Friday, February 5, 2010

Food for Thought: Tipping - Part 2

I once had a co-worker who told me that she tipped 15% at modest or moderately priced restaurants but never more than 10% at pricey ones (meaning when she was spending more than $30 per person on the meal). Her theory is that 10% of a $100 meal is $10, and that’s plenty of money. I was stupefied by this remark. How do people come up with this horseshit? For one thing, how much does $10 really amount to these days in this economy? If you just spent $100 on a meal, you know that $10 spent at that same restaurant gets you next to nothing.

Also, the servers at expensive establishments usually have waiting tables down to a science. They are extremely courteous, attentive, and are performing functions such as scraping your table of crumbs after each course and placing your napkin in your lap and refolding it when you visit the restroom. Often you’re being served by multiple waiters at once. I can bet my co-worker’s water glass was never more than 2" shy of full at any time during the course of her meal. These people are working very hard, and somehow this woman thinks they deserve less money that her waiter at the Applebees?

You think a 15% to 20% tip is a lot of money? Look at this way; if you were eating at your own home you wouldn’t be tipping anyone, but then you’d be transporting the food from the grocery store to your home, preparing and serving it yourself, then cleaning up the mess afterwards. When you dine out, other people are doing all of this for you. Your waitstaff is literally serving you. Yes, you are being charged for the food itself. That money goes to the cost of your food, salaries for the cooks and managers and general expenses of the restaurant. None of that money is going to your server – that’s why you tip. The tip must be factored into the cost of eating out, period. The bottom line is, if you can’t afford to tip the standard amount, you can’t afford to go out to eat.

Why will tipping make your dining experience more pleasant? Here’s a news flash: your server is the last person who handles your meal before you receive it. Just think about all that this statement implies. Do you really want to piss off the person brings the food to your table? I’m not saying that all servers are vindictive wretches who would stoop so low as to harm or defile your entrĂ©e before delivering it to you, but why take the chance that your waiter isn’t one of them? Got an apathetic or overly hurried waiter serving your table? If you want to guarantee that they’ll change from apathetic to downright rude or completely neglect you for the rest of the meal, go ahead and be obnoxious to this person.

Want a happy server instead? Try smiling at your waitress, speaking with her politely, actually replying with “and you?” when she asks how you are doing. It’s almost a certainty that you’ll get better service and have a more pleasant dining experience. For that matter, you might actually make another human being happier that day instead of just passing through or worse, making that person’s day more difficult. There’s good karma in that if nothing else.


  1. My general approach is that tipping is both the customer's way of paying for good service, but also an investment. If I'm planning to be a regular or if I am I regular I tip well.

    As for the last part -- absolutely. Chat up the waitstaff. Be nice -- treat them like potential friends rather than people you hate.* Now if they respond to friendliness by being friendly, that's good. If they repay your pleasantry with sullen indifference then the best thing you can do is either not sit in that person's station next time around or simply not come back to that restaurant. I don't keep going places where the service sucks. But I make a point of rewarding good service.

    *of course, stalking is probably not a good strategy for getting good service. And if your idea of 'friendship' involves playing serious mind games with people, then it's probably best to avoid that too. And avoid physical contact unless you're John Edwards or Tiger Woods.

  2. And 15% really ought to be the bare minimum unless you're really pissed off about the service, and if you're that pissed off, talk to the manager.

  3. ok, padding the comments here to lure people into a discussion ....

  4. And if you really like a dish, compliment the chef. They like that, and at really nice places sometimes they'll send you a treat for saying nice things about the food.

  5. Meanwhile, had ya'll seen this restaurant idea (frankly I think it's worth it's own post).

    I've actually eaten at the restaurant in question, which I'd give a solid B; commentators were saying that the food must have gone down.