Earlier today on Twitter, I came across a tweet that had been retweeted by one of my friends that said:
"If you're going to out to eat, tip your server. If not, go to McDonalds. #rudepeople"
Having worked in the restaurant business for several years at a country club, I think I know a thing or two about this. But I'd like to put a few myths to rest. As a server, your gratuity should not be expected. You should be earning this tip. Just because you can throw some silver on the table, write down what somebody wants and plop it in front of them while refilling drinks doesn't mean that you deserve a good (or any) tip. Gratuity is a courtesy and reward for a job well done.
I remember being in Europe where this sort of thing didn't even exist. Tips are not expected and in fact people look at you really weird when you try to give them extra money (this happened to me because I forgot I wasn't in America for a moment, oops). I love that prices are what they say they are in Europe: tax built in, and no tips. Oh, you say dinner will cost you 10 dollars?? More like 13 or 14 after tip and tax.
So here's how I function when it comes to service at a restaurant. In my mind I start the server off at the "expected" 15%. Depending on their performance, I'll dock percentage points or add them. That being said, if you do a good job, I tip really well. Sometimes upwards of 25%. But if you slack off or you're not on your game, I rarely leave more than 10%. One of the hardest things about being a server is balancing multiples tables and keeping all of your customers happy. That sort of talent surely is deserving of being rewarded in your gratuity.
Allow me to give an example of when I leave a bad tip. Recently, I went out to Outback with my girlfriend. I had a gift card, and wanted to do something nice before I headed back to school. Upon entering, we were seated almost immediately at a small table near the bar. No problem with me, I was just happy we got seated so quickly.
After about 20 minutes had passed, no one had announced to us they would be our server, despite plenty of servers passing by without a second glance. It wasn't until we asked one of the hostesses to please tell someone we had been waiting that our server came over. In the meantime, the hostess we talked to used some common sense and offered to get us drinks. She promptly delivered the wrong drink (regular Coke instead of diet) to Courtney (something that would not have happened had we had a server in the first place).
I got my usual, Outback special cooked medium with bleu cheese wedge salad and garlic mashed potatoes, topped off with a Shock Top Belgian White. We thought all was well, but were mistaken. Upon the arrival of my salad, I noticed that we didn't have any rollups on our table. No silver = can't really eat anything.
I figured, this was a chance for our server to make up for the earlier mishap and didn't say anything. But she quickly delivered the salad and walked away. When she came back to check up on us and asked how the salad was, I alerted her to my lack of silver and offered that I'm sure it would be great, if I had some way to eat it.
By this time, someone had apparently alerted a manager, because he came over and offered to get us 25% off our bill, in addition to free dessert for the both of us. The rest of the night went smoothly and the food was great, as it always is there. But the whole story just goes to show that a tip is not always deserved. I considered leaving nothing, honestly, but I'm just not that stingy. Sometimes people have off nights, but the thing is, for a customer at a restaurant, they don't know that and frankly don't care. If people go out to eat they expect good service and good food. And as a server, it is expected that you bust your ass to make that happen. Screw ups in the kitchen aren't your fault, and yet you take the heat. These reasons are why being a server is one of the hardest jobs out there. Constantly on your feet, lots of things to remember, must be hardworking, efficient, have a good attitude etc.
I ended up leaving 10% of the bill that had already had 25% taken off of it. Oh well. In my opinion, she got what she deserved. Am I a tough critic? Perhaps. I've been there, and even worked at the country club, and so my standards may be higher. But at the end of the day? It's probably not too much to ask to have silver to eat with.