Well hello all, and Happy Friday to you! For the past several weeks, we‚Äôve been discussing service. I have intentionally and deftly avoiding the topic of tipping. You see, I know quite a bit about fine dining, steps of service, the ins and outs of a restaurant, and of course, have been on the receiving end of many a tip. *Thank you.* But that‚Äôs my point, I‚Äôm on the receiving end. I NEVER want to tell a diner what they should leave for me; although I‚Äôm asked about once a week what I think is fair. A few months ago, a gentleman asked me what my best tip ever was, as he was so happy with my service he‚Äôd like to exceed it. Rather than making up some arbitrary sum so he‚Äôd feel obligated to beat it, I told him the truth. ‚ÄúI received $800 one night. But sir, that was a large party. You should tip what you feel is appropriate,‚Äù I replied. He left around 22%, which was kind and generous. But again, I avoided talking about what I thought he should tip. But it seems y‚Äôall wanna talk about tipping, so here we go. (And you thought you disagreed with me before‚Ä¶)
So there are a few important things we have to address first, beginning with the difference between an order taker and a server. If your server simply comes over and asks what they can bring for you, brings your drinks and meal, and presents the check, they are and order taker, not a server. If this person is fast, courteous, and says ‚Äúthank you‚Äù and ‚Äúcome again‚Äù, they are a step up from an order taker. If they take time to explain unique dishes on the menu, yet another step. If they explain the nuances of the wine that you are considering, it‚Äôs another step up. If they guide you through a luxurious experience where your napkin is magically re-folded when you return to the table from a trip to the restroom, there‚Äôs an extra taste of a fabulous bottle your server simply thought you had to try, and the valet is promptly summoned when you‚Äôre ready to leave, without you lifting a finger‚Ä¶ well, that‚Äôs admittedly different, right?
With that out of the way, there are differing views on what is ‚Äústandard‚Äù tipping procedure. It is the very nature of the process (providing a monetary expression of a job well done) that leaves the issue so open to argument. Many people think that ‚ÄúTIP‚Äù is an acronym for ‚ÄúTo Insure Prompt Service‚Äù but as The Waiter points out in his book, Waiter Rant, which would mean you should tip before service has begun. Some of you have argued that you would prefer the methods that other countries employ: Either including gratuity into the price of the item you‚Äôre are ordering, or that restaurants pay the servers a fair daily wage. Saying that the United States should adopt these rules is like arguing that cable TV should be free. It‚Äôs never going to happen. If you‚Äôd like to fight that fight, please address your congress-person, not your server. We didn‚Äôt make the rules. But we love the old adage, ‚ÄúIf you can‚Äôt afford to tip, you can‚Äôt afford to dine out.‚Äù And that, my friends, is why we‚Äôre all so damn caught up in what/how much/how to tip.
Well let‚Äôs get down to it then. If you tip 10%, it means you got bad service. What constitutes bad? Well, having experienced it tonight let me tell you: Our drinks didn‚Äôt arrive for ten plus minutes with no acknowledgement of the late timing. The bread didn‚Äôt come until long after the appetizers; after the salads had arrived. One entr√©e was unavailable, but we were not told at the time we ordered it. One entr√©e was dropped in the kitchen and didn‚Äôt come out with the rest of the table‚Äôs food. When it did arrive it was wrong. The dining room was not busy. The server was hapless, but apologetic and inevitably accommodating. The dropped entr√©e was free, as were two desserts. My husband and I paid $87 for tardy beverages, wedge salads, terrible entr√©es, piss-poor service, and air conditioning beating us up the entire time, even after complaints. So bad, I‚Äôm tempted to tell you where we ate. It‚Äôs inexcusable to get service like that in a place that charges $22 to $29 for an entr√©e.
Adequate service is just that. You got what you wanted. Your service was timely, and pleasant. This level of service deserves 15% to 18% depending on the restaurant, fine dining getting the higher percentage. A fine dining server has a higher skill set, and even if they didn‚Äôt get an opportunity to display it fully to you on this occasion, the restaurant as a whole deserves a nod. Give the extra percentage ‚Äì we‚Äôll get to why in a minute.
If you receive exemplary service, tip nothing less than 20%. Your server has honed their skills to provide you the best experience possible given their surroundings: Be it Bistro or Burger Joint, these folks know what they‚Äôre doing, and showed you a great time. Do them the favor of acknowledging their efforts. If they really blew you away (remembered your drink from your last visit or had that extra side of mayo before you asked for it) throw them a few extra bucks. Anything over 20% tells a server you were really impressed and often a few measly dollars will make his or her day. Think about that. Your gratitude shown with as little as $5 bucks extra gratuity, could make someone‚Äôs whole day. Why wouldn‚Äôt you?
Now, here‚Äôs something you may not know: Servers tip a LARGE percentage of what they make to their support staff. I tip my Wait Assistant (the proper term for bus boy) a point. What is a point? Well, if I‚Äôm worth 2 points, my WA is worth 1. That means that if I make $150, my WA gets $50, and I get $100, get it? (150/3 points = 50) Then I tip the bartender 15% of what I made. Then I tip the food runner (the additional person working for the restaurant designated to get the hot food out to the guests immediately and describe it‚Äôs characteristics at a table when that table‚Äôs sever is waiting on other guests) 10% of what I made. I was tipped $150 throughout the evening, but I‚Äôm walking with $75. That‚Äôs right. Sometimes I walk with HALF of the tips I brought in that night. It is precisely that reason (in a fine dining restaurant, there is often additional support staff) that I suggest you bump the percentage you leave.
Finally, if you receive free anything, tip on it. If you know the bartender, and you get a free drink on your tab, tip as if you were charged. If you have a coupon for a free order of flingers, tip for it. If you have terrible service, but at least the restaurant (be It the manager or your server) attempted to compensate for it, tip on it. It‚Äôs the least you can do for gratis food or beverage. Let‚Äôs go back to the bad experience I described to you earlier. The server recognized that there were several things that went wrong at our table. I have no idea how bad a night she was having ‚Äì if she‚Äôd had a horrible personal day, if the kitchen was punishing her for no(?) reason, if her manager had it out for her, or if it was just a comedy of errors. At least she knew it. She bought an entr√©e, and two desserts for the table. I tipped her for it. But then, I‚Äôve never left 10%. It‚Äôs just not in my nature ‚Äì I‚Äôve been doing this for too long.
Okay. Let the bickering commence.
In Minnesota, there is no difference in hourly wage between what fine dining servers earn to what your Perkins server earns. When minimum wage went...