Thursday, January 21, 2010

Food for Thought: Tipping - Part 1

You would think that it wouldn't be necessary in this day and age for me to state that you have to leave a decent tip for your server when you dine out, but all of my friends in the restaurant industry will tell you otherwise. In most states, servers make a base hourly wage of around $2.50 per hour. That is not a typo. The remainder of their pay is based on tips they receive from their tables.

OK, maybe you are simply unaware of how much you should be tipping. The standard tip amount is 15% to 20% of the total cost of your meal. My sister Sabrina, a former O'Charley's waitress of 4 years, says that when she dines out she tips 20% or $2 per person in her party, whichever is greater. She tips this amount even if the service is less than stellar, because as a former server she understands all of the labor that goes into the job, as well as the level of rude behavior a server often endures from his or her customers. Sabrina can tell you many horror stories of customers leaving her pocket change on a $40 tab or neglecting to tip her entirely.

The worst one I've heard is about a large group of church-goers who came in after a Sunday morning service. Typically, restaurants automatically tack on an 18% gratuity to the checks for large parties. This insures that the server handling that table doesn't run around like a crazy person for two hours without some kind of pay for his/her hard work.

In the case of my sister's aforementioned large group, she brought them their bill after a particularly stressful experience with the group making constant demands, changes to their orders, requests for extra butter, more bread, all the sauces on the side, special diet requests - generally making her job and that of the kitchen staff very difficult. Immediately one of the diners called her back to the table, disputing the 18% gratuity. "I only tip God 10%, why should I tip you more?" the man snidely remarked, in reference to his church tithes.

It's proof that my sister is a better person than I am in that she refrained from cracking him over the head with his iced tea glass. There are so many things wrong with this view that I hardly know where to begin. If you disagree, please do the dining industry a favor and don't ever set foot in a sit-down restaurant again.

1 comment:

  1. This is a wonderful and adorable writing effort, but are you telling us that anything beyond carting the food from the kitchen requires extra tipping? How much work is it to have a sauce on the side? I have usually found that a group gets inferior service, and a banquet gets absolutely terrible service. You mention that the waitperson might run around like crazy for two hours. Does that mean that too few servers have been appointed to that table, thus guaranteeing service which is not up to snuff?
    I have never worked as a server, so my view might be incomplete.
    Thank you for this wonderful and lovingly detailed compendium of reviews. You are encouraging me.