren't trained properly if it usually isn't done.

I've experienced something similar here in the US at a formal dinner but it's usually not the main course, it's done with a less important course such as soup or dessert: one gets chocolate creme pie and the next raspberry cheese cake. The same problem happens with that too in that there are usually more people who for example prefer the chocolate than the raspberry and some are disappointed. With a less important course of the meal it doesn't seem to cause as many complaints. I can't imagine trying it with the main course though -- there are way too many dietary preferences/restrictions.

This is a good point - I have never experienced alternate drop, but I think if you're going to do it, you need to make sure you have equivalent meals.  I love quiche, but it's certainly not equal to a BBQ plate.

mmswm

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #10 on: February 18, 2013, 10:06:54 PM »
I think the organizers are definitely the ones in the wrong here for offering two dishes that weren't even close to comparable. I'm not sure about what could have been done in the middle of the event, but the men who got stuck with the lesser dish certainly have a right to politely complain to the organizers after the fact.
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sweetonsno

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #11 on: February 18, 2013, 10:21:51 PM »
I agree with you. I think the guys were exceptionally rude, and the waitstaff was wrong to accommodate them in that way.

That said, it does sound as though the hosts seriously misjudged their audience when they chose the "options."

doodlemor

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #12 on: February 18, 2013, 10:32:03 PM »
I agree with those who say there was poor planning on the part of the organizers.  If this was a new thing in this area, I wonder if the men understood the concept.

I can only imagine the ire of men served quiche when some of the others had meat.  If no physical altercations broke out, then the evening was about as successful as could be expected with such a bizarre menu discrepancy.

WillyNilly

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #13 on: February 18, 2013, 10:39:26 PM »
I''ve heard of alternate drop but never experienced it. It wouldn't occur to me it's rude to ask for the different choice, only rude to not accept a "no". So I blame the waitstaff. They should have simply said they couldn't change what they were bringing to the table, and directed the men to the organizers.

Considering the cost, I think the men who were only offered quiche have a very valid cause to complain to the organizers now. They were pretty well shafted.

amandaelizabeth

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Re: The Alternate Drop - aka Can I Demand the "Other" Meal?
« Reply #14 on: February 18, 2013, 11:21:07 PM »
We do not have the Alternative Drop this side of the Tasman, although I have heard rumours that it was once experienced at a wedding and  has never been repeated.
I experienced the drop last year, when there was a table of Kiwi's at a very prestigious conference in Brisbane.  We sat and looked on in amazement at the Conference Dinner ( which had a very heft price tag) when there was half of us served fish and the other half beef.  Most of the fish people refused to accept their dish and the waitstaff were nonplussed. 
In the end to avoid an international incident we managed to come to an arrangement with empty plates provided and dividing portions in half. The Australians could not understand our concerns about the unfairness of the drop.  And let me not tell you about ire raised around the dessert.

The whole table  were all united in our determination to prevent this vile method from entering the country.