Taste of the Town
Everybody into the tip pool? Wait just a minute!
A tip of my hat to the umpteen readers who responded to last week's column about "Oh, Miss! " (the server who explained how her tips were...
Seattle Times restaurant critic
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A tip of my hat to the umpteen readers who responded to last week's column about "Oh, Miss!" (the server who explained how her tips were pooled and divided) and Bob Knudson (a diner who felt his tips should go only to his server). Here's a sampling of those comments:
It takes a village
From Richard Reber: "I worked in fine dining for 18+ years. I saw how much waitstaff make on a daily basis from both sides of the house (kitchen and front end). The other staff ALL help out the waitstaff tremendously. Why shouldn't they get a small share of the tips? Most make barely over minimum wage.
If they want it all they should do ALL the work: bus the table, cook the food, clean the dishes, pour the drinks, etc. Almost all waitstaff, wherever I worked, made more than anybody else except maybe the restaurant manager — in some cases even more than them. It takes a 'village' to feed a person, not just one waitstaff."
Cooks boil over
From (cook) Angelina Jacobson: "Oh, Miss' tip equation was presented with a bit of a 'poor me' bent, but if you ask me, $95 dollars a night take-home is pretty good, especially in a five-night workweek. Add this to their hourly wages, and servers take home upward of $750 weekly. Not bad for unskilled, unschooled labor.
"Contrast this with the plight of the cook. We are paid hourly wages nearly commensurate to servers, though many (now most) of us have gone to school, done apprenticeships or, at the very least, devoted long hours of our lives to perfecting our craft. We perform, night after night, the unsung feat of putting whole tables' worth of food in the window at once, all from different stations, piping hot and artfully presented.
"When your food arrives at your table in a timely manner, all of it executed brilliantly and exactly what you ordered — to all of your substitute-steamed-green beans-no-garlic-no-butter-hypoallergenic demands — you may toss a little extra to the server, but who really deserves the tip?"
From ("pastry/prep cook and striving chef") Melinda Lee: "Thanks for giving me the opportunity to stand up for all the chefs, line cooks, pantry cooks and pastry chefs around town that feel we need a little compensation from the front of the house from time to time, even if it is only enough to pay for a beer after our 10- or 12-hour shift. [To the servers] 'Stop crying about tipping-out the rest of the restaurant. If you don't like it, pick another career that requires 5 or 6 hours for a shift and no education.'
"Personally I think all tips should be pooled and distributed out to all employees, everyone should make a pay rate based on experience like other professions, or better yet, let's just pay people a reasonable, livable wage and forgo tipping all together. ... We in the back of the house have no tolerance. You are home in bed or enjoying your second glass of wine while we are scrubbing the grills and pulling the food-saturated mats."
Unschooled? Unskilled? 86 the thought!
From (former waitress) Megan Maiuri: "Serving may look like simple work, but it is both mentally and physically challenging. As a server, I needed to know about food, people, wine. I might have five other tables and I need to think many steps ahead so that I can time things correctly at all my tables. I was a comedian, gave tourist info, made menu suggestions to people I knew less than a minute, walked the tightrope-style relationship between what the customer wanted and what a cranky chef might want to give, all while smiling and trying not to show distress when I knew I needed to be at another table while the customer could not make up their mind. ...
"My favorite customers were the ones who treated me like a real person. Keep in mind that behind every apron and order pad is a person with a life who is doing that job to make a living. We might all feel differently if our paychecks were scattered around the office daily in an ambiguous sort of way."
Hey, bartender! Give it to me, straight up
From Mike Gaston: "I've worked in the food-service industry as a server and a bartender. I loved the tips, but God I felt like a monkey. Some customer would give you a big tip and then you felt compelled to cater to them more than to another customer who wasn't as good of a tipper but was probably far more respectful. If you don't show that favoritism, you just negated the good-tippers' tip, leaving them pretty irritated.
"I hate tipping now. Tipping has become ridiculous. You go out for a nice meal, pay 9 percent in state tax, and 20+ percent in gratuity so you don't look like a cheapskate. 30 percent on top of the bill? Ridiculous. ... "
I'll have the $20 burger, hold the tip
From Aderus D. Milan: "I wish we would abolish tipping altogether. What is the tip for? A person provides a service they should be providing. Hello? It's their job! Restaurant owners should be paying 'commissions' on entree sales and/or bonuses, plus higher wages. But if this standard became the norm tomorrow, Red Robin would be charging the public $20 for a burger."
When in Rome
From Dennis Flores: "It's a shame we have to spend so much time and energy on the subject of tips. Only in America. We should take the approach that Europe, for example, takes. Either charge a service charge (cuperto) like in Italy, or bundle the tips into the food prices, or pay the servers/wait staff a decent wage, then none of this 'tipping' craziness will consume our daily lives."
From Brian McNeill: "I, too, was in the 'just include it in the bill camp' until I lived in Australia for a little over a year where the culture of work is similar but tipping is not expected. Service in all other industries (retail, professional, etc.) is comparable to what we have in the States; however, the service in restaurants was generally awful. I chock it up to a lack of incentive. Serving well is hard work. However, with no hope of promotion, or a pay raise for good performance, what incentive does a server have to go the extra mile without the hope of a good tip at the other end?"
Tips for tippers
From (server) Caitlin Meyer: "Respect goes a long way on either side of the table, whether you're eating or serving the food. In a lot of ways, I'd rather have a polite table that tips less, than a rude table that tips 25 percent."
From Gary Powell: "I've increased my tips for meals without alcohol to 20 percent. With a single bottle of wine costing nearly as much as one dinner, I'm back at 17 to 18 percent. (I double the tax — which is nearly 9 percent — and round up to the nearest dollar.) For lousy service I don't stiff the person, I complain on the spot. But nicely, as I don't want anyone spitting in my dinner when I'm not looking."
From Stephen Clark: "If you are not happy with somebody or something, tell them. Just leaving a poor tip is like giving the finger to somebody on the freeway: Nothing will change and they will only think you are the jerk. If you have an experience worth noting to the manager, write a short note on the back of the receipt. The manager will be the one to clear the register at the end of the shift and will see all receipts/comments."
From Lorena Long: "I don't work in the food industry anymore, but when I do eat out I tip 20 percent or rounded up over that a bit. If I am dining out with small children who made a big mess or somebody who was demanding (and embarrassing!), I tip even more, even if I have to hide it under my own plate as everybody is rising to leave."
From Rosanne Cohn: "If I want to really show my appreciation, I put a tip on the bill when I charge [to a credit card], and leave a few extra dollars [in cash] separately for my server. I know many don't agree with me, but I do appreciate when the wait staff goes out of their way to make it a pleasant experience and frankly, if I can afford to be eating there, I can certainly afford a few extra 'shekels' to say thank you."
Nancy Leson: 206-464-8838 or email@example.com.
More columns available at seattletimes.com/nancyleson.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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