Thursday, May 21, 2009

Be kind to your waitress…

Today is National Waitstaff Day. (it is! Look it up here! ) Today is a good day to appreciate those hard workers who get up every day, come into work, put a smile on while they roll up all the silverware for the day, fill all the condiments, make the iced tea (sweetened AND unsweetened) sweep the floors, set the chairs up and make the coffee. All this before they even bring you your breakfast.

The Girl had just recently told me a story about a family that came into her restaurant. I was a bit appalled and thought to myself that I was going to just have to write about them in my blog. What better day to do it than National Waitstaff Day?

Her restaurant has a policy to add a 15% gratuity to parties of six or more. I think that is perfectly acceptable. Big parties are a lot of work, and usually a server has to put two of her tables together for the one group.

This particular group had 5 adults, 1 child and a baby in a highchair. At the end of the meal, the woman came up to my daughter, their server, and demanded (not asking politely, mind you) demanded that she remove the gratuity because she didn’t feel her 4 year old counted as a person to make the group a party of six.

Yet, the child ordered a regular meal, drank 3 glasses of soda that the waitress had to refill and made a mess that only four years olds are capable of.

The Girl smiled graciously and said sure, she’d be glad to take it off for her, which she did and then they left her right about 10%.

In honor of waitstaff everywhere, I am going to give you some tips on how to tip your server. Feel free to pass it along.

How to Tip Your Server (*prepared in part by Wiki-How-to)

1. Determine the “tippable” total.

If you used a coupon, you should tip on what the bill would have been before the coupon.  Otherwise you’re punishing the waiter for the management’s efforts to bring you into their restaurant. For example, if you have a 2 for 1 coupon, the server still did the full amount of work, you should tip on what the bill was before the coupon.

2. Evaluate your service. The key is to objectively judge the service, and the service alone. If the food isn’t good, or the prices are high, things like that, it isn’t the server’s fault. You should base your tip on things like:

-how quickly your food was brought to you

-how the food matched with your order

-how often the server checked with you (that’s a biggie for me!)

-how friendly your server was

-and how fast your bill was brought and processed- no one likes to hunt down a server to get the bill

3. Give the benefit of the doubt.  If the service isn’t quite perfect, take a look around. Unless the server is downright rude or neglectful, consider this:

-if the place is understaffed and busy, that’s a management issue. A waitress can only do so much

-if a waiter seems forgetful, remember everyone is new for a while. Being a server is all about multitasking and it’s a steep learning curve.

-if the food wasn’t cooked properly, remember that the waitress didn’t cook it. Sometimes the kitchen is at fault.

4. Determine the tip. The general guideline is 20% for excellent service, 15% for solid service and 10% for bad service. On average, people tip around 18%.

-remember that servers make a little over $2.00 per hour. That’s right, well below minimum wage. They have to make a certain amount because taxes are taken out whether the tip is there or not.

-if you have small children, remember the server has to clean up that mess. Any of us who have children, know that our kids do make a mess.

-if you’re having a business meeting and taking up a table for a long time, especially when it’s busy, remember that the server could have had two seatings in the time you’ve been sitting there. Tip accordingly, even if you didn’t require a lot of service during that time. The more turnover, the more opportunity to make tips.

5. Calculate the tip.

-an easy way to determine 20% is to take the total, move the decimal over one to make ten percent, then just double that amount. For example, if the pretax bill is 32.45, move the decimal over to the left making it 3.24 and double- $6.48. Give the girl $6.50 and call it a day. Don’t quibble over a couple of pennies.

6. Try to tip in cash. Sometimes there’s a hold on the credit cards and the server doesn’t get that tip for a few days. If your service was exceptional and you have the cash, let the server take it home with her that night.

I know this is a long post, but I really felt it was timely. These are hard times for everyone. If you have the money to go out to dinner, don’t skimp on the tip just because times are tight. That server is trying to make a living, too.

Here’s a note to any waitstaff out there who might be reading this: You never know if the person you are waiting on is (or used to be) a server. We tip really well, but we don’t just give it to you. We know good service when we see it.

I think today I’ll have lunch at my favorite little Cajun cafe and tip my Girl waitress really well.

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