Home > Lessons > Don’t forget to tip your waiters and waitresses…

Don’t forget to tip your waiters and waitresses…

I think like most everyone in the world I enjoy going out to eat.  I admit that I tip fairly well.  I’m also fairly tolerant when it comes to service, realizing that sometimes things happen in the restaurant that effect service but are out of direct control of the wait staff.  In other words, the waiter or waitress have to really make some major gaffs for me to not tip in the 20%  or better range.

Articles like this one I found on Yahoo about tipping though make me a bit mad.  Essentially the article says that you should pay the wait staff their tip in cash because then they get the whole thing instead of having to pay the processing fee to get the cash, can have cash in their apron to make change, get done with their post shift count down quicker, and don’t have the restaurant withholding taxes.  All of these are debatable.  I’ve never heard of a restaurant passing on the transaction processing fee to the wait staff and deducting it from their tips.  I don’t doubt that in some cases and some places it does happen, I’ve just never heard of that.  Cash for making change in their apron?  Maybe for convenience, but if they’re required to run the drawer from their apron, they’re usually given money for that at the beginning of their shift.  Quicker count down at the end, I can agree with.  No waiting for the manager to pull the tip money from the drawer, but I’ve as often seen the wait staff pull their tip from the drawer right away when ringing in the credit.  As for taxes, that’s up to the wait person to be honest about.

Those aren’t what make me mad though.  This final word from Jeremy M. Simon does.

There are plenty of reasons to tip well, but what about when your experience isn’t so good? Regardless,        Senning says that diners shouldn’t leave a tip that’s less than 15 percent of the total bill. If a poor                      experience has you considering a tip below that amount, “you really should be talking to the manager,”        he says. Rather than penalizing your server, an off night for the restaurant may be to blame.

I bristle at people telling me that regardless of the quality of the service I should give a minimum amount.  Where is the incentive to provide exceptional service?  Where is the incentive to even be mediocre?  Why would any waiter or waitress bother to do any more than they have to if they know they’re going to get a minimum of 15% of every bill?  They just build that into their income figure and don’t care.  I understand that wait persons make considerably less then minimum wage in most places and are expected to make up the difference in their income through tips.  I knew that when I was 16 and took my first restaurant job as a bus boy making minimum wage and still making wages 3 times greater than the waitresses.  I also know that many waiters and waitresses make considerably more in a day because of the tips.  BUT don’t tell me that regardless of the service I should tip no less than 15%!  That’s just ridiculous!  In the tip, I’m paying for the service I receive.  NOT as a means of making up for their lack of wages.  If you don’t like what you’re getting paid, go find a different job that pays a living wage to start with.  I pay for good service, and I’m quite willing to pay handsomely for it, often when it’s exceptional leaving tips in the 50 to 100% range.  Granted, you’ll earn that tip.

I would much rather see articles on how to know you’ve gotten good service.   Or maybe how the average person can distinguish between problems with the food/kitchen and problems with service.

Alright then I’ll cover the basics of good service since you’re unlikely to see this elsewhere.  Here are the 5 things I look for in a good waiter or waitress:

First, the waiter greets you at the table after you’ve sat down and situated yourselves.  Not while you’re getting yourself settled, and certainly not more than 5 minutes after you’ve seated.  The waiter who hits you up before you’re even seated isn’t going to take time with you.  They’ve just noticed they have another table but are too busy to do more than a drive-by greeting.  This waiter isn’t going to take the time and help you figure out what you would enjoy the most from the menu, they want you in and out so they can get another table.  Conversely, when you sit there waiting for the waiter for what seems like forever, it should forebode a long wait for everything.  This could be because the restaurant is understaffed, or it could be because the waiter can’t be bothered.

Second, overly relaxed waitresses.  This waitress can’t seem to stand up on her own.  I’ve had them actually pull up a chair and have a seat at the table while taking the order.  If this is the first time we’ve met and you’re job is to take my order and bring my food, I don’t know you well enough to want you to join my party.  I’m sorry, you may be a very nice person, but really you’re not invited.  Now don’t get me wrong, I want you to be friendly and personable, but I don’t know you.  I don’t care if its the local diner or Hooters or the finest 5 Michelin restaurant, good service doesn’t involve having a seat at the table with you.

Third, the non-alcoholic drink order is under the control of the waiter.  If they can’t get that right, they’re probably going to have trouble getting your food order right too.

Fourth, getting the order wrong or not checking it before bringing it to the table.  The bar order might be the fault of the bartender, or the waiter could have grabbed the wrong drinks.  The food might have been put out wrong by the kitchen, like the seafood restaurant that sent out shark instead of the swordfish I ordered.  But when you place a special order, like my daughter’s plain cheeseburger, and you get one with the works, that either means the waiter didn’t put the order in with the request for nothing on it, or didn’t bother to check the order before bringing it to the table.  The waiter is the last staff person to handle your order before it gets to you, their job is to make sure it is what you ordered and fix it before it comes to you.

The last thing I look for from the wait staff are status updates and check in stops at the table.  If the only time I see you if to place the order and to pay the bill, then you haven’t actually waited on me.  I’ve been to restaurants where after the order is placed, a server brings the food to the table, not the waitress.  The waitress’s job is to check back in and make sure that its what you really wanted and see to it that any additional requests are tended to.  But if I don’t see you until you drop off the bill, then you haven’t done the job you want me to pay you for.  If my food is for some reason delayed in the kitchen, I want you to tell me that.  I want you to check back and ask if I need another beverage.  Better yet, remember what I’m drinking and bring me another without my having to get up and find you.

If you as a wait person mess up on any of them, you’re tip will be reduced by the level to which I feel you messed up.  And trust me, I know the difference between kitchen error and wait staff error.  I know the difference between understaffed and uncaring.  You’re tip starts at 25%, because I’m lazy and dividing by 4 is an easy way to figure out the tip, but it will go down quickly if I’m not satisfied.  Conversely, it goes up just as quickly if I’m happy.

Categories: Lessons

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