Don’t F- With The People Who Serve Your Food

I read a story recently about a waitress targeting bad tippers with a credit card scam; along with two others, she used a credit card skimmer to obtain customer account information and create fake credit cards.  When I waited tables, I witnessed a few of my fellow coworkers engage in various acts of revenge against bad tippers.  A $3 tip on a $50 check can easily turn into $13 with a swipe of the pen.  Incorrect change can be brought back in the hopes the customer doesn’t notice.  Remaining gift card balances can be drained and used as your tip when the customer fails to leave one.  I’ve seen one person spit in the drink of a notoriously bad tipper, another drop something on the floor and put it right back on the plate of a total cheapskate.  It’s horrible and I condone none of it, but believe that it happens more than you’d like it to.

Most people don’t think too much about what their server must deal with on a regular basis, they just want to get their meal the way they’d like it and enjoy not having to cook.  A good number of people go out on a budget, treating the tip as an optional payment and skimping on it or simply skipping it altogether; I’ve seen this happen mostly among high school and college students.  Nearly everyone tends to act as though their waiter or waitress is the sole person responsible for everything in the particular restaurant and won’t think twice about placing any blame they deem necessary directly on their shoulders.

If you’ve never worked in a restaurant, it’s not entirely your fault.  Let me explain a few things in the hopes that next time you eat out, you’ll view your server a bit differently…

1.  Your server makes $2.13 per hour.  They don’t get vacation or sick time.  They rarely if ever get a bonus or any perk other than a discount on food and whatever they can steal off of the line or sweet talk out of the cooks.  That small hourly amount gets eaten up by all the taxes taken out of the paycheck and claimed tips; most servers get a physical paycheck of $0.00 or an amount less than ten dollars.  Their income depends on tips.  The minimum tip amount is 15%, although I believe in tipping 20% and many restaurants now encourage 18%.  Many restaurants also have their servers give some of their tips to the bus boy, expediter, and bartender.  There is NO excuse to stiff your server if they have performed their job; order taken, food delivered, drinks filled, table bussed, etc.  I also believe in tipping the “bad” servers out there, although if you are truly horrible you will only earn 5% – 10% from me.

2.  Your to-go order is not always prepared by someone making a normal hourly wage.  During peak times, there will be one or two people assigned to taking to-go orders, packing them and bringing them out to your car.  This person makes a wage similar to your friendly Burger King cashier.  However, this to-go person is clocked in ONLY during the times when to-go orders are heavy, so there’s a good chance your order could be prepared by a regular server or bartender making the reduced rate and again, relying on your tips.  On to-go orders, 15% is standard, but 10% is also acceptable since their workload is significantly less than a customer sitting in the restaurant.

3.  Coupons are great, but tip off of the original total.  A $40 meal is a $40 meal and should earn at least a $6 tip.  If you happen to have a 50% off coupon, your tip shouldn’t be reduced as well.  The server assisted you with a $40 meal, not a $20 one.  Please tip accordingly.

4.  Gratuity isn’t always under the server’s control.  Most restaurants require servers to add gratuity to parties of 8 or more, regardless of whether or not the checks are split.  Don’t give your server attitude because you are unhappy it was added.  If they have done an amazing job with your party, don’t be afraid to throw a couple of dollars on top of the gratuity.  You are occupying the server’s entire section or most of it with a large party and you end up staying longer than a smaller party, reducing the rate the server can turn tables and therefore reducing potential tips.

5.  The server doesn’t make the food.  If your steak is cooked wrong or your chicken is too dry, send it back, get it fixed, ask the manager to take it off the bill, but don’t penalize your waiter or waitress for it.  Some cooks get lazy, some read tickets wrong, some make mistakes, and none of it is under the server’s control.

6.  The server also doesn’t manage the environment.  Waiting tables involves a lot of running around and the kitchen gets very hot, so expect the temperature to be cool and don’t get angry at your waiter if they can’t adjust the temperature to meet your standards.  Don’t take it out on your waiter if the screaming kid two tables down annoys you throughout the entire meal.  If the hostess was rude while seating you, it’s fine to mention it so the information can be passed along, but don’t reduce your tip because of it.

7.  Hazard pay is always nice.  Are you a difficult person?  Does your party send your server for butter only to ask for ketchup when they return and ranch dressing the time after that?  Is your kid dumping half his food on the floor?  When you’re out to eat, the main perk is that you don’t have to do any of the work.  However, if you are purposely working your waitress into the ground with insane requests and big messes, please tip accordingly for the extra work you are putting on them.  It’s not required, it just happens to be the right thing to do.

8.  Make sure your tip goes to the right person.  If your server’s shift is ending and they offer to close out or transfer your check, ALWAYS choose to close it out!  Otherwise, the person picking up the table gets the tip and the person who had been waiting on you gets nothing.  This mostly applies to bar patrons or friends out for drinks; if your server is trying to ditch you 20 minutes into your visit, just transfer the check since they obviously just want to get out of there.  If it’s been 2 hours of ordering appetizers and drinks, close out and start over, ensuring both servers get proper tips off what they served you.

Now, let me share a few things your server will always appreciate….

1.  If you’d like to split your checks, say so prior to ordering.  This way, the order can be written out and entered efficiently and your check can be delivered already split.  This saves a lot of time at the end of your meal.  It also saves the server from the embarrassment of asking a mismatched couple if they want split checks only to end up insulting one or both of them, or on the flip side assuming someone is a couple and insulting them by NOT asking.

2.  Pay to camp.  Servers make money off tips and tips are easier to make when tables keep turning.  If you stay an hour or two after finishing your meal without ordering any additional items, congratulations on screwing your waiter out of at least one more table they could make money off of.  Increase your tip if you want to hang out.

3.  Ask for everything at one time.  If you need butter, A1 sauce, extra napkins and an extra plate, say it all in one sentence so your server can grab it all in one trip and you all can enjoy your meal.  Your server doesn’t want to make 4 trips, especially because those trips can be delayed if they are stopped in the kitchen and ordered to run food or if they are stopped by another table requesting items.

4.  Try to be somewhat clean.  If your kid is dropping food everywhere, make an effort to pick it up.  Wipe up that glob of spilled food off the table and throw it on your empty plate.  The littlest bit of assistance can make a world of difference.

5.  Find out how good it feels to make someone’s night!  My husband and I, on occasion, have tipped well over 30% when we have felt that the person serving us has gone above and beyond or has been running their ass off all evening.  It not only makes your server quite happy, it’s also an easy way to feel great about yourself.  I remember every table that gave me an excellent tip and I always treated them twice as nice when I saw them again; even knowing not to expect a large tip every time, myself and my coworkers did a little bit extra for those people because we felt they valued what we did for them.

That being said… a server usually remembers the great customers, sometimes remembers the average ones, but always and without fail remembers every single bad one.  Don’t be that guy.  The last person you should be making angry is the one who handles your food.


About Jamie C. Baker

“Long time no see. I only pray the caliber of your questions has improved.” - Kevin Smith

Posted on August 24, 2011, in Crazy People, Food, News and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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