Happy Wednesday! I hope you had a wonderful weekend (clearly I’m a little slow this week). We enjoyed a lovely few days of sunny weather, leaf cleaning, running of course, and some family time.
As new parents, we have been avoiding going out to dinner. For awhile, Mary was testing her vocal chords and attempting to see how much attention she could get in public. These days, she just likes trying out her new words and waving/blowing kisses to everyone. She’s adorable but also a ticking time bomb. At any moment, we know everything could turn into a nuclear meltdown.
Just over three years ago, Rock and I got married. Among the lovely gifts we received was a gift certificate to a restaurant. That card has survived multiple moves and shifts among different bags and wallets. We finally decided to go out and use that gift as a family and cross our fingers.
At the perfectly hip hour of 5:00pm on a Friday night we arrived for dinner. It had been a long time since we had been out for a family meal. I was looking forward to not cooking or cleaning up and also having a nice big fat steak. It was going to be my splurge night.
Mary had a blast eating our appetizer and coloring with crayons. It was great.
The couple across from us ate their dinner and had a pleasant conversation. Then they asked their server to bring over the manager. Having once worked in the restaurant business, this always piques my interest. We run a business where customer service and satisfaction are essential. We both leaned in a little bit to hear what was going on.
One of the patrons at the other table explained to the manager that while they love this particular restaurant, their entree was overcooked and it was not what they were looking for. The manager kindly mentioned that they finished the entree and asked how they had asked for their meal to be prepared. The patron responded that they wanted a steak made medium well.
The manager was gracious and didn’t even bother pointing out that a medium well steak might be tough. They were given a new meal to take home and not charged for that entree. We then overheard the customer hand over a gift certificate for three times the price of their dinner. They asked if they could tip from the gift card and then stated they would be generous and leave the server $2; less than 10% of the cost of the meal. Let me also note that they mentioned several times to the manager that they had fantastic service.
Here is where I have an issue: Why would you eat your entire meal and then flag down a manager after you were finished to let them know that your meal wasn’t satisfactory?
Restaurants are in the customer service business. It is their job to make sure you are having a great experience. My first job ever was as a hostess of a very nice Italian restaurant. I am still forever grateful to that company for taking a leap and hiring me. The general manager was a wonderful man who taught me so much about customer service. He graciously showed me how to answer a phone in a pleasant and professional manner, and how to deal with multitasking and “difficult” customers. It is not a surprise to me to see that he is now a top restaurant manager in Las Vegas for a large corporation.
Here is what I learned: When you go out to eat, your server basically makes no hourly wage. It works this way because the industry assumes that you the consumer will compensate by tipping.
I know this infuriates some and you say that the restaurants should compensate the server so that you don’t have to. That is how it works in Europe and other countries. While that is a great concept, our government has not made that a law. Employers can pay servers $2 or $3 per hour, meaning servers rely on your tips.
This works in your favor because most servers want your gratuity. They are going to do everything in their power to give you a wonderful dining experience. This also means they are freaking out when the kitchen is working slowly or providing you with subpar food.
Here is what you get: When you dine at a restaurant, you are paying for the experience. You are paying to view a menu and choose what sounds good at that moment. You are paying for someone to call in your order, bring the food to you, clean up, and make sure your drinks are full. You don’t have to cook, clean, or do the dishes.
There is also a full staff working with your server. Bartenders, bussers, and assistants delivering food to your table are all part of the team. Your server often has to share a portion of their tips with all of these people. So when you stiff their tip, everyone is getting slighted.
Please be patient and considerate when things aren’t perfect. Sometimes we get bad service. When this happens, it is important to sit back for a moment and look around. Does your server have 10 tables and everyone is asking for something or waiting for their meals too? Is the meal taking a long time? Remember that your server doesn’t have control over a slow kitchen. Keep in mind that sometimes a hostess can get a bit hasty and seat too many people in your server’s section at once and they are bogged down or overwhelmed.
I honestly believe that most people are good and they want to do well at their jobs. Your server is likely not trying to provide you with a poor experience. They want your tips and want to do well by you.
If you see that they are trying but very busy, maybe new, or perhaps the kitchen is at fault, please don’t discount the tip. These people are working very hard and rely on your gratuity.
My golden rule for going out to dinner is that if we are going to afford paying for drinks and food, we walk in knowing that we are also paying for the gratuity. If we can’t afford to properly tip, we shouldn’t be dining out.
How do you feel about tipping or dining out? Have you ever worked at a restaurant? Do you have a toddler (or other family member…haha) that you fear will erupt at the dinner table?