Dining Out And Treating People Well

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.


Shorts in November is the way to my heart!

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?

19 thoughts on “Dining Out And Treating People Well

  1. Well said! I kind of wish they would do away with tipping because of people like this. I always tip 20%. Period. People like this should have to spend a day/night waiting on tables to see how much work it is and how hard it can be to please some customers. I’ve never done it myself, but like you said, look around and take everything into account. It’s not that hard to have some understanding and compassion. But sounds like these people were just interested in getting a free meal.

    • I 100% completely agree with you. The fact that they waited until they finished their meal says it all to me. And I am totally with you 20% is my minimum and if you blow me away, I make sure to let you know with a little extra.

  2. I also tip 20% at minimum.

    My mother was very strict with us when we were “outside.” Inside the house, we could act like holy terrors and she’d put up with it, but if we threw a tantrum out in public, we knew it was our deaths. We saved our shenanigans for the car and house.

    • Haha, I know exactly what you mean! If we were even slightly misbehaving, my parents could give us that glance and we knew we were in for a horrible car ride. We are doing out best to make sure we raise a well behaved little lady!

  3. Thankfully I’m over the toddler years and I’ve been the the vet, as they say. No more toddlers for daddy.

    I am a 25% tipper. 15% if the service is poor… and I let the waiter/waitress know I’m displeased.

    Next, I’m not so stupid as to expect a medium well steak to taste good. What a maroon! Though the cook did screw up… When cooking a medium well steak, you put a 1 pound weight on the steak and cook it medium. This turns most of the pink brown without screwing up the steak. So, whenever someone orders medium well at a decent restaurant, now you can now have a chuckle at their expense. They’re going to be eating a medium steak because a chef is a person who cooks good food, not a magician.

  4. YES! I am in grad school and work as a server on the side (the only job that pays the rent and is the opposite hours of my internship in a high school). While I truly do enjoy being a server and meeting new people, bad tippers are the WORST. People still don’t get that servers literally make nothing if they don’t get tipped because our meager $3/hour ends up going away in taxes. I can’t tell you the last time I actually got a real paycheck!

  5. My daughter once busted her butt for a table of ten high-maintenance diners. They left her something like a $1.00 tip. Where do these people come from.

    This reminds me of a Florida trip a few years ago which included an Everglades airboat excursion. We went deep into the swamp. The driver shut the engine off and we drifted slowly among long toothy snouts just a few feet away. “I’d just like to remind you,” he said, “that we in the tourist industry rely on your tips.”

  6. Darn – was hoping for more on the toddler experience – we have generally had good experiences with our kids, not perfect … and I remember one late lunch in an empty Cape Cod restaurant when Danny was ~9 months old giving him some plain spaghetti and as much ended up on the floor around him as in his belly (he wasn’t disruptive at all, just messy – oh, and the bored wait staff kept popping by to say hi to the baby – he would offer some spaghetti … and promptly drop it on the floor). That person got an extra big tip – and she was super-nice, we offered to clean up, she said it would just take a minute and actually did most of it while we were there. It made for a great experience for everyone.

    I have almost never given less than 15% tip, and generally if I am not automatically doing 20% I ask myself ‘why’? I ask – what has happened, and have I done everything to allow them to make it right? For me, having water available is a biggie, because I simply will not eat without a drink present. So if I get my food but drinks are empty and whoever brought food doesn’t check that or listen as we ask for more/refills, I admit to getting annoyed (I have choked before and saved a woman who was choking at a table next to us when I was in college, now just paranoid and unwilling to risk).

    But I can count on one hand the times where things have gotten to the point where I have felt no recourse other than a 20 minutes to see the manager), and made it clear that we wouldn’t be back … but paid full bill (they offered to comp a meal) and a 15% tip. And no, we’ve not been back.

    Yet I do see people who ’round down’ on tips – and these are people I work with, decently affluent, could afford a normal tip sorts of people. I have on occasion dropped a couple of extra $$ on the table … back when I carried cash! Now I don’t know what the etiquette is, and just make sure when I am paying that the tip is good. Since I am a statistician and basically a walking calculator, people will sometimes ask about the tip and I will generally say “well, 18% would be … “, and seldom have I seen people give less.

    For me it exhibits a lack of empathy … and is sad.

    • I was hoping for some input on our end. Fortunately, there was nothing to report on the toddler end. She played with her crayons, tried some bubbly water, and dined with us. It was awesome! Not long ago we witnessed a customer comment that his service didn’t deserve a tip. It was bad service but the girl wasn’t doing it on purpose she just seemed new and clueless. I asked Rock if he had any cash on him and he turned around and left $5 on that table. I think it feels good to acknowledge good service and be able to do something about it. We dine out rarely enough that when we do, it’s nice to do it properly. Sure do wish I was a walking calculator!

      • You can ask my family – while a walking calculator is convenient at times, it comes as part of a walking spreadsheet & engineering analytics package that has no off-switch or contextual adaptation (i.e. *everything* is a science problem!).

        My heart aches for some of these kids who get treated like crap – because we’re now at the point that rather than being like Suz and self-remembering, we see our own kids and (sometimes literally) their friends! There was a girl who was 2 years older than Danny from same high school last year treated like crap and I called her over and said ‘you did nothing to deserve that’ and echoed it to the manager.

        Oh – and the upside of our kids being older is just sitting and chatting through meals and not being so stressed about time. It is a joy 🙂

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