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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Want to enjoy eating out?

Then this post, my friend, is for YOU.

Every Monday, my friends and I go out to this restaurant/bar for karaoke. I have been doing this for almost four years, but some of us have been going for longer. As time has gone by, our group has grown and changed, but the Monday night karaoke has become tradition. We make a point to not miss it, often because for a lot of us, it's the only time we get to catch up with each other. All of us have lives, things to do, and it isn't always easy to make time for all of your friends. Our Monday night tradition solves that problem.

Last night, we were stricken with a particularly horrible server. We've had her once before, and she was awful the last time, as well. Across the bar, I watched as some other patron absolutely laid into this poor girl. Her service was terrible, but he was just treating her like she was no better than dog shit. I wanted to walk over there and slap him for it!

See, I have a bit of a soft spot for treating servers well. I was one for three years, and a damn good one at that. After starting my first job as a waitress, I was promoted to a trainer and a shift leader in less than three months. I worked my ass off as a server, liked my job, and in general, made good money. But as a server, you have to put up with an unbelievable amount of crap.

When I get bad service, I try to give them a little bit of slack, because I know that 9 times out of 10, bad service means that there is something going on beyond the server's control. Rarely is the server just a dickhead who doesn't care about the table. So watching a patron be rude to a server gets underneath my skin; I've been there and done that.

And frankly, people just do not seem to give servers the respect they deserve. There is so much that people either don't understand or care about when it comes to serving, and either don't know or don't care that they're treating an actual human being like crap. I could write a post about how to be a great server -- and maybe one day I will -- but there are more patrons out there than there are servers, and judging by my three years of serving experience, plus observing what goes on when I go out to eat, these kinds of posts are needed. Because people just do not get it.

So, we'll start at the beginning and work our way through the meal. Read. Absorb. Being good to your server will ensure that your experience is a good one.

  • Be patient.
    One of my personal rules, as a server, was the thirty-second rule. At the absolute least, I would acknowledge my guests within at least thirty seconds. On really busy nights, this was sometimes just a quick stop: "Hi, I'm Cassy. I'll be with you guys in just one minute, OK?" I wanted them to know that I had seen them, I knew they were there, and that I would be with them as soon as I could if I couldn't actually stop and begin my spiel right away to start the meal. But for some customers, this was not good enough. They would get huffy and annoyed that I wasn't there to get their drink order and greet them the instant they sat down, no matter how busy the place was.

    The thing is, servers do not get one table at a time. At the beginning of each shift, the restaurant is divided into sections. As shift leader, my job was to divide up the sections and assign servers to each one. In some restaurants, two servers would split a section and have as little as three tables at a time. In others, they'd get the section all to themselves, giving them as many as eight tables to look after at a time. I mention this because a lot of people do not seem to understand that a server is not there to serve them exclusively, as much as we would like to -- trust me, it would make our jobs much, much easier. But on busy Friday and Saturday nights, we're running all over the place like chickens with our heads cut off. We're trying to give the best possible service we can to all of our customers, so if your server is not there instaneously and it's a busy night, give them a break. Be patient. They will get to you as soon as is humanly possible.

  • Be friendly and responsive.
    When I first greet my table, I try to be as friendly and upbeat as possible. It sets a good tone for the evening ahead. But when I walk over there, bubbling over with energy (even if its fake energy), chirp out, "Hey, I'm Cassy! How are y'all doing tonight?", and hear silence, or a "Yeah, I'll take a Diet Coke, please.", it ruins that. When we come over and say hello, say hi back. Actually talk to us. It's great to get a little conversation going. We won't stand there and talk to you all night, but it does lighten the atmosphere. You're more likely to enjoy our service, and we're more likely to give you better service if we like you. So when we talk to you, don't be afraid to respond. Be friendly; have fun. Think about it. When you have a really great server, who you're able to talk to and joke with throughout the meal, doesn't it make your experience at that restaurant more enjoyable? When we ask you a question, answer it. Be nice. We'll be nice back. Remember, servers work for tips -- if you're a total asshole from the beginning of the meal, you're likely to get written off as someone who won't tip well right from the get-go, and therefore will not get treated as well.

    Being rude to your server can be hazardous, as well. Watch the movie Waiting. That stuff actually happens to guests who have too much of an attitude problem. I've never done it myself, but I can guarantee you that it does happen. So, be nice if for no other reason than self-preservation.

  • Don't interrupt.
    When you go to just about any restaurant, a server is likely to give you a whole spiel about the specials for the night, mention a specific appetizer or drink, or recommend a certain dish. Don't interrupt them; don't cut them off.

    One of the restaurants I worked for was the Olive Garden. We were required to present a bottle of wine to each and every single table, to describe the qualities of that wine, and to offer a wine sample. If we didn't, our general manager promised us that we would be fired on the spot.

    So yes, while that information may be completely useless and annoying to you, just listen. It'll only take a minute or two. Your server probably hates saying it as much as you hate hearing it, but if you aren't interested in anything they tell you (and you never know, they might mention something that does catch your interest), then just let them finish and then politely say, "No, thank you," before you proceed to order.

  • Don't blame your server if your food takes too long.
    A lot of people seem to get very, very angry if you don't get your food promptly. This just boggles my mind -- do people think that their server is the one who goes back in the kitchen and cooks it?! We, as servers, have absolutely no control over how quickly food comes out. It annoys us more that it annoys you, because we know that the longer the food takes to come out, the lower our tip is getting, because we're the ones who get blamed. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. The only time you can blame your server for your food being late is if it has obviously been baking underneath the heating lamps, and you can tell when it has been -- sauces will be congealing on the plate, for example. If your food has taken forever, but comes out fresh, steaming, and hot, then you can't blame them. They got your food to you as soon as it was prepared.

  • Don't blame your server if there's a problem with your food.
    Maybe it doesn't taste right. Maybe there's onions mixed in with your pasta when you asked for no onions. 9 times out of 10, this is, again, not the server's fault.

    Say it with me: the server does not make the food!

    Just nicely, politely, let them know what the problem is. They will take it back to the kitchen and get it fixed for you. If the customer was nice about it, I'd usually "reward" them by offering them a free dessert (and this free dessert came out of MY pocket -- servers usually can't comp anything without managerial approval). I'd always have the manager bring the corrected dish out to lend a nice touch. The key here is, that by being polite even when things are going wrong, you'll often get even better service. Your server will be falling all over themself to atone for the mix-up, unless you get an attitude. Again, this will cause you to likely be written off as a lost cause.

  • Control your children.
    I absolutely love kids. I love waiting on them, because they're fun. And parents love a server who will interact with their kids rather than just ignoring them; plus, the kids will feel special and important. That said, there are too many parents who let their kids run wild at restaurants.

    I've had kids at my table completely empty the salt and pepper shakers and all of the sugar packets into a big, salty, peppery, sugary mound of powders onto the table, before playing with it for the rest of the night. The parents don't lift a finger and just let them play. I've had kids at my table throw their food everywhere -- the tables, the chairs, the walls, the carpets -- rather than eat it. The parents don't lift a finger. In one particular instance, a kid saw a server coming towards him while carrying a tray loaded with food. The kid purposely stuck out his ankle and tripped the server. She went sprawling all over the carpet, the food was obviously ruined for some other guest, and broken dishes were everywhere. The parents saw the entire thing, and laughed affectionately: "Oh, he's such a little troublemaker!"

    Parents, just please control your children. You're the adult; you should be in charge. It should say a lot if your kids control you more than you control them.

  • When we ask you how your meal was, be honest.
    Be nice, but be honest. If you didn't like your food, tell us why. If something wasn't great about the restaurant, let us know. If you are nice and polite about it, we're going to absorb that information and know what we can do to improve the experience for you and other guests in the future. If you're rude and bitchy about it, we're going to brush it off as an asshole customer and not really listen to anything you say.

    Are you sensing a trend? It's OK to complain if things don't go right -- just be nice about it. There's no need to be rude. It'll get you nowhere.

    Also, don't be afraid to tell us if your food was fantastic, or if you loved our service. Nothing, and I mean nothing, put more spring in my step than my guests telling me how much they loved having me as a server. Nothing made me happier than seeing guests come in a second and third time and ask for me, specifically. Letting your server know how great everything was is the best compliment you can give them.

  • If you're really angry, take it to the manager.
    Let's say you've had absolutely horrible service. The server was awful, the food sucked, and everything went wrong. Do not lambast your server. If you're that angry, you need to go to the manager about it. First of all, laying into the server only means that the server is not going to report your complaints to save their own skin. Second, servers are not trained to deal with irate customers; managers are. The manager won't try to cover up your problem, they'll try to solve it. The manager is in more of a position to fix it, even if it means firing that employee. So if your problem is that bad, then you need to go to a manager about it.

  • When you pay your bill, don't forget to tip well.
    Here's something that people who don't tip well must not know: servers only get paid about $3.00 an hour. When I was a server, it was $2.13/hr, but I've heard that since then it's been raised to just over $3.00. Your tips pay our bills.

    Yes, servers have to earn a good tip. But even if their service was just average, then you need to tip an absolute minimum of 15%. If their service was great, then tip higher. Never withhold a tip unless their service was so bad that you were going to complain to a manager. Usually, they're trying the best they can.

    If you aren't willing to tip well, then don't go out to eat -- period. Go into it recognizing that a 15% - 20% tip is part of the final bill.

    I have a quick and easy way to figure out how much you should tip your server. Take the first digit of your bill (or the first two digits, if you're into the hundreds). Double it. So on a $20.00 tab, tip $4.00. On a $60.00 tab, tip $12.00. On a $200.00 tab, tip $40.00. It's an easy way to figure out how much to tip, and it's a fair amount relative to the amount of your meal without having to go overboard on the tipping. Tip your server well, and they'll remember you when you come back.

    Likewise, leaving a shitty tip is not acceptable, especially when your server has given you great service. It's even worse when you've complimented your server on how great they were, and then leave a $2.00 tip. It's an insult. If you're going to leave a buck and think that'll be enough for a tip, then don't go out to eat at all.

    Servers have bills to pay just like everyone else. We have to pay rent, buy food and gas, pay for electric and water bills... just like everyone else in the world. And perhaps most people don't know this, but your tips are our main source of income. So if you're going to stiff your server, it will have a bigger impact than you may think it will. Also, servers are required to report everything they make to the IRS, so we don't even get to keep the entire amount you tip us when all is said and done.

  • And finally... don't park.
    After you've finished your meal and paid, don't just hang out there. Don't sit around and just relax for another half an hour unless you are willing to tip more -- a lot more -- for it. By parking at our table for an extra half an hour, forty-five minutes, an hour, without ordering anything, you're keeping us from making money on another table. It's then your responsibility to make up for that loss of money. If you want to stay at the restaurant for a while after you're finished eating, you can. There's a place made for that specific purpose: it's called the bar.


    Making your server happy will make your experience at restaurants much more enjoyable. Keep these things in mind when you go out to eat. A happy server means a happy customer.
  • 24 comments:

    Angry White Guy said...

    "Being rude to your server can be hazardous, as well. Watch the movie Waiting."

    Once, I offered 10 bucks to a server who I watched take an order for one of the worst tables ever. But only if she would spit in their drinks.

    Easiest 10 bucks she ever made, and I made SURE to praise her to her boss both during the meal, and after, to make sure anyth complains for that table would be countered by my compliments.

    Angry White Guy said...

    "In one particular instance, a kid saw a server coming towards him while carrying a tray loaded with food. The kid purposely stuck out his ankle and tripped the server."

    I would have killed the child and the parents on the spot, even as a customer. I would NOT have allowed that to go un-announced.

    "No, your child is a little shit, and you are huges shits. How fucking dare you. That server could have been seriously injured, and you're laughing? You can all go fuck right off."

    V at Violent Acres tells a story where she witnessed a near-closing time place with a waitress taking glass bottle of ketchup back to be cleaned and filled, and a little bastard child purposfully dart right infront of her. Waitress jumped over the kid, landed, fell, bottles broke, and she was badly cut in many places. And the parent was yelling at the SERVER for scaring the child.

    If by some miracle that parent sees this, I would like to say: "Bitch, you're fucking lucky I wasn't there. a SCARED child would have been the LEAST of your worries. I'd have tried to shove the fucker back where he came from, so you could start over, and this time get it right."

    blahga the hutt said...

    Hi,

    I totally agree with both of Angry White Man's posts, with the exact same sentiment. Unfortunately, that's the society that we have right now.

    "Be patient"
    I have never worked in a restaurant, but I have worked in food service (and customer service) so I'm always patient with the servers. But patience is the antithesis in today's society, so everything's "I want it yesterday."


    "Be friendly and responsive."
    "Don't interrupt."
    Totally do this when I'm out. I've had friends around me who have been rude (not to mention an aunt who will remain nameless) to these people. They are longer friends because I detest that behavior. They do it because they can away with it (and see nothing wrong with it), another one of our society's ills.

    "Don't blame your server if your food takes too long."
    "Don't blame your server if there's a problem with your food."
    I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone. The former is due to the instant gratification that is today's society. People don't know any better. It doesn't make it right, and I would dearly love to take a 2x4 to someone's head when I see it. As to the latter, like I said previously, most people act like dicks because they can not only get away with it, but also because they realize that the server can't fight back for fear of getting fired. Complete cowardice on the part of the patron as far as I'm concerned. Again, another good reason to pop someone in the head.

    "Control your children."
    Ah yes, the wonderful dear sweet innocent children of our culture. Hogwash! Most (not all) children are total brats and parents have no control whatsoever over them (parenting skills are optional). I actually witnessed an episode similar to what Angry White Man stated where my ex-girlfriend and I were eating at a Thai restaurant. This kid was running up and down the aisle and almost plowed into a waitress who had a platter of food. The parents were totally oblivious to what was going on (but hey they needed to eat out, so it's kosher). I regret not saying anything at the time, but it happened pretty quickly.

    My cousin also has a little boy who I pretty much wanted to punt (as well as his parents) through the window during Christmas Eve. The kid was running through our house, yelling, jumping on the couch, grabbing the dog's ears and getting right into his face (an absolute no-no with dogs). I yelled at him for that, but my cousin and his girlfriend didn't do anything; couldn't actually because they were in the other room opening presents. We have three golden retrievers, and these dogs absolutely love people (especially children), but I have never seen them so petrified as they were with this kid. I told my parents afterwards that if I saw him hurting the dogs in any way (he looked like he wanted to do something, but I was keeping a close eye on him at that point), he was getting smacked, and then there would be a hollar fest with my cousin.

    Anyway, lengthy post here, but there are a lot of people out there who do not know how to parent their kids. Our culture is full of complete imbeciles and the worst thing about it is that the responsible ones are encouraged to keep their mouths shut. Makes me real chipper for the future.

    Mat

    Angry White Guy said...

    It is said that you can judge the true character of a man by how he treats his server.

    I know one VERY successful businessman who had almost seals a VERY lucrative deal, and when to dinner with the soon-to-be partner. Upon arriving, he saw this person treat a server's error (I think they spilled something) like absolute trash. He walked away from the deal.

    I don't associate with people who treat servers poorly.

    Russ said...

    Cassy,

    The entire tone of your post seemed to be that the customer exists to provide the server with a paycheck. Sorry, but the server exists to provide the customer with a great experience.

    If you are as bubbly and nice as your presentation says, then I have encountered you many times in restaurants, and have treated you well. I've joked, smiled, and tipped well. However, many of us have also had the "server from Hell" that, somehow, never gets talked about in this post.

    I have been ignored by a server on a cell phone to her boyfriend. I have sent back food that was incorrectly prepared, only to be given a look that shows the server thinks I just shot a dog. And I know we've all had the server who shows up at the table exactly three times - to take your order, to give you your food, and to give you the check(#'s 2 and 3 can occur simultaneously also). Never once to come by and check how the meal is, or if we need anything else.

    I usually tip at least 15%, but have tipped as high as 30% for exceptional service. However, I have also left a tip of $.10 before as well. I don't believe in not leaving a tip, b/c your server can usually just chalk that up to your being a cheapskate. But a monetary amount at least lets them know what you thought of the service(although, admittedly, when service is THAT bad, I usually won't come back).

    I know this post probably sounds conceited, but the tone of your post kinda got to me. As a PAYING customer, it's up to you to act as if you actually want me in your restaurant. When service is good, I'll be the greatest customer you could have. When the server acts like I'm doing them a favor by being there, I get pissed. Then I take my business elsewhere, where I kn ow I'll be treated better.

    Anonymous said...

    You sound as if the person going to the restraunt is the server and the waitress is the customer!

    Pete said...

    I have to go with Russ here - It's the server who has a JOB to do; and the most clearly defined role in the interaction. They provide a service, and if they do a crummy job of it they should expect crummy tips and disgruntled customers.

    You were obviously not the type of server who attracts the customers wrath, but sadly, that type of server is becoming rare. While I will occasionally tip 20%, especially at a restaurant a frequent, I'm sick of the tip "expectation" increasing from 10% to 15% to 20%, while the expectation of service plummets.

    Cynyr said...

    My wife and I dine out regularly, and we generally have great service. We always tell our server up front that we will be her easiest customers of the night, and the server always responds with fantastic service. We tip well, too.

    Just remember, the manager is your very best friend. Poor food, poor service? Tell the manager. Great food, great service? Tell the manager. I always, always, always have contact with the manager before I leave. Believe me, if there was a problem, a good manager will fix it immediately. A good manager will also give a little praise or reward to a server, if you compliment them by name.

    Anonymous said...

    You've changed.

    Wild Bill said...

    Being DINKs, the wife and I eat out a lot and Cassy is right on with this post. A server treating the customers right and the customers not being dicks make the whole experience nicer. At places we frequent we've gotten to know all the servers and have shared in their joys and sorrows, their weddings and divorces, births, deaths and retirements. Just makes life more fun to be able to see friends at the restaurant, even if they happen to have an apron on.

    Anonymous said...

    I think your post is entriely one sided. While many of your points are valid, I have had many expereinces where servers were poorly trained or were not practicing the training they have received. Poor performance should not be tolerated and managhement must be informed when that occurs.

    Some servers read their coustomers well others do not. Giving a cutormer a bill that they hailed you down to receive and then disappearing from sight for ten to fifteen mimutes is only one example. It is one thing to0 be working another table and still another to disappear.

    Recently I had to go to the hostest and ask if there was a server assign to our table. We had been there ten minutes and has not seen a server in our area. When she finally appeared she excused herself by saying I wasn't aware they seated anyone. Of course not, she was off on an agenda other than her job.

    The Fat Misanthrope said...

    Tell the manager if you're angry...

    Damn straight. I owned a restaurant for a bit over ten years and one of my laws to my wait staff was that I didn't pay them enough to take abuse from some jerk. That was my job. Since I'm rather large any arguments tended to get calm rather quickly. Another of my laws, generally kept to myself, was that the customer was usually wrong.

    mkfreeberg said...

    There is a certain pizza parlor we like to patronize because it's so close we can walk, and an ice cream shop is right next door. Great for when the boy is here on the weekends. But the service has been sliding a little.

    We noticed there was a girl of about eight or nine who liked to play with her toys on the floor. Just would squat any old place and start playing. I thought nothing of it since she seemed to be making a point of being out of the way. Seemed...

    ...halfway through our meal we saw her squatted in front of the front doors. With entrance/egress traffic squeezing around her, to the left & right. Her parents were right freakin' there, chatting away, not thinking anything of it.

    And I was thinking -- oh, I get it. I've been noticing that about my neighorhood. Once people make eye contact with you they're as nice and considerate as the day is long, but until then, it's just...oh well...the purpose of space in the universe is to accommodate Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me. I'm guessing from this particular episode, the lesson is that it's learned behavior, and it starts very young.

    Eric said...

    A guy I used to work for taught me that tip stands for "to insure promptness", and that it should be given BEFORE your meal.

    Whether you are on a date or a business dinner, in my experience, if you slip your waiter/waitress $5, $10, or $20 (depending on the size of your party and the quality of the dining establishment) as soon as you sit down and say, "Thanks for taking care of us." then you will never have to talk to a manager about poor service.

    Plus, you'll impress the hell out of the people or person you are dining with.

    Wayne said...

    "In one particular instance, a kid saw a server coming towards him while carrying a tray loaded with food. The kid purposely stuck out his ankle and tripped the server. She went sprawling all over the carpet, the food was obviously ruined for some other guest, and broken dishes were everywhere. The parents saw the entire thing, and laughed affectionately: "Oh, he's such a little troublemaker!"

    Reading blogs has certainly opened my eyes to the fact that the rest of the country is going to hell in a handbasket. I can't think of an establishment in my area where this would happen and the Manager would not make the parents pay for the destroyed meal. I've watched customers be thrown out for far less.

    Anonymous said...

    I'm with russ here. I work hard for my money, and when I go out to eat it's for the experience as much as for the convenience. If some waiter or waitress with a chip on their shoulder or who's just to pre-occupied with their cell phone to attend to their job treats me like an inconvenience rather than the reason they even have a job, then it will be reflected in their tip. If everyone tipped well for good service and left a few cents for bad, the horrible waiters and waitresses might get the message that the way to make a good living is to do quality work.

    Two weeks ago I was in a restaurant and the server only brought half my meal. I was polite when I pointed this out, but in the end I never got the rest of my meal, and in fact, I never saw the waiter again until he brought my check. It was a busy night, and when I spoke to the manager I was told he would speak to the waiter at which point he hurried off into the back without speaking to the waiter. I left the waiter a two cent tip and sent a letter to corporate headquarters. A week later I was reimbursed for the meals of both myself and my dinner companion, and the manager managed to find time to call me repeatedly until he found me at home.

    I tip in the neighborhood of 25% when the service is good, 15% if the waiter or waitress does the bare minimum (take order, serve meal, bring check), and less than a buck if they ruin my evening. Most of the time the waiters and waitresses I encounter are good at their jobs and the tip I leave reflects my enjoyment of the evening, but I resent being told that just because they depend on tips to pay their bills it somehow obligates me to pay them regardless of how they do their jobs.

    Whitehorse said...

    You sound as if the person going to the restraunt is the server and the waitress is the customer!

    anon, I treat those who serve me in restaurants & in other ventures as a customer, a customer for whom I care deeply.

    I have no slaves & I am no one else's slave - when I conduct commerce, I have a business relationship - even with the guy at the local convenience store. I treat people with great courtesy & respect, showing concern about them.

    A restaurant server or convenience store clerk or person stocking the shelves at Wal-Mart is not a slave & is not lower than you - whoever you are. They deserve at least as much respect and courtesy as you do. If you treat those who serve you with great respect & courtesy, 999 times out of 1000 you will have a much, much better customer experience.

    I am a Quality Analyst, coach & trainer by trade. I cannot believe how many people today have not learned the basics of courtesy - saying please, thank you, & may I.

    Cassy, awesome post. John Hawkins @ RWN via CG is how I found your site & love it!

    I've always heard to treat others like you want to be treated. I'd say to treat others better than you want to be treated.

    Anonymous said...

    On the subject of tipping, maybe you can clear this up for me. If you eat at a buffet-style restaurant, what kind of tip do you leave for the busboy? If you get take-out, do you add a tip to the check? I usually leave $1 or 2 for the busboy, more if a waitress shows up to refill drinks. I don't add a tip for take-out, but I got scammed for $5 once when I left the tip line blank on the credit card slip.

    Cas said...

    Anon --

    About tipping for take-out. You should still tip well. Obviously, it's a little bit ridiculous to tip the same amount as you would a regular server, but here's a little-known fact about take-out: the take-out person is usually a server, too (if you're at a sit-down restaurant). That person is a server assigned to take-out duty for the night most of the time, and therefore is still only making about two bucks an hour. So try to still tip them well.

    As far as buffets, I couldn't tell ya what the standard is -- I've never worked in a buffet. ;)

    Zirbert said...

    I like most of what you've written here, because most of it boils down to two principles: remember that your server is a human being, worthy of respect, and treat them accordingly; and remember that your server does not have total control over all aspects of the restaurant.

    However, I have to take issue with one of your points: the one about tipping. Quoting excerpts: "When you pay your bill, don't forget to tip well. Here's something that people who don't tip well must not know: servers only get paid about $3.00 an hour....you need to tip an absolute minimum of 15%....Servers have bills to pay just like everyone else. We have to pay rent, buy food and gas, pay for electric and water bills... just like everyone else in the world. And perhaps most people don't know this, but your tips are our main source of income."

    That's not the customer's fault. If a server can't make a living on the hourly wage that they're paid, then they should be looking for another line of work, not expecting customers to make up the difference. Cashiers in the retail sector aren't paid well either, but I've never heard a department store cashier arguing that they should get tips on that basis, and I'd laugh at them if I ever did.

    I used to work in a restaurant, back in the kitchen. I got the same (minimum) hourly wage as the servers, but no tips. I know some restaurants operate differently, and backline staff get a share in tips, but not all of them. None of us back in the kitchen thought we were entitled to tips, or owed them in any sense. Our bills were our own problem. If they outweighed what we were making, then it was time to move on, and I for one did.

    I'm feeling some cognitive dissonance here, because despite what you might have expected from reading the above, I do tip whenever I eat in a restuarant, and reasonably well (minimum 10%, usually considerably higher). Now that I think about it, by tipping we are - I am - distorting the free market. We're subsidizing the wages of servers, so restaurant owners can afford to offer submarket wages ("The hourly wage is low, but you'll make more than that in tips").

    Paying a high enough salary to attract and retain employees should always be the employer's problem, not the customer's. If servers are forced to rely on tips to pay their bills, then they should refuse to work for the offered wages and move on. Restaurant owners would quickly realize that they need to raise wages (and perhaps prices - but if customers are effectively forced by social pressure to tip, then there's really no difference to them whether the 10% is added to the menu price or paid out after the meal as a tip).

    Being a server is a fine job for someone who needs a position with flexible hours and no specific skill requirements - say, students. There comes a point, though, where people should be setting their vocational sights a little higher, or moving on to do something else with their life. Waiting tables should be seen as a job for now, not a career for later.

    Sigh.

    I'm going to continue to tip, but now the cognitive dissonance is going to make my head hurt every time.

    -Zirbert (zirbert.blogspot.com)

    Wayne said...

    zirbert - If you worked in a restaurant where the servers were making minimum wage, then you definitely were being seriously screwed. Restaurants are only required to pay servers HALF of whatever minimum wage is at the time. The STANDARD is for them to make their actual pay in tips only, and the hourly wage is there for the company to have something to subtract their taxes from, so if a server is actually making minimum wage, then they are probably working at a pretty high-class place, with some pretty high-priced food. Or else the restaurant owner didn't realize that servers didn't have to be paid minimum.

    I realize that this is not the way it probably should be, but the flip side is that your food would be that much more expensive if they had to pay reasonable wages. This way, the server has an incentive to make your experience as good as possible (though they don't all see it that way).

    As far as the back-end peoples' pay is concerned, their pay is not determined by their attitude while they are working, or how much they try to make the customer happy. The server's is, so that's why they would tend to make more money even if they weren't completely dependent on tips for their pay.

    Rickvid in Seattle said...

    Used to be a restaurant in the U District, near University of Washington, run by a crabby Aussie named Angus. People went for the food and the abuse. He had a sign near the door that read, "Be kind to the staff; good staff are harder to get than customers."

    Springs1 said...

    "We, as servers, have absolutely no control over how quickly food comes out. It annoys us more that it annoys you, because we know that the longer the food takes to come out, the lower our tip is getting, because we're the ones who get blamed. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. The only time you can blame your server for your food being late is if it has obviously been baking underneath the heating lamps, and you can tell when it has been -- sauces will be congealing on the plate, for example. If your food has taken forever, but comes out fresh, steaming, and hot, then you can't blame them. They got your food to you as soon as it was prepared."

    This is where you are WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!

    1. Putting in the order correctly is important as far as how long you wait for your food. I cannot count the number of times my order is brought with OBVIOUS mistakes wrong from the SAME SERVER(NOT ANOTHER SERVER). Just recently my husband had ordered 2 side dishes, which each side dish is a separate menu item. Our waitress totally forgot it when she brought it out. She actually didn't apologize even and read the ticket on the menu at our table which was EXTREMELY STUPID. She should have verified that written order IN THE KITCHEN BEFORE taking it to us incorrectly. It was HER fault the side dish was missing even if she put in the order correctly, because it's a mistake that the server doesn't have to touch, break open, or taste the food to know there's a mistake with the order. Even if the cook messed up, it was up to HER to take notice of this. She made the tip, NOT the cooks. She's responsible for bringing out ALL COMPONENTS as long as it's a visible mistake that she doesn't have to touch my food to notice the mistake.
    2. Not forgetting to put in the order is important. I have had appetizers forgotten twice due to the SERVER ADMITTED they FORGOT.
    3. Putting in the order as soon as you can as long as there is nobody else's food or drinks that were ordered BEFORE the current customer's order and that there aren't any mistakes you have to attend to first. I feel if someone else's table's food is ready, since they ordered BEFORE I did, they should get their food first, especially because food gets cold. I also feel if someone has a mistake, that takes should take top priority over putting in a current customer's order as well. I have seen a server one time take our entrée orders, then greeted a table of 6. By the time he put in our order, it was probably a good 3 or more minutes later, which probably was even longer of a wait due to other servers or the bartender putting I orders BEFORE ours, meaning, other customers food was next to get cooking and it beat our food. I feel when you take a food order, you should IMMEDIATELY go put it into the computer as long as no other orders are ready or mistakes have been made. The LONGER my server waits to put in my order, the LONGER I WAIT.

    So I have NO CLUE WHY you don't know these things or WHY would you act like an expert when you don't know ALL things that can happen. My husband and I have experienced many situations, so we know WHAT IS and ISN'T in the server's control. Servers DO HAVE VERY MUCH CONTROL OVER HOW "LONG" YOU WAIT FOR YOUR FOOD. The ONLY WAYS that they have no control over how long we wait is if they put in the order as soon as they could(meaning no other people's orders are ready or no mistakes have been made, which if any of them have, I would completely understand my server putting those other people first since they ordered BEFORE I did) and either my server or another server went get the food as SOON as it was ready as long as they weren't occupied by another customer of course. Also if my server busses an empty table before putting in an order, that is making the customer wait longer for a dirty table, which is EXTREMELY RUDE and UNCARING about customer's wait times. Do you want YOUR food to take longer when it's not necessary? I doubt you would, so WHY would you treat SOMEONE ELSE that way? Customer's request come BEFORE clean up work.

    "Don't blame your server if there's a problem with your food.
    Maybe it doesn't taste right. Maybe there's onions mixed in with your pasta when you asked for no onions. 9 times out of 10, this is, again, not the server's fault."

    That's where you are SOOOOOOOO WRONG. 9 times out of 10, it's the SERVER'S FAULT. If you couldn't SEE the onions as long as you put the order in correctly into the computer without having to move around the pasta, then NO, it's NOT your fault. If you could *SEE* onions in the pasta, it sure IS your fault if you brought my food to me as well as took my order.

    1. Forgetting to put in an order (We had appetizers forgotten twice)
    2. Put the order into the computer incorrectly
    3. Bringing out the food with OBVIOUS, VISABLE, mistakes that the server doesn't have to TOUCH or TASTE the food to notice a mistake or mistakes.
    4. Delaying putting in an order or getting something due to forgetfulness or deciding to do something else instead such as instead of getting someone's check, you decide to buss an empty table.
    5. If another server is probably going to run the food because it's very busy, the MAIN SERVER should OFFER to bring out ANYTHING they can that is done before the entree such as condiments or extra pickles and not to trust that another server that won't be getting tipped from that customer is actually going to verify the food with the ticket. So even if another server brings my food to me with a missing side of ranch, I blame my server, because honestly, my server COULD HAVE brought it BEFORE the food was ready. It doesn't take 15-35 mins. to get a side of ranch. Considering I am not actually tipping that other server bringing me the food and that the server tips out a percentage of sales to the server that ran the food, WHY should the server not bring out what they can ahead of time? Why trust a person that isn't getting an INCENTIVE to CARE about what they are taking to the customer if it's correct or not? Sometimes I see these other servers that run the food that just bring the food without asking if the customer's need anything else or if there food is even right. One time at Applebee's, another waitress brought me my food and left so right away, I didn't have a chance to say "I ordered an extra side of mexi-ranch). I waited and waited, which my server didn't even come see about me, so my husband asked another server, which I couldn't believe she actually got it for me. My point is, these other servers that run the food DON'T CARE about the customers they are bringing food to if the food is correct or if they even would like to order another drink. I, one time, asked another server that brought my food at an italian restaurant for a refill and she told me that my server would get it. Can you believe the LAZINESS of her? Sure, she wasn't my server, but SHE WAS IN MY SERVICE. The tip did get shot down to 12%. She didn't even relay the message to my server. These other servers do NOT want to work as a TEAM as it SHOULD BE. One time when we were at Outback, the server that delivered the food VOLUNTARILY ASKED if we wanted refills. I do NOT get WHY it can't be this way all the time? I wish that the person that ran the food got a part of the customer's tip instead of getting tipped out from sales.

    My point is, if you can bring out condiments or anything such as extra pickles, onions, etc., you should, because I have had servers VOLUNTARILY as well as when I have asked for them to do so, so they wouldn't be forgotten.

    So see, MOST mistakes get to customer's tables BECAUSE of the SERVER. I NEVER SAID ALL, because for instance, an example such as food being burnt, unless you brought it out burnt(only if you could SEE it was burnt), it would be the cook's fault 100%. There are just MUCH MORE THINGS that are the SERVER'S FAULT, than other co-worker's faults is what I am saying. So there are not too many things I can blame the kitchen staff or managers for in general, but there are SOME things I can. Most mistakes reach the customer's table because of the *****SERVER*****, NOT other people. It's not my server's fault if another server brings me the completely wrong food and the order was put in correctly, BUT, it's still PART of the customer's service, so the tip will get affected. You may say it's not fair, but it's not fair for customers to tip for lousy service. I think tipping out percentage of sales to the other co-workers is an UNFAIR system and that's why the food runner system DOESN'T WORK VERY WELL. At Applebee's one time, I had ordered 2 sides of mayo, 1 side of mustard, and 1 side of ranch for my chicken sandwich. Another server brought out my food without ANY of the condiments and the waiter said just like this "They are too lazy to read the ticket." I truly believe he wasn't trying to save his tip that he really did put the order in correctly. If you think about it, WHY should that server CARE one bit if I had the condiments I ordered? She wasn't going to see any money from us, because her tip out came out of the SALES, NOT out of our tip amount we tipped. This food runner system doesn't work well with complicated orders. It may work pretty well if you order "AS IS" from the menu, but that's about it. It doesn't always work well though, because I have had twice 2 side dishes forgotten at Outback from other servers.

    There will always be cases where the cooks are at fault for mistakes such as burning my food(as long as my server wasn't stupid enough to bring me burnt food(if it was visible that is)), raw food such as raw chicken tenders, undercooked steak(like medium well instead of well done), pickle under a bun, burrito filling, making the food wrong(the server noticed it BEFORE bringing out the food, so the delay would be the cook's fault) etc. would be the cook's mistakes. The server can notice some things that are wrong BEFORE they bring out the food. If you can't see I don't have a side dish or don't have a side of ranch, you are blind. If you can SEE that it's not cooked right, you would be at fault for (((BRINGING)))) it to me wrong. It may not be your fault for cooking it wrong, but if you can SEE it's not cooked right, it's like DUH, don't bring it to me. My server's job is to BRING me my food as correctly as they possibly can if they take my food to me and not another server unless it is condiments, because condiments don't need cooking so there's NEVER, EVER, a reason to wait to bring those unless the customer states they don't want the server to.

    "When I get bad service, I try to give them a little bit of slack, because I know that 9 times out of 10, bad service means that there is something going on beyond the server's control. Rarely is the server just a dickhead who doesn't care about the table."

    That is just NOT TRUE. MOST mistakes are because the SERVER messed up. It is much more common to find lazy servers that don't care about their tables and expect at least 15% NO MATTER WHAT THEY DO compared to the ones that will go all out for you.

    1. Wrong orders(as far as OBVIOUS mistakes are concerned ONLY)
    2. Forgotten orders (unless the server put in the order correctly and they are not bringing the food out as well as long as it's not sides of condiments)
    3. Serving food without utensils(meaning my server wasn't OBSERVANT of my needs, which have had this happen quite a number of times)
    4. Forgetting request such as a refill or a side of ranch
    5. ANY overcharges of ANY KIND. We have had over 20 overcharges since 2001. You name it from an extra item, to a wrong item rung up, to a wrongly priced item(which the server CAN take the menu and compare the check with the menu just as the customer can)-had this happen at least 6 times where WE had to notice the prices were wrong, to returning all change, and to wrong amounts rung up on the credit card due to ringing up the wrong table. I do NOT care WHAT kind of overcharge it is, because if the CUSTOMER can verify their bill, the SERVER SURE CAN. There's NO EXCUSE EVER, for an overcharge. It also works both ways, because we have been undercharged many of times as well, so the servers today need to be more careful with charging the customer. Restaurant service is NOT ONLY "serving food", it's charging the customer correctly as well by CARING about the customer's money and NOT just your own.
    6. Bringing the wrong check(had this happen once)

    Service is usually bad due to the SERVER normally, NOT to ANYONE ELSE. I am NOT saying always, but usually it is. There have been WAY, WAY, WAY, MORE incidents where the SERVER could have done better that we have experienced.

    You cannot control if another server takes me the wrong food as long as you put in the order correctly, BUT, that person is STILL IN MY SERVICE, so I will tip accordingly. I cannot control that in a lot of restaurants that servers get tipped out of sales. That's NOT the customer's problem. They are going to tip according to the **SERVICE**, which the other server was in my service, so that is why it's important to work as a team, because there are MANY people like me that will tip according to the other server's mess up.

    "So watching a patron be rude to a server gets underneath my skin;"

    I am NOT "RUDE" to my servers UNLESS they are rude to me and then even then, sometimes I just keep my comments to myself.

    I find it quite the opposite that the SERVERS today are RUDE to their customers by NOT apologizing for mistakes. I have had a server ask me if I wanted to go to the bar just because I wanted a NON-SMOKING section to drink a margarita. I feel that's rude to ask me such a thing, because I am at least purchasing an item that is even more than $5, which that margarita was $7 and something cents. I have EVERY RIGHT to want a non-smoking section even if I just want a coke.

    I had a waitress tell me "That's the hostess's job" when I had told her a few things she did wrong, which one of them was having to ask TWICE for utensils. It's pretty bad when you have to ask TWICE for things.

    "And frankly, people just do not seem to give servers the respect they deserve."

    I feel it's quite the OPPOSITE. Servers should ALWAYS APOLOGIZE for their mistakes.

    "Actually talk to us. It's great to get a little conversation going. We won't stand there and talk to you all night, but it does lighten the atmosphere."

    I ONLY feel it's appropriate to chit-chat with your server if it isn't busy. I think it's pretty rude and uncaring to do that to customers that are waiting for things like refills or waiting to leave to pay their check or get their check or anything else. Think if that were "YOU" wouldn't you want your food, drinks, check, etc. to get to YOU as QUICKLY as possible?

    "Just nicely, politely, let them know what the problem is. They will take it back to the kitchen and get it fixed for you. If the customer was nice about it, I'd usually "reward" them by offering them a free dessert (and this free dessert came out of MY pocket -- servers usually can't comp anything without managerial approval)."

    MOST servers I will tell you for a FACT do NOT give stuff for free. I have had 30 cent overcharges twice and never had one server give us a free coke at the very least or even 50 cents out of their own POCKET to not have the hassle of waiting to get the check fixed. MOST servers will NEVER give something for free if they mess up, because even if we are nice as can be about the problem, they don't apologize when it's their fault MOST of the time. Forgetting an entire side dish is definitely my server's fault, because she brought out the food as well as took my husband's order. I cannot believe she didn't ONCE say she was sorry. Her tip got penalized MORE for her being rude by not apologizing than the mistake itself. It's not mostly about the mistake, but HOW IT'S HANDLED is the KEY. I am polite by telling them "I ordered such and such." I don't be mean. Sometimes there are servers that do apologize for their mistakes, but it's very rare today I find.

    "If you're really angry, take it to the manager.
    Let's say you've had absolutely horrible service. The server was awful, the food sucked, and everything went wrong. Do not lambast your server. If you're that angry, you need to go to the manager about it. First of all, laying into the server only means that the server is not going to report your complaints to save their own skin. Second, servers are not trained to deal with irate customers; managers are."

    I disagree and agree on some points. I totally disagree that you should blame the manager for bad service, when the manager wasn't IN MY SERVICE what-so-ever, so there's NO POSSIBLE WAY he or she could be blamed for ANYTHING wrong unless they brought something wrong to my table. I agree somewhat with not getting into a fight with the server, but I do like to let the server know what they did wrong if it was really, really, horrible that I wouldn't leave a tip. Usually they know why they didn't get tipped or received a very poor tip, because I talk to a manager or write corporate or do both. It's also common sense if a server knows they messed up a lot or big time, the tip may not be so great.

    "If you aren't willing to tip well, then don't go out to eat -- period. Go into it recognizing that a 15% - 20% tip is part of the final bill."

    I tip 25% and sometimes higher for great service. I AM willing to tip well, but at the same time, my server has to do their end of the deal as well by trying their VERY BEST by making my dining experience go as well as they possibly can. For instance, bringing extra napkins or bringing out sides of condiments ahead of time, will show they CARE if things go well that ARE in their control.

    "Likewise, leaving a shitty tip is not acceptable, especially when your server has given you great service. It's even worse when you've complimented your server on how great they were, and then leave a $2.00 tip. It's an insult. If you're going to leave a buck and think that'll be enough for a tip, then don't go out to eat at all."

    I ONLY leave shitty tips for SHITTY SERVICE. One time my husband and I had 5 or 6 mistakes in one dining experience. When someone makes that many mistakes, you know they aren't trying ONE BIT and DON'T CARE about what they are doing OR they aren't a customer much to completely understand what it's like to receive things wrong.

    "Don't sit around and just relax for another half an hour unless you are willing to tip more -- a lot more -- for it. By parking at our table for an extra half an hour, forty-five minutes, an hour, without ordering anything, you're keeping us from making money on another table. It's then your responsibility to make up for that loss of money. If you want to stay at the restaurant for a while after you're finished eating, you can. There's a place made for that specific purpose: it's called the bar."

    I understand the frustration, BUT, if you aren't "SERVING" me anymore, WHY should you get money to do absolutely NOTHING? Tables are NOT for "RENT." I personally don't just hand around extra time after I have eaten, but at the same time I still have an opinion about it. If you are serving me throughout the entire time with refills for instance, then you are serving me more, so you should get more tip, but just for sitting without more work is ZERO DOLLARS MORE EARNED. You are supposed to *EARN* YOUR TIP. Tips are NOT just for "SITTING" at a table.

    It is NOT at all the customer's responsibility to make up for your lost income. If you have lost income you could have made, well, that is a disadvantage of the job that you have to ACCEPT or go find another job. WE ARE CERTAINTLY NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR INCOME AT ALL. WE can CHOOSE TO TIP OR NOT TO TIP NO MATTER WHAT SITUATION unless automatic gratuity is added due to the restaurant's policy such as when you are a large party. We are EVEN MORE SO NOT responsible for your money you "MAY HAVE MADE", because this ISN'T A BOWLING ALLEY, so we aren't "RENTING" the time at that table in your section. You certainly aren't EARNING more money just because the customer happens to stay beyond their stay. WHERE DO YOU GET OFF asking for more money for NO MORE WORK? That's just wrong. It's wrong to hog a table when there is a wait for table as far as other customers are concerned, but if there isn't a wait for a table, it shouldn't matter if someone is at a table longer than you'd like. Do you honestly think that customers are thinking about their server's money they may or may not be missing out on? OF COURSE NOT, we would only think of the customers that are waiting for a table. THAT IS IT! It's YOUR CHOICE work there. If you don't like it, work somewhere else where you don't solely depend on customers for your income.

    Springs1 said...

    "About tipping for take-out. You should still tip well. Obviously, it's a little bit ridiculous to tip the same amount as you would a regular server, but here's a little-known fact about take-out: the take-out person is usually a server, too (if you're at a sit-down restaurant). That person is a server assigned to take-out duty for the night most of the time, and therefore is still only making about two bucks an hour. So try to still tip them well."

    Sorry, but NO, tipping for take-out should NEVER be done unless it is like a huge order or if the server actually DELIVERS the food to your car. If you pick it up at the "COUNTER" there is NO DIFFERENCE in the AMOUNT OF WORK that I have seen cashiers at fast food restaurants do for NO TIP at all. Sometimes the servers have LESS work than a fast food worker does. An example would be ordering a pasta entree from Applebee's for instance vs. hotcakes and sausage from McDonald's. The Applebee's to-go server has to put the food in the container, ring up the order, give change or let the customer sign their credit card receipt as well as would have swiped their credit card of course, and give an ALL-IN-ONE fork, knife, salt n' pepper packets napkin little bag. The McDonald's cashier has to bag the food, ring it up, either give change or let the CUSTOMER swipe their own card, give the receipt, get a fork in a separate box, get a knife in a separate box, get a syrup, and get at least 2 butters. Which person here actually did MORE WORK? The McDonald's cashier did. So WHY would ANYONE in their right mind TIP for take-out if it's either LESS WORK or the SAME AMOUNT of WORK a CASHIER at fast food restaurants do if they pick it up over the counter? I have seen a Wendy's cashier actually put together my burger, with the lettuce, cheese onions, mayo on it. I ALWAYS see the cashiers fill the cups with ice and drink no matter WHERE you go UNLESS it's a self-serve fast food restaurant such as burger king usually does. She rung me up and gave me my credit card receipt back. I also asked if I could have a cup with some mayo in it and another cup with some mustard, because I do not like packets. She filled those cups also. Imagine all that work SHE did for NO TIP, but yet you expect people to tip for take-out? Does that make ANY SENSE? It is NOT OUR PROBLEM if you get paid $2.13/hr to do that. I have actually read on a message board that to-go servers usually make $6/hr or $7/hr. Even if you don't make that much, the amount of *******WORK******** would ALWAYS BE either "JUST AS MUCH WORK" OR "LESS WORK" than the fast food workers do.

    The ONLY way I would tip for a take-out order is either if it was a huge order or if the server delivers it to my car, which is ONLY guaranteed if the order is 100% unless it is a kitchen error. If I have ordered a side of ranch, it should be in my bag, because the to-go server should have verified that bag BEFORE bringing it to my car just as they should when they bring it to a table when dining inside.

    Can you tell me you do ANYTHING MORE than fast food cashiers do? If you could name some things, I might be convinced to start tipping for take-out. You only EARN a tip for doing more than the people that DO NOT get to earn a tip. Is it fair that Wendy's cashier did ALL of that work for not tip, YET, I would have tipped you a buck or 2 for my pasta entree at Applebee's picking it up at the counter? OF COURSE it's NOT FAIR that the worker that did MORE WORK is not allowed by LAW to accept tips, therefore, it's NOT FAIR to tip for less work. If your employer is paying you less than minimum wage to work the to-go area, that situation is between YOU and YOUR EMPLOYER. Don't act like customers are supposed to care or know what you make an hour, because that has NOTHING to do with the AMOUNT OF WORK you did to EARN that tip. If you do MORE work than a cashier at a fast food restaurant then you should earn a tip. I cannot think of anytime a to-go server would actually do more work than a fast food worker. So WHY expect a tip for doing either the SAME or LESS amount of work? I think that's wrong to expect such a thing. What amount a worker gets paid per hour has truly NOTHING to do with the amount of work they did.

    The take-out servers and fast food servers(excluding Sonic Drive-in) do the following:

    1. Bag my stuff.
    2. Put me napkins and utensils.
    3. Put any condiments in a bag as well as fill in the containers with condiments such as mayo, mustard, etc.
    4. Ring the order up initially.
    5. Put money in register when customer gets there.
    6. Fill a cup with ice and drink if ordered, which normally take-out orders at non-fast food restaurants typically do NOT have drinks with them like fast food orders do.

    So unless you can tell me something you do MORE, I will keep on NOT tipping one CENT for take-out.