The 2013 Guide to Tipping

This is a topic I’m tired of people not understanding. Tipping is an important aspect of the restaurant business, and helps it function better. People don’t seem to understand that. Not too long ago, I got into an argument with my grandma about the importance of tipping. She told me I didn’t work for tips, but I worked because I had a job.

I respectfully disagree.

Christmas week. I worked eleven days in a row. Back to back. Without one day off. Eleven shifts ranging anywhere from six to twelve hours long. At the end of my 75-ish hour work week? $105. I made it $105 my paycheck from Christmas week. That’s it. I understand that I made a lot of good tips that week, but not everyone understands how exactly tipping works; so I am here to share some helpful tips (no pun intended) and guides for your next dining experience.

Know the Difference Between Service and Bill Total

This one that gets under my skin more than anyone who is not a server will ever know. There is a difference, people. If you’re low maintenance, don’t need too many things, don’t ask too many questions, and don’t make the server run around like a chicken with no head for you, tip off the bill. If, however, you need something every time the server is within eye’s distance from you, make them sweat for you, treat them like they’re your slave, tip off the service.

Examples, if you please.

I used to work at Chili’s. I saw everything from bar fights, parking lot fights, strokes, heart attacks, choking babies, people throwing margaritas at me, more policemen than that I’ve ever had to deal with, the list just goes on. It was out of control. But customers don’t realize what it is the server actually goes through when they work. I’ve had a lot of jobs before. Chili’s was my ninth, and now working where I work is my tenth. I know what I’m talking about. And trust me when I tell you that serving is one of the most stressful jobs there is.

Back to the point. Tipping. Chili’s has this stupid promotion that was only supposed to be there for one month when I started almost 3 years ago. If you dine there at all, it’s known as the 2 for 20. The stupid 2 for 20. I hated the 2 for 20 more than anything I have ever hated in my life. A typical 2 for 20 experience?

“Hi welcome to Chili’s, my name is Andrew, can I get you started with something to drink?”

“Can we get two waters? And we’re gonna do the 2 for 20 and we want chips and salsa.”

I already hate you.

You get them waters, you get their stupid chips, and you bring them back to the table.

“Are you already to order or would you like a few more minutes on the menu?”

“We’re each going to do the chicken fajita.”

Stupid. Effing. Fajitas. If you people only knew what went in to getting a fajita… I swear on my life it was the happiest moment I’ve ever felt on my last day at Chili’s and I realized I would never have to serve a fajita again. You don’t even know.

So, of course, these people chug down their waters like we’re in the middle of a drought and are finished with their chips before they even finish placing their order. After about ten water refills and five or six chips and salsa refills, it’s time for the stupid fajitas to take twenty minutes to set up to bring out to the table sizzling hot. And of course, by this point, you’ve got maybe five or six other tables all demanding the same thing. People don’t understand that. You’re not the only person the server is dealing with.

After you bring the fajitas, they want yet another refill on their chips and salsa (that they’ll never even eat again, they just want to make you work). Then they want more sour cream. Then they want more water. Then they want more guacamole. Then their salsa is making their chips soggy so they want a new batch (that they’re not going to eat). Then they’re out of tortillas. Then their fajita isn’t sizzling hot anymore. Then they wanted dessert. Then you bring the check after they decide that dessert is too expensive. $21.65. Busting a sweat for them the entire time, they pay $24 cash.

“Keep the change.”

$2.35 for being treated like their bitch the entire time. They leave you two bucks and half of that has to go to the bartender for tipout anyway.

You think I’m just whining. That’s fine. “How many $2 tips do you get all night?” you’re asking. “It has to add up.”

Well at the end of the night when your sales hit $7-800 dollars and everyone only leaves you $2 and then you have to tip out everyone and you only walk with 8% of your sales leaving you with $60…not a good time. Especially if you’ve spent a good 2-3 hours with the table (that’s more so the new job than the old one) it kind of feels like a personal slap in the face. It’s like them telling you your personality sucks. That gets degrading after a while.

Remember the Tipout

I could complain about some tipping ethic from the Chart House (where I work now) as well, but if you think I’m whining unnecessarily about a $2 tip, I will leave the service vs. tab point by just saying to remember tips are supposed to be based on service, so if the server is working hard for you, be nice to them.

Moving on.

The tipout.

Most people don’t even think about this when they tip. If you haven’t worked in a restaurant (and therefore don’t know what you’re talking about in the first place), let me tell you this: The tipout is ridiculous.

At the Chart House, the tip out at the end of the night stands thus:

Bar: 1% of your total sales.

Busser: 2% of your total sales.

Food runner: 1% of your food sales.

So, at the end of the night, say your check out looks something like this (this is all just random numbers off the top of my head):

Food: $1050
Liquor: $200
Tax: $200
Total Sales: $1450
Total without tax: $1250

Then comes the tip out.

Bar: $13 (because you have to round up.)
Bus: $26
Food: $11

So, if you’ve been keeping up with me, that’s a $50 tipout. If I have a table whose bill is $250 and they leave me what they should leave me, their entire tip goes to my tipout at the end of the night. So if I’ve had 3 or 4 tables with a $200+ tab to come to this amount of sales at the end of the night, and they all stiff me or leave me really poor tips, I’m $50 in the hole and haven’t made anything. The other night I tipped out more than I made because I had people stiffing me left and right.

And you wonder why servers are so grouchy.

Never Do The Verbal Tip. Ever.

You know who you are, and you know what this is. The verbal tip is letting the server know how much you loved them. Verbally.

“You were the best server we’ve ever had! We loved you so much! We’re coming back just  for you!”

Oh, thank you so much, you really make me feel —

Total: $150
Tip: $10
Total: $160

Like following you out into the parking lot and punching you in the face.

How am I supposed to pay bills with verbal tips? Go to my landlord and be like “I gave everyone excellent service, is that good enough?” No? It’s not good enough for me, either. Think about it in writer’s terms: Show, don’t tell. Show me how much you enjoyed my service. On your bill. Don’t tell me. Kind words don’t pay bills.

Remember You Might Not Be The Only Jerk

You think it’s all right to skip tipping well, just this once. You’ve had a long day. Maybe you donated to charity (working as a server is, honestly, like a charity case) and you want to conserve your money.

Take that to Taco Bell and get out of my face.

If you have a night where everyone decides tipping isn’t a fun option, you have a rough night. People really, really don’t understand the work a server puts in to taking care of a table. The next time you go to a restaurant, keep your eye on your server. Not to complain or be a jerk. Just watch how many things are asked of them in the short amount of time you’re there. Nothing feels better, honestly, than when someone notices how hard you’re working, gives you a verbal tip, and then leaves you extra on top of that. Those kind hearted souls are the reason servers work. It feels so incredibly good to be appreciated.

If You Can’t Afford It, Stay Home

That one is self-explanatory. If you can’t afford the tip, you can’t afford the meal.

Above all else, when you go out: Be nice. If you make an impression on a server, for everyone’s sake let’s just hope it was a good one. You do not want to be known for being a cheap jerk.



2 thoughts on “The 2013 Guide to Tipping

  1. We always tip at least 20% (slightly less if the service was poor, but we try to be observant of the environment to understand the reasons, which are often not the fault of the server at all). Having worked for tips several times in my life, I always treat restaurant staff as I’d want to be treated: fairly and with kindness. It’s a hard enough job without having jerks for customers.


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