Why You Should Think Twice Before Ticking Off Your Waiter and Other Helpful Tips

Social Spark asked me to share a recent article in Reader’s Digest called 13 Things Your Waiter Won’t Tell You.  Now I eat out A LOT, and I’m all for learning tips and tricks to make my dining out experiences more positive so when I took a look at this article, I immediately agreed to share it with you.

My brother waited tables in college, so he’s already given me the low-down on many restaurant secrets.  For one thing, the restaurant he worked for served boxed wine as their house wine.  He loved to tell how the patrons would rave about the wine and ask him what kind it was and then how shocked they were to learn it was a box of Franzia.  (This was long before boxed wine was cool.  YES!  Boxed wine is cool!)

This article is full of “insider secrets” into the hospitality industry, some more helpful than others.  For instance, as you regulars probably already know, I’m a 1st class germophobe.  So I was less than thrilled to read insider secrets #2 and #3.

2. There are almost never any sick days in the restaurant business. A busboy with a kid to support isn’t going to stay home and miss out on $100 because he’s got strep throat. And these are the people handling your food.

3. When customers’ dissatisfaction devolves into personal attacks, adulterating food or drink is a convenient way for servers to exact covert vengeance. Waiters can and do spit in people’s food.

::SHUDDER::  Ever since I saw a waiter on a TV sitcom take out his angst on a customer by spitting in his drink, I have had a phobia of drinking Coke at restaurants.  Not that it stops me, mind you.  There is nothing quite as satisfying as Coke from the soda fountain in a tall glass over ice.  But I’m careful to make good friends with my waitress before placing my order.

I think the most helpful hints in the article involve tips.  Perhaps that is because I’m so anal about leaving a adequate tip.

10. If you can’t afford to leave a tip, you can’t afford to eat in the restaurant. Servers could be giving 20 to 40 percent to the busboys, bartenders, maître d’, or hostess.

I always tip 20% if the service is decent and sometimes more if it’s particularly stellar.  I know they are working hard for less than minimum wage and often share their tips.  The worst is when you’re dining out in a group and other members of the group aren’t as conscientious about tipping the waitstaff generously.  I often throw in extra just to be sure they’re covered.

11. Always examine the check. Sometimes large parties are unaware that a gratuity has been added to the bill, so they tip on top of it. Waiters “facilitate” this error. It’s dishonest, it’s wrong-and I did it all the time.

Mmmm’kay.  Good to know.  I’ll be going over my check with a fine-tooth comb from now on.

12. If you want to hang out, that’s fine. But increase the tip to make up for money the server would have made if he or she had had another seating at that table.

That’s something that I hadn’t really thought about but I’ll keep it in mind from now on.

I’d love to hear your tips if you have worked in the hospitality industry.  I have never worked in the hospitality industry, unless you count working retail, which has its own set of insider secrets that I could share.  But I have a tip to share with the people on the other end.

You may remember my less than stellar dining experience a few weeks ago when the assistant manager informed our group that we would be expected to order full entrees when seated in the dining room in the future.  Um, hospitality FAIL.  Fortunately my friend who was the guest of honor at the party called the next day and spoke with the head manager, who was properly horrified and awarded her a generous gift card to return and eat at their restaurant again.  At least someone who works there has their head on straight.


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11 Responses

  1. That’s awesome that the restaurant manager took care of your complaint. As a former restaurant manager that post made me so mad! That was no way to treat guests.

    Great RD article! Even after working in the service industry I often forget about tipping extra for loitering at the tables. To be honest, my mom friends and I are often not in a rush to get home if it’s still before bedtime…. 😉

  2. This was so interesting to read – it reminds me of that WaiterRant blog/book. Stuff you should know, but maybe didn’t want to 🙂

  3. I worked for years in the restaurant business, and it is hard. Large parties do get 15% added to their bill, but most of the time it is much MUCH less than they deserve. I always leave more, especially if we had them hopping.

    Another tip on tipping, if your state taxes food (ours doesn’t) you can always double the tax for the tip. That equals about 20%, again depending on your state.

    Be kind to your server, but if they messed up let the management know.

  4. I have to admit I only tip 20% for exceptional service – and the loitering thing I only do if its busy. Plus I’m very clear about why I’m complaining about if I do complain.

    That said we had a server “joke” that we should leave her a much bigger tip once when she clearly did the math wrong in front of us. Made me wish I had never tipped her!

  5. I’ll have to ask Andy what he thinks. But since his restaurant is the very highest scale in town, I don’t think their staff would dream of spitting in someone’s food or drink since they’d be fired on the spot. They all are very proud of food as an art. And there are no boxes of wine (sorry).

  6. I was a waitress for years, and I agree with many of the points given. (Excepting spitting in food. That didn’t happen in the restaurant I worked, unless you wanted to get fired promptly!)

    I agree completely about tipping more if you’re going to spend extra time at the table hanging out. The restaurant I worked at gave each server 3 or 4 tables at dinner. If even just one or two of your tables stayed for quite some time and slowed your table turnover, that could significantly lower your earnings for the night. And even if the restaurant isn’t busy, it’s still extra work for the server to check in on you, refill your drinks, etc. I can’t even begin to count the nights I had to stay at work at least an extra hour (making just over $2/hr) because just one table was hanging out. It would make it worth my while if the table would tip extra, but that rarely happened.

    Thanks for posting this! After all my years in the industry, treating servers poorly and under-tipping a deserving server are really pet peeves of mine.

  7. Thanks for posting this! I worked as a waitress for over 6 years and it’s nice to know that other people are concerned about how to treat your wait staff.

    First off: I have never, ever seen any customer’s food spit on or otherwise mistreated in the 6 years and 6 restaurants I’ve worked in. That was grounds to get fired and no one would’ve dared.

    Second: Tipping is a HUGE deal. Especially when lingering and when in large groups. Often, your server is only waiting on your party and that is the sole source of their income for the evening. Also, not all restaurants add gratuity. In addition, even with gratuity (at 15%), most servers are tip sharing about 20% of what they make to others in the restaurant AND they are getting taxed by the state for their tips earned. In MT, where I worked, we claimed 10% of our total food sales in tips.

    Third: Complaints can certainly be justified. I’ve had my share of horrible servers, but please remember that your food being cold or steak/chicken/etc being undercooked is NOT your servers fault but the fault of the cooks.

  8. I always tip 20%. ALWAYS. Sometimes more. Most of the people I know think this is outrageous. If the service is awful, I still tip 15%. I can’t help myself.

  9. I always tip 20%. If the service isn’t stellar, then I will tip 15%. I try to remember that we all have bad days and maybe the server is having a rough one. Does it really hurt me to give an extra dollar or two? No, but is means a lot more to the server.

    Also, I give extra tips if my daughter makes a mess. It’s my responsibility as a parent to clean up after my child. If we’re in a hurry and can’t pick up after her, I make sure to tip the server more who has to do the “dirty work.” 🙂

  10. My husband says that waiting tables has made me mean. I only tip over 15% if service is remarkable, and I don’t hesitate to tip less than 15% if service was subpar. It doesn’t make sense to me to reward someone for a job they didn’t do well.

  11. My standard tip is 15%. If I get better than average service the tip goes up and if it is subpar I will tip less. It doesn’t make sense to tip someone a lot when they are barely delivering adequate service. In addition, I generally tip less at a buffet style restaurant, although I almost never go to them anymore.

    I DO, however tip more if my group lingers for a long time at a table. I figure you are kindof “renting space” on that event.

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