No Tip, No Eat. Go Get Fast Food!

So, me and the fam went out to eat lunch at a middle of the road restaurant – not fast food, but not Chez Fancy Fancy either. When the host seated us, we noticed a payment booklet laying along the edge of the table. A white slip of paper was almost all the way out of it and the pen was barely hanging on. I picked it up to tuck in what was a credit card slip and to clip the pen neatly along the binding. While doing this I noticed some scribbly, bubble writing with a smiley face. It read:

“Thank you for being awesome! We really appreciate you!” Smiley face added for emphasis.

I smile, too, thinking of how nice it was of those customers to let their server – I look at the name on the check – Laura, know that she did a great job. I mean, think about it. How often do we miss opportunities to encourage someone else? A kind word can go far toward lifting someone’s spirits, changing the trajectory of their day, building their confidence, or simply bringing a smile to their face.

Unfortunately, my smile was quickly erased when I glanced down at the tip line. $5.26! The total bill was $132.78! Those customers, who were so well taken care of and feeling better about themselves because of Laura’s excellent service and attention, chose to show their appreciation with kind words instead of MONEY!! Really? In the restaurant business, money talks, words don’t. As a matter of fact, tips ARE your words. The tip you leave speaks for you. Tips can say “thank you soooo much”, “thanks”, “service was acceptable”, “this visit was horrible” or “you stink”.

I will stereotype these customers as girls under the age of 25, because they felt the need to write their server a note using bubbly letters, a smiley face, and an exclamation point. They did that server no favors by complimenting her and then following it up with an anorexic tip! Mixed messages, people.

Servers only get paid $2.13 PER HOUR. Without tips, a six hour shift would earn them a whopping $12.78! Can you imagine going to your job for six hours and only making $12.78? And don’t forget, that’s before taxes. Servers depend on tips to give them a decent wage; and if they’re good, a great wage. The standard tip is 15% of the total bill. Of course, if the server goes above and beyond, 20% or more can be left as a token of appreciation.

Now, back to the “grateful customers”. Server Laura probably spent a bit more than the average one hour meal time with those customers, since they oozed so much about her awesomeness; yet, they left her a measly 4% – well below even the standard tip rate.

A server has a lot of things to take care of to make your meal enjoyable. The mundane tasks alone earn her the 15% tip: taking your order, especially if it’s complicated; entering it correctly into the system; getting drinks; getting drink refills; getting ketchup, mayo, dressing, or whatever else you may need; clearing your plates; dessert, if desired; processing your payment; then cleaning and resetting the table.

Now is the time to be honest. Are you THAT customer? You know, the one who asks for all kinds of special things – not simple things, time consuming things. You need the food to be at a very specific temperature; you have a bad attitude; or you’re always looking for ways to get free stuff. Maybe you send your server back and forth to the kitchen 4 and 5 times. When she comes back with the missing side item, you ask for ketchup; when she returns with that, you ask for ranch; when she returns with that, you ask for a different drink … ASK FOR ALL OF IT AT ONCE! (or maybe twice, with a quick ‘my bad’). And after all that, you leave less than 10% tip or, dare I expose you, no tip at all.

As for us, my family had a great meal, great service, and we know how to speak server language. We weren’t going to let Laura go out like that!

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