Thursday, November 25, 2010

10 Ways To Lose Your Tip

I went to dinner the other night. Granted, it wasn't a five star restaurant. It was maybe a 2 star restaurant if I'm lucky. But still, after waiting tables from Detroit to San Diego over the course of 9 years, I formed a few opinions about waiting tables. And one of them was that you don't have to be serving $45 Filet Mignon to do a good job. If you work for tips, you should smile, give good service, and treat your customers like they're eating at The Ritz. Unless they don't serve food at the Ritz. Then forget that analogy.

Anyway, the waitress who served us made about every serving error I can think of. And my sweetheart of a husband still left her a 5-spot. But I thought I'd share my thoughts about waiting tables and losing tips when I'M paying the bill.

If you want a good tip...

10. Don't forget to greet me, ask how I'm doing, and introduce yourself when you come to my table. It's a small thing, but a basic friendly greeting isn't so hard to do. And giving your name so I can call it out later when you are royally screwing up is key too.

9. Keep my drink filled up. I think most people would agree that nothing irritates them more than having an empty drink glass. Whether it's water or pop, just keep it filled. And don't ask me. If you see it's nearly empty, and I'm not walking toward the front door yet, just bring me another drink! As quickly as this will lose you your tip, keeping on top of my drink will increase your tip.

8. Check back on me shortly after the food is delivered. Worse even than having an empty glass is sitting there with a hot steak and no silverware to cut it with, or no steak sauce, or no ranch for your fries, or your side dish being wrong, or your side dish being missing...AND THEN WAITING FOREVER for the server to show up. When I worked at Appleby's, a singular nightmare of a job, one good thing they did right was require a 2 minute check-back on your tables. Within 2 minutes of the food going down, whether you delivered it or someone else did, you checked to see if everything was OK. This is a must.

7. Don't make me look for you. If I need something throughout the meal, I would hope I could catch sight of you within 3-4 minutes. If I don't, I WILL flag down your manager or anther server to go hunt you down, and that will be an automatic tip deduction. (No lie, at dinner the other night, I had to get up FIVE times to go look for something the server should have brought me/the server herself/another person to help me. That server should have owed ME a tip!)

6. As much as this may sound contradictory considering my last two points, you don't need to ask me how everything is EVERY time you pass by. One check back at the beginning, and a few visual check backs, where you look and see if I'm glancing around for someone or not eating, is all you need until the meal looks like it's winding down. I do like my server to be visible and available, but I don't like to stop my conversation every 2 minutes to say, "Yes, everything is STILL fine." You know?

5. When you refill my drink, please bring me a new glass before taking my old one away. It makes me very uneasy when you take the glass I'm currently working on (leaving me with nothing while you're gone) and bring it back to me. How do I know you're not going to accidentally mix it up with a total stranger's while you're in the back??

4. And while I'm on the subject, take my empty glass away. And my empty plates. You should never leave the table side empty-handed. Clear something away with each trip, and when you see that we're done, don't leave the plates to go get the check; take them with you! It's nice to be able to have some clear space in front of you after you eat to lean your elbow on or set your purse on while you look for your money. This is especially true of a buffet style restaurant or one with a refillable salad bar. If I'm going for my second round of food, I better not find my same plate there when I get back.

3. Don't be afraid to apologize. And make things right if things go wrong. I know, as does anyone who's ever worked in a restaurant (or anyone with any common sense), that a lot of the mistakes that take place with food are not the server's fault. If the food is slow, it means the kitchen is backed up. If the steak isn't cooked right, I don't blame the waitress for overcooking it. And if I asked for no sauce but it showed up with sauce, I'll give the benefit of the doubt that she ordered it right but the kitchen screwed it up. But regardless of who is to blame, it's the server's place to apologize and make it right. If it's a minor thing, have it remade. Bring a free app for me to nibble on in the meantime. If it's a big screw up, bring over the manager, have him apologize, and make sure he adjusts the bill. In all my years working in restaurants, I've never once heard a manager say, "I can't believe we had to discount that check." But I've heard many complain about angry customers walking out because they weren't treated right. Comped food is cheap, lost customers cost a lot.

2. Room for Dessert? I may say no, I'm too full, but knowing me I chose your restaurant because of the desserts, not the food. So if you fail to ask me if I'd like to see a dessert menu, you're not only losing out on a potential ticket increase, but potential tip too.

1. Check, please! Other than the frustrations of an empty drink glass or a wrong food order, waiting for your check long after you've finished is up at the top. It's not so hard to print out the check as soon as the customers have started eating so it's ready to give them when they're done.


So those are my restaurant pet peeves. And honestly, avoiding them isn't that hard. Smile, be friendly, communicate about problems, keep up on drinks and dirty plates, and fix things when they go wrong and you should find yourself with a nice big tip at the end of the meal.

Unless you wait tables in Utah. In which case, I'm truly sorry for you.

18 comments:

Kristina P. said...

I completely agree!

This made me smile, because my friend Amber, who is a waitress, wrote a similar post about what customers can do in order to get good service.

Jen said...

Agreed and agreed.

Oh and one other thing. I HATE it when a waiter(ess) says its my first day, or I'm in training. Everyone who has ever worked a job has had a first day or been in training, however I don't need to know that, nor does any other customer, its not an excuse. Just apologize for the problem and fix it. Nuff said!

Charlie said...

I agree with everything you said!

I know someone who, when he goes out to eat, tells the server upfront, "Listen, if you keep my drink filled, I'll give you a good tip. If you don't, I'll give you nothing." And it always works.

I side with you on the recent restaurant extravaganza you had. I don't tip according to the amount my meal cost, I tip according to service. I got into a fight with a friend once (At Applebys, no less) because I didn't want to tip a bad waitress, and she did.

Or you could always do the Seinfeld tipping system--leave a stack of bills on the table, and take away/add as the server displeases/pleases you. That way they KNOW if they're doing a good job. :D

just call me jo said...

Agree with everything. I hate it when a server never changes expression or tone of voice and acts as if he/she is just enduring my order process and serving. ACT as if you care. It could pay off.

Suzie said...

I agree on all counts.
I am a great tipper if I am taken cared of.
It doesn't have to be perfect either!
it seems so simple...
*sigh

L. said...

Wow, this should be a training blog for all food servers! I never knew or noticed most of these things, except that I hate having to go find a server to tell her/him the steak is overcooked.

They always bring my drinks wrong - but that's MY fault. Who ever heard of wanting warm pop, or water with no ice? If it's a cold night, I even ask for HOT water, cause I LIKE it! And I feel they should be tipped for going out of their way for that.

L. said...

My Goodness, Arianne! I just noticed you are getting viewers from Arizona, New York, Tai-Pei, and Rio! Who do you KNOW in those places?

Mia said...

I tip no matter what, but I tip better for better service.

Mrs. Organic said...

This should be required reading for wait staff. The other night we ate at a local franchise and four different people from the kitchen come to ask us if everything was alright in addition to the waitress. It made me start to wonder if there was something I should be worried about.

Springs1 said...

“10. Don't forget to greet me, ask how I'm doing, and introduce yourself when you come to my table. It's a small thing, but a basic friendly greeting isn't so hard to do.”

Unless I know the server personally, I want to get the ordering STARTED and NOT DELAYED ANY by just ordering.

So basically, unless I know the server, I 100% DISAGREE with you.
People don’t go out to eat with their servers.

Asking how I am doing when I don’t know you is irritating when you are hungry and thirsty.

“Whether it's water or pop, just keep it filled. And don't ask me. If you see it's nearly empty, and I'm not walking toward the front door yet, just bring me another drink! As quickly as this will lose you your tip,:"

I COMPLETELY 100% disagree with just bring me another. I want to be ASKED, because I switch drinks at times or even decline refills at times.

You want them to just bring it, ORDER that way when greeted by asking if you can get refills automatically without being asked. I order if I want water, why don’t you speak up for yourself? Servers aren’t mind readers and not everyone wants what you want. So you ask your server for what you want.

“You should never leave the table side empty-handed. Clear something away with each trip, and when you see that we're done, don't leave the plates to go get the check; take them with you! It's nice to be able to have some clear space in front of you after you eat to lean your elbow on or set your purse on while you look for your money.”

I 100% DISAGREE if I just asked for something, because I want that something whether it would be the check or a refill just that much faster, especially if it is the check, that’s not going to the kitchen, so it takes that much more time to get our check when the server can get those dirty dishes a minute or so when they come back with the check.
Now if I don’t want anything, fine, but unless it is a small table, I honestly could care less if they take the dishes or they don’t.

“This is especially true of a buffet style restaurant or one with a refillable salad bar. If I'm going for my second round of food, I better not find my same plate there when I get back.”

At buffets, they usually have big enough tables where I stack the plates and don’t give a care if they take them or not. It’s not part of my service, because I don’t care if they take them or not. It doesn’t bother me and the only time it would ever, would be if it was an extremely small table, which 99% of the time, at buffets you can pick a large enough table to eat at unless it is totally packed.

“And if I asked for no sauce but it showed up with sauce, I'll give the benefit of the doubt that she ordered it right but the kitchen screwed it up.”

WHY if its’ something that you can CLEARLY SEE without touching the food? I can understand if you would have to touch the food to notice the mistake not to blame the server, but if you can, WHY would you not blame your server or another server for bringing it out wrong? If it is another server, your server may have put in the order wrong or the other server may not have compared the ticket to the food or just simply missed it.

Usually if there is sauce, you can SEE it without touching a thing, so WHY blame the kitchen staff for that, huh? Your server left one room and gave you the food, so if they could have clearly noticed this, but served it to you anyway, then they are clearly 100% at fault. You can’t see that? How can you possibly not blame your server for an obvious error they served you?

Continued next post:

Springs1 said...

Continued:
“Bring a free app for me to nibble on in the meantime.”

I 100 MILLION PERCENT DISAGREE with you, because whatever food I ordered, I want ONLY that food. I ordered that amount of food and those particular items, so I don’t want more food, I want MONEY OFF THE CHECK. THAT will benefit me more. More food won’t.

“So if you fail to ask me if I'd like to see a dessert menu, you're not only losing out on a potential ticket increase, but potential tip too.”

I fully 100% AGREE COMPLETELY!!
“Other than the frustrations of an empty drink glass or a wrong food order, waiting for your check long after you've finished is up at the top.”

You are contradicting yourself here. You want if fast as can be, yet, you are in favor of picking up dirty dishes. If I asked for the check, I would rather have my check first and then come back for those dirty dishes. In the time it takes to pick them up, I can be looking at the check. It’s faster.

“5. When you refill my drink, please bring me a new glass before taking my old one away. It makes me very uneasy when you take the glass I'm currently working on (leaving me with nothing while you're gone) and bring it back to me.”

I fully 100% MILLION AGREE to never let me dry. It’s just common sense to not leave me with at least ice to suck on in the meantime than nothing.

Springs1 said...

One more thing I want to add:

“Bring a free app for me to nibble on in the meantime.”

If I nibble on the stuff they bring me such as chips n' salsa(something that needs no cooking or much prepare time), I won't be hungry much for my food I did order. I didn't order chips n' salsa, I ordered a certain appetizer. This really happened.

A waiter admitted he forgot to put me and my husband's appetizer order into the computer. He offered us chips n' salsa(which was a real menu item). We declined and said we'd rather have something off the bill. I didn't want their icy salsa. I wanted what EXACTLY I ORDERED and I wanted to be HUNGRY for WHAT I ordered.

I was in the mood for what I ordered and don't want anything else.

I fully MILLION, TRILLION PERCENT disagree with offering more food. People want what they ordered and they didn't plan on getting partially full on other food they didn't want.

Maybe you are ok with getting full on other foods, but I don't want that. I think that sucks.

If I were a server, I would offer both suggestions and see what the customer wants. Maybe they might feel the way you do, but honestly, I think most feel the way we do. Especially, if you don't like what they are offering you, which sometimes that does happen.

bel said...

OMG! We went to breakfast the other day and I left a dime for the server so she wouldn't assume we'd forgotten to tip her. She was nowhere to be seen for a good 95% of our meal. We all had empty cups in front of us most of the time. Our food was lukewarm when it finally came out after we waited forever (NOT the kitchen's fault), and she looked right at my coffee cup and said she'd bring more coffee and then disappeared again. I eventually took my cup to the drink station and filled it myself, which I'm pretty sure is a health code violation. My only regret is that I didn't ask to speak to the manager.

Amy said...

I couldn't agree more on the drinks. At one of the restaurants I'm ashamed to admit that DH and I frequent, they charge more for a larger glass. Even though refills are FREE and even though the only job the wait staff has is to bring drinks and bus tables. They'd charge customers extra for not having to wait longer inbetween refills.

Here are some others:

(In no particular order)

Spare me the pet names.
I am not your honey, your sweetie, your dear, or... here's a new one from last Saturday at Olive Garden... your BABY. My name is ma'am. No, I won't screach "that's my mother!" in a horrified tone. No, it doesn't make me feel old. It's a courtesy that I'm afraid has gone by the wayside. And curses to all you "That's my mother!" folk who make waitron feel compelled to call me "sweetie" or "baby".

Don't try to impress me by telling me that you've just yelled at the kitchen staff for not getting my meal to me on time. Don't badmouth your coworkers to me or tell me how inept they are. It's unprofessional. If you really want to convey to me that you're sorry things are running so slow, nothing says "I'm sorry" like a free dessert or appetizer. (Before you tell me how the restaurant can't possibly afford this: I think the fact that you're so swamped means that you can afford it.)

Friendly chit-chat and anecdotes are fine. "My husband loves the breadsticks too!" will suffice. A long-winded rant about how you and your husband got into a fight because you didn't bring him breadsticks home but you just got done working a double-shift and why does he have to be such an asshole is too much info. My soup is getting cold. And speaking of my soup: More than one piece of gnocchi would be nice. Especially when my husband got 9.

(Mexican)
Don't bring me salsa and chips without water and then disappear for 10 minutes. If I have to run into the restroom and cup my hands under the sink, or if I have to steal water from the table behind me that hasn't been bussed yet, you're losing out on a good tip.

Do not, do not, DO NOT bring a spoon for everybody at the table with my dessert. Did I say I wanted to share my cheesecake? Unless I said I planned on giving a bite to everybody at the table, don't bring extra spoons. When you do, it makes me look like a greedy chubby girl for not offering everybody a taste.

Don't decide you're done with me once you've brought the check. I might want a box. I might want a half glass of Diet Coke. (Please, when I ask for a half glass don't bring me a full glass or I will feel compelled to drink it.) There might be an issue with the check. Check back once more or twice.

It might be a good idea to keep a copy of the "top secret drink price list" in your apron. (Because apparently, they don't customers to know how much they're paying for drinks in this industry. Personally, I think that counts as unfair surprise.) That way, when I ask how much a coke or... gasp... a cocktail costs, you don't have to look at me dumbfounded as if to say: I don't know. Why would you even ASK that? (Isn't soda the most ordered item on the menu? I find it hard to believe you don't know what a coke costs.)

That's all I can think of for now.

Amy said...

I couldn't agree more on the drinks. At one of the restaurants I'm ashamed to admit that DH and I frequent, they charge more for a larger glass. Even though refills are FREE and even though the only job the wait staff has is to bring drinks and bus tables. They'd charge customers extra for not having to wait longer inbetween refills.

Here are some others:

(In no particular order)

Spare me the pet names.
I am not your honey, your sweetie, your dear, or... here's a new one from last Saturday at Olive Garden... your BABY. My name is ma'am. No, I won't screach "that's my mother!" in a horrified tone. No, it doesn't make me feel old. It's a courtesy that I'm afraid has gone by the wayside. And curses to all you "That's my mother!" folk who make waitron feel compelled to call me "sweetie" or "baby".

Don't try to impress me by telling me that you've just yelled at the kitchen staff for not getting my meal to me on time. Don't badmouth your coworkers to me or tell me how inept they are. It's unprofessional. If you really want to convey to me that you're sorry things are running so slow, nothing says "I'm sorry" like a free dessert or appetizer. (Before you tell me how the restaurant can't possibly afford this: I think the fact that you're so swamped means that you can afford it.)

Friendly chit-chat and anecdotes are fine. "My husband loves the breadsticks too!" will suffice. A long-winded rant about how you and your husband got into a fight because you didn't bring him breadsticks home but you just got done working a double-shift and why does he have to be such an asshole is too much info. My soup is getting cold. And speaking of my soup: More than one piece of gnocchi would be nice. Especially when my husband got 9.

(Mexican)
Don't bring me salsa and chips without water and then disappear for 10 minutes. If I have to run into the restroom and cup my hands under the sink, or if I have to steal water from the table behind me that hasn't been bussed yet, you're losing out on a good tip.

Do not, do not, DO NOT bring a spoon for everybody at the table with my dessert. Did I say I wanted to share my cheesecake? Unless I said I planned on giving a bite to everybody at the table, don't bring extra spoons. When you do, it makes me look like a greedy chubby girl for not offering everybody a taste.

Don't decide you're done with me once you've brought the check. I might want a box. I might want a half glass of Diet Coke. (Please, when I ask for a half glass don't bring me a full glass or I will feel compelled to drink it.) There might be an issue with the check. Check back once more or twice.

It might be a good idea to keep a copy of the "top secret drink price list" in your apron. (Because apparently, they don't customers to know how much they're paying for drinks in this industry. Personally, I think that counts as unfair surprise.) That way, when I ask how much a coke or... gasp... a cocktail costs, you don't have to look at me dumbfounded as if to say: I don't know. Why would you even ASK that? (Isn't soda the most ordered item on the menu? I find it hard to believe you don't know what a coke costs.)

That's all I can think of for now.

Amy said...

Once DH and I and another couple went to a very pricy restaurant. The service was BAD.
Then the waiter had the nerve to add a gratuity onto our check even though we were a party of 4 and not 6 as stated on the menu.
He didn't get any tip at all that night. We spoke to the manager and had the gratuity removed.

Amy said...

To be fair, here is a blog worth viewing.
http://waiterrant.net/

I'm reading The Help right now. It's making me do a few things: Speak with a southern accent. Feel guilty for all the times I've been impatient with my children.
Feel like I never want to be rude to a person waiting on me.


Regarding some of the other comments:
I think Seinfield style tipping is rude.
I think it's rude to tell your waitron (real word) in advance what you expect... OR ELSE!
Waitron know what customers expect. If they don't know, they haven't done their job for long or they won't be doing their job for long.
I go into a restaurant assuming that the server knows what his/her job is. Special requests are great for all parties, but they shouldn't accompany a threat, IMHO.

I used to work at McDonalds by UVSC...er... UVU. Every note written by the management was followed by the words... OR YOU'LL BE TERMINATED!!!
"Don't open a new case of hash browns unless the old ones are gone OR YOU'LL BE TERMINATED".
"Shut the walk-in door tight OR YOU'LL BE TERMINATED".
Honestly, people who start a dining experience by telling the server what mistakes will "cost" him annoy me more than bad service annoys me.
Wow. You're dining at Applebee's and you have $3 in your wallet. Does that make you a big man?
Blogging about it is totally funny though. Don't get me wrong. I blog about a lot of things that I wouldn't say to a person's face. A la dooce.

Teachinfourth said...

At the very least check in once and a while and make sure that we all have liquid refreshment. I couldn't agree more with that!