Saturday, June 20, 2009

Let Me Give You a Tip

There's a saying that posits that, "A man's character is measured not by how he treats his peers, but by how he treats those who serve him." Or something like that. Regardless, the spirit of this axiom never rings more true to me than when I'm working at the restaurant (Feast @ 4East - seriously, come visit me, awesome food at reasonable prices).

I'm sure you know that the best way to show your appreciation to your server in a restaurant is to leave him/her a good tip. So many people, though, prove time and again that they don't know what constitutes a good tip. It never ceases to amaze me when someone tells me what a great job I've done and how much they enjoyed my service, and then proceed to leave me a lousy 13%. And so, in the spirit of Gentlemanly Behavior (the cornerstone of character here at These Gentlemen), I bring you:

The ali d Guide to Tipping Etiquette

The Basics:

How Much Should I Tip My Server? (or The 15% Myth)

Ever heard this one? "I used to work in a restaurant, so I always leave at least 20%."

There's a reason for that. Whether or not you see it, your server is probably busting his ass to take care of his customers. Four to eight hours of running around (often literally) carrying things for people is exhausting. Not only that, but he's working for less than minimum wage. A lot less. Think $3/hour (before taxes). Without your tip, your server has essentially done his job for free.

That being said:

20% = You were my server. You did a GOOD job. If your server was polite, timely, and got you through to the end of the meal without any disasters, he did well, and deserves a good tip. A good tip is 20%. Anything less probably makes your server wonder where he went wrong.

15% = You were my server. You were OK. You did your job. So maybe you had to wait 20 minutes before he could take your order, he forgot that you asked for no pickles on your burger, and he brought the check before you could order dessert. Did you get your food? Then your server did his job, and he deserves an average tip.

10% = I have never encountered a reason to leave a 10% tip. Ever.

Was your server entertaining you with funny jokes? Did he refill your water glass 6 times before you even had to ask? Did he offer to change the preparation of a meal to suit your tastes? If your server did a GREAT job, consider kicking him 25-30%. I guarantee it'll make his night.

Crap! I forgot my phone and thus have no calculator! How do I know how much to leave?

It's very simple, actually. All you need is some grade school arithmetic. Remember this little trick, and you'll never have trouble figuring out the tip again. Look at the total on your bill. Round it up to the nearest dollar. If you then move the decimal one space to the left, you have just taken 10% of the check. Multiply that 10% by 2, and you have the minimum you should be tipping a good server. For example:

Your total for the evening comes to $116.30
$116.30 --> $117 --> 11.7 --> $11.70
$11.70 x 2 --> roughly $23

With smaller checks it's even easier. Total comes to $22.40? $2.30 + $2.30 = $4.60. After a while the math becomes automatic. Should you find yourself being waited on by a lackluster server and feel the need to tip less than 20%, simply move your decimal point and then add half of that total and you've calculated 15%.

Your bill for the night is $36.50
$36.50 --> $37 --> 3.7 --> $3.70
$3.70/2 --> $1.85
$3.70 + $1.85 --> $5.55

The Big Leagues:

1. If you stay late, leave a bigger tip. As mentioned earlier, tips = salary when you work in a restaurant. The more tips you make, the more money you can take home with you, so you typically want to wait on as many tables as possible.

If your party is chilling out for an hour after you've finished eating, you've prevented your server from getting another table, which would result in another tip. I'm not saying you shouldn't hang around - I love relaxing at a restaurant with a group of friends. I'm just asking you to bump the tip by five or ten dollars in recognition of the fact that your server has lost potential additional business or has to stay later in order to clean up after you.

2. If you have a coupon/get comped something, tip as though that item were included on the bill. Even if you have a coupon for a free appetizer, your server still has to take the order, send it to the kitchen, bring it out to you, and pick up the dishes. He is doing the exact same amount of work that he would be doing if you were paying for the food. Please tip him accordingly by adding the price of the free item into the bill total before you calculate the tip.

3. If you can't afford to tip, don't go out to eat. It's that simple.

And please remember, above all, that everyone has a bad day every once and awhile. A spilled drink or a mixed-up order does not a terrible server make. One of my co-workers at Applebee's once worked through a stab wound because she needed the tip money to go to the hospital to get checked out. Your good tip might be the best part of an otherwise terrible day. You never know.


David Pratt said...

I find this both informative and gentlemanly.

Capt. said...

I totally agree. Also consider this: if you go to a dineresque establishment and you spend less than $20, leave at least a $5 tip. We're all gentlemen here, or at least we should strive to be.

Max Nova said...

Stabbin' good in the neighborhood.

Also thank you for emphasizing how fucking easy it is to calculate a tip. I'm not sure why dividing by 10 then doubling or adding another half is tough.

B.Graham said...

thank you, thank you, thank you thank you thank you

Springs1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Springs1 said...

"15% = You were my server. You were OK. You did your job. So maybe you had to wait 20 minutes before he could take your order, he forgot that you asked for no pickles on your burger, and he brought the check before you could order dessert. Did you get your food? Then your server did his job, and he deserves an average tip."

20 minutes to take my order is INEXCUSABLE SERVICE, PERIOD and DESERVES A BIG FAT ZERO for IGNORING ME!! Are you CRAZY to think you deserve ANYTHING for waiting that long? Are you NUTS, for real, ARE YOU? You wouldn't want to wait that long, so don't expect any SANE PERSON TO do the same, PERIOD!!

When servers bring the check without offering dessert, sometimes, it's required during lunch time, but during dinnertime, I wouldn't take off much for that. During lunch, I wouldn't take off anything.

You said "You did your job", NO, any good, caring server would not let someone wait 20 minutes for ANYTHING that's in their control, period. Even if the server is in the bathroom, with cell phones today, you can call the manager to get somebody else to help out or tell someone before you go to the bathroom. 20 minutes is INSANE to wait that long for ANYTHING. YOU DIDN'T DO YOUR JOB, you IGNORED YOUR JOB at that rate.

The servers that forgot that I asked for no pickles, 99% of the time the server doesn't admit fault they put in the order wrong, which since 99% of the time, the pickles are underneath the bun, I have no clue who is at fault to take off anything. Let's say they admit fault, not a huge deal, maybe 14% would be the tip if nothing else went wrong, 17% if they apologized.

"It never ceases to amaze me when someone tells me what a great job I've done and how much they enjoyed my service, and then proceed to leave me a lousy 13%."

When I tell servers they were great, they got 25%-30%, period!! I just don't like the attitude that you said they did their job, but the customers had to wait 20 minutes to get any service of any kind. THAT is not doing your job. 20 minutes(if the server doesn't greet me and my husband), then we'd leave instead of just sit. The longest we have given is 10 minutes and if the server can't make it by then, we just won't eat there, PERIOD!! NOTHING is worth waiting 20 minutes to be acknowledged. I don't care how good the food and drinks are.

Just because we got our food even though let's say we waited 20 minutes for you to show up doesn't mean you deserve anything? SO WHAT? Even if I got my food, but the entire thing is wrong, SO WHAT if I eventually get it? Do you think you deserve a tip? I don't and most SANE people wouldn't even if you comped an item. I don't care, because the wait wasn't worth the freebie. My time is worth more than that. I came there to have a good time, not to be miserable.

Just think about the service you provide. Did you make mistakes and if you did, HOW did you handle them? Did you even say you were sorry when you messed up? If you didn't, why do you expect niceness back in the tip? Did you make a customer wait 15 minutes for a coke? I mean seriously, sometimes servers don't act like they are CUSTOMERS!! A coke doesn't take no 15 minutes and honestly one coke shouldn't take even 10 minutes. 5 minutes at the most, even that is kind of long for ONE coke.

Just think about the service you gave and what you did wrong? Think about it as if that were YOU!! Then, evaluate the tip. Don't always lable someone cheap if you know you did wrong and especially, if you didn't apologize for your mistakes

Jason Heat said...

David Pratt said...

Cool story, bro.

Ozkirbas said...

Huh. The precise demographic this post seems intended to address responded! How quaint.

Matt Lindeboom said...

Twenty MINUTES is a while. But I would also need TO know the circumstances of THE delay. When I was in Asia I waited about twenty minutes to be served and no one was IN THE restaurant. So I left. A different time I waited twenty minutes to BE acknowledged. But the place was very crowded, and our server did a great job beyond the initial WAIT! So we tipped him well.

Alex said...

I know there's a lot of John Barkmeyer worship that happens here, but can we please start a cult devoted to Matt Lindeboom?

Scotty said...

When I was a lad, a waiter knocked into me as I was rounding a corner and spilled hot coffee on me that burned my belly - not seriously, but it still hurt. It was both of our faults - neither of us were looking where we were going. The manager pulled me aside, sprayed some Lidocaine on the burn, and then took me back to my mother. He apologized, and said that our meal was on the house. We saw the waiter as we were leaving, who babbled his frantic apologies to me again. My mom smiled, told him not to worry about it, and slipped him the cash for the full amount of the check plus the tip. I asked later - why? "Because, Scott, he's about to lose his job."

Dennis said...

That's an awesome story Scotty.

Good post. Obviously, I'm biased as my work for the past 5 years has all been tip based. I think overall people just need to be aware that your server is most likely serving many tables. At a restaurant I worked at in Ocean City our standard shift was 5 tables at a time, with 1-2 more if someone called out. Between keeping 15-30 peoples orders straight, keeping drinks filled, arguing with bartenders over making drinks in a timely manner, arguing with the kitchen staff (who probably speak little or no English), arguing with your fellow servers (who will try to steal your food when it comes out for their tables), and prepping food (we had to do desserts/salads/soups/some appetizers) it can get overwhelming and even seemingly simple tasks can get overlooked/delayed.

Tipping well really can make a servers day. Dealing with bitchy/whiny/just plain mean people all day wears you down. Getting that good tip from a nice table, or, even better, getting a good tip from that table that I made a mistake on, is very encouraging. Obviously, some people could give a shit less about how their server, or anyone other than themselves feel. It is just great to have someone acknowledge your hard work through a good tip.

I would never leave 0 tip, but if I get terrible service I leave 8-10%. And by terrible I mean it has only happened twice in my life.

P.S. Tip your delivery drivers too! 9th most dangerous job in America! I've known at least a dozen drivers who have been assaulted/robbed/hurt in a car accident.

Jstone said...

I'm late to the game but this is my philosophy:

20% almost always. Exceptions:

Extra if either A. 20% doesn't round out to a good number, I'll tip an extra buck if I have a 5, whatevs but I don't want to go below 20%. B. If the service was really impressive like this guy who answered all our questions about where the meat we were eating came from. HE KNEW THE COUNTY! He gets 25%

Less if and only if something ridiculous happens. One time at Bombay Gaylord in Silver Spring (a usually great restaurant) the server served another table and got them a check and out the door in the time it took for him to get us our check from when we asked. It was almost an hour and we asked like 5 times. Sorry but fuck that guy, he got no tip that is inexcuseable and I hope he picked up after his other tables better.

To me that seems fair.

Daniel said...

once, i left a penny on the table on a piece of paper marked "tip." i was 10 or so and with some friends on a school trip.

man did that busboy get pissed!!!

Scotty said...

Part of me has always wanted to do this:

Jayme said...

A friend of mine was waiting tables one night and happened to be serving a bold fellow who was putting the moves on her the whole dinner. When it came time to clean up the table and collect her tip, she found that the man had scribbled and left her his phone number as his "tip". If that isn't the best way to pick up a waitress, I don't know what is. The moral of this story is that clearly the best tip is casual sex.