Five years of experience might not make me an expert, but it does make me experienced.
Those five years have taught me that I’m a better server than some, and, provided my attitude doesn’t get in the way, often deserving of a good tip. Those same five years have opened my eyes to a glaring fact that surprises me less these days, but continues to rile me: people are CLUELESS!
Okay, so maybe not in general, but in tipping, I guarantee you that the majority of people I serve have no idea what they should be doing. They have no idea that their ten-percent-before-taxes is breaking my heart, one table at a time. They have no idea that my Waitress Face is hiding my profound disappointment. We laughed, we cried, it was better than cats… until they got up to the counter and slapped me in the face with their loonie. WHAAA–?!
Clueless. That’s all. They’re not having a bad time. They enjoyed their food. They dug the music. They wanted my silver spoon handle ring. They encouraged me in my future career. They offered to send my children to school… And then they broke my heart.
I have thought a lot about what might be done to illuminate the unwritten rules of the service industries of the world. I really am no closer to a solution, other than to do what I do best and rant about it on my blog (I’ve also thought about writing something more substantial. An essay? A compilation? A booklet on how to be a good customer? … Thoughts welcomed).
So. For those NOT in the know, here are the basics:
- An average (think: minimum) tip these days in Canada is 15%. Yup. FIFTEEN, not ten.
- In recognition of good service (defined below), tip 20% or thereabouts.
- MOST IMPORTANT: 10% is an insult. A letdown. A farce.
Fun fact: did you know that the minimum wage for servers is less than for everyone else because it is assumed that tips will provide the rest?
Yes, someone decided to give YOU the power to pay part of my wages! Why you gotta let me down?! Can you believe there are actually people out there who think: “I worked hard for my money: why should I give any to you?” Hi. This is me, working hard for my money. Which used to be your money. If you didn’t want to pay for the whole restaurant experience, why did you leave your own kitchen?
Okay. Good service. The twenty-percent qualifying round. These are things a good server does (watch for them!):
- Greet you in a friendly manner
- Get to you as soon as they can (sometimes that means they’ll get to you to tell you they’ll get to you as soon as they can)
- Keep you in the loop (specials, soups, what the kitchen is out of, any delays, where the bathroom is, etc.)
- Explain the menu, if it’s not self-explanatory
- Ensure your drinks and food arrive in a timely manner, or, if there’s nothing that can be done, keep you in the loop about it and give you updates about what’s happening
- Double-check to make sure that you got what you ordered and that everything is as it should be, you have the condiments, utensils, drinks, napkins, etc. that you need.
- Check on you after you start eating to ask if everything is okay, or if there’s anything you need
- Keep your water glass more full than empty
- Notice when your drink is low and ask if you would like another
- Clear your plates in a timely manner (the best servers often wait until everyone is done: it’s more polite that way)
- Offer you apres-dinner items (drinks, dessert, etc.)
- Make sure you are good and done before speaking of/presenting the bill
- Process your bill in a timely, professional manner
- Try to avoid mentioning anything about a tip. That’s just tacky!
My Condensed Idiot’s Guide to Being a Good Customer will have to wait for now. I have papers to write. Meanwhile, don’t forget: you are part of your restaurant experience. If you are being annoying, chances are your server will be less inclined to give you good service. Are you doing it just so that you’ll have an excuse to give him or her a lower tip? Hmmm.
You know that adage, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? Think of your server as Mama, and life gets better for everyone.