Friday, December 18, 2009

Restaurant Etiquette

I've been trying to be a more positive person lately. I think that in my past I've been fairly positive, but for some reason, be it the stress, or work, or whatever, I've been a little less forgiving and slightly more judgmental of other people.

Like I said I'm working on being better, but when one is a server at a restaurant certain people make it... difficult to be positive. For example, I've tried to be more understanding of small tippers lately. I know that times are hard for a lot of people and that leaving a big tip might seem like an avoidable cost. I understand that. (Although we in the restaurant business have a saying: "If you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to eat out.") But some people just really get my goat. Last night I was working at Texas Roadhouse and I had a party of four come in. They were nice people, apparently wealthy, and they were ordering big. (Servers love it when people order big.) In the end their total came to around $90.00. So, fifteen percent on ninety bucks is about $13.00 but they seemed generous so maybe twenty percent, $18.00. What did they actually leave me in the end? Zero dollars. So I'm trying to be positive and not hate them without knowing them. And I know that there are a lot of factors that could've gone into their decision. Maybe the guy paying picked up the check (to be nice) before he knew how much it was and he didn't have enough to cover a tip. Or maybe they thought I had already added gratuity, or maybe they thought I was making an hourly wage so I didn't need a tip or something. So as I was thinking about slashing their tires I thought of all the things that we as servers wished that our tables knew. So, I'm going to make that list right now.

Things that your server wants you to know about.

1. In many states servers get paid less than minimum wage.
For example. In Utah most servers only get paid $2.13 an hour by the restaurant. We make ALL of our money from tips. The paycheck I picked up from the restaurant yesterday for two weeks of work was $13.00. I kid you not.
2. Many restaurants have a 'tip share' system.
What is a tip share? Many restaurants require the server to 'share' a percentage of his/her gross sales. For example if I sold $1,000.00 worth of food and my tip share was a three percent. At the end of the night I have to 'share' $30.00 out of my pocket with the buss boys, the hostess', and the kitchen. Now lets look at this $90.00 ticket I had last night. Three percent of ninety is $2.70. That means I actually lost money on that table. When you 'stiff' your server, the person who just got all of your refills, brought you your food, and six baskets of rolls, just lost money.
3. Our tables are out money makers.
Many restaurants today have three table sections. This means that I can only make as much money as those three tables produce. What's my point? Please don't linger at your table long after you've paid. The longer you're there the longer I'm not making any money... that said It's totally fine if you want to stay and chat with your friends. As long as you make up for it in the tip.
4. You are not our only responsibility, and we only have two hands.
Please be patient with us. If we don't bring your refill back in ten seconds it's probably because we're busy doing something else. We may have other tables to greet, food to run, floors to sweep, garbages to take out, glasses to restock, ice to refill, specialty drinks to make etc... the job description of a server includes many more tasks than just waiting on you. We're trying our hardest to please you. I promise.
5. It's not our fault your food is: burnt, cold, late, wrong, gross, etc...
We didn't make it. We put the order in, and when it was done we brought it to you. We will certainly do what our part to make it better, but don't take it out on us if something is wrong. On that note, it's also not our fault that you had to wait an hour, or if you didn't get a seat where you can see the TV.
6. Fifteen percent should be the minimum.
We as servers understand that times are hard. Because times are hard for us as well. For some reason many people seem to think that a fifteen percent tip should only go to reward excellent service. Not so. Fifteen percent should be for any service. If you feel like your server was a good one, and you can afford it, tip them more. But please, if you can't afford to tip fifteen percent then don't order the Big Steaks and the expensive combos. Because we have to pay three percent of your bill. When ordering, and when tipping, keep in mind that three percent of that bill comes out of your servers pocket.
7. We Appreciate a Thank You but...
There is a phrase that is dreaded in the restaurant world known as "the verbal tip". It comes when the table is so gracious and kind and full of compliments to the server that the server is certain that they will be tipped well only to find a six to seven percent tip. We love it when you are nice to us, but it doesn't make up for a bad tip.
8. Servers believe in Karma
If you're good to us then we will think happy thoughts for you all night. If you're bad to us we'll curse the day you were sat in our section. Treat your server as if he/she was your favorite child. Be patient, forgiving, and generous.

This is already getting too long so I'm going to wrap this up with a list of things to keep in mind when decided how much to tip. (Please remember that you should start at 15 percent and go up if these things are good. Not start at 15 percent and go down if they are bad.)

* The amount of your bill.
* The quality of service.
* Effort required to serve you. (lots of refills, and extra things etc...)
* Time spend at the table. (Time is money.)
* The amount of people at the table. (Kids meals are cheaper, but don't require any less effort to serve. They also take up just as many seats as rich adults.)
*It is never acceptable to stiff your server.

If you actually made it through this one servers everywhere thank you!

-Travis Cox_


Aelysium said...

I think this was a great post that had a lot of good information in it. I've never been a server, myself, but my brother and sister have been, so I know a little of the hell they have to put up with. Adam and I always try to tip big, and never less than 15%. Well. I can think of one time when we tipped less than 15, but that was because our server was flat out RUDE.

Tamari said...

Having been a server in the past I feel your pain! Since my experience I always tip 18% to 20%. It was one of the hardest jobs I ever had. Thanks for posting this, most people just don't get it when they go out to eat.

Heather said...

I have served my entire life so totally know what your saying. But I do disagree with #3 - you pay your bill you pay good money I will sit as long as I want. That is a issue to take up with the management. and #6 I tip according to service. I start at 20% I don't judge them on kitchen problems, I do judge on how they deal with kitchen problems. If your not a good server then you shouldn't be serving and I won't be rewarding you for it. My server issue is servers who are lousy and expect a a great tip I have worked with a million of them.
I think it's a crime what Utah servers make. I made $9 an hour in BC, but I did do lots of prep work that I guess you wouldn't do for $2!
Keep blogging, you do a good job!