Restaurant tipping from a servers’ perspective

Lauren Small

Eating out is a major part of our society. As a matter of fact, the National Restaurant Association reports that roughly one out of five meals consumed by Americans are prepared in a commercial setting. So why are so many people tipping at or below 10% on the food bill even though they are frequent diners?

As a newly hired server at a popular restaurant and a 7-year veterans of the restaurant business, I feel it is my duty to shed some light and give some proper guidelines so you can decide just how much to tip.
Lets start with the obvious: If you are an individual with many needs during your dining experience, be prepared to leave an extra buck or two for the “above and beyond” service from your waiter or waitress.
Trust us, we understand if you want those three extra sauces on the side and we will keep a smile on our face while we scrape the blackening spice off your salmon, but for the love of cheese, we are working for tips people. So unless your server rolls their eyes or gives you reason to doubt their sincere pleasure in getting you everything your heart desires while enjoying your meal, recognize the extra attention you are receiving and compensate with a few extra dollars. If you appreciate us, we will appreciate you.
On the other hand, if one is dining out and just goes through the phases of the typical dining experience; simple beverage order, minimal or zero modifications to your entrée and an overall average experience, we know to expect an average tip.
On a similar note, nothing is more awkward or confusing than when a table of guests rant and rave about your glowing server skills and can’t help but praise your name to a nearby manager, then proceed to leave 5 dollars on a 75 dollar check. I’m sorry, but if the service was good the tip should be good. Again, we are working for a living people…working for a living.
In regards to the anecdote above, there is something that everyone should keep in mind when thinking of skipping out on a juicy tip. Servers are required by law to claim 12% of their total sales at the end of the night, whether they made that much or not. So let me put that in layman’s terms…. If you leave an 8% tip on a hefty bill, your server has to foot the bill for that additional 4% at the end of the night. So we are paying you to be cheap. Don’t think that is fair? Neither do we.
Oh…and just be aware that if you plan to sit at a table for 4 hours (literally, I have seen people sit in a booth for my entire shift), you are causing that server to miss out on 3 more tables worth of tips. So be mindful and leave a little extra if you are going to utilize their workspace above the average meal period. Chew on this metaphor… how is a CEO supposed to run a business when the office doors are locked for 4 hours. Main message: time is money people. The moral of the story is that most people don’t really appreciate what the people behind the apron really do. Though you may think you are the only one being attended to, most servers shuffle between 4-5 tables.
That’s 16 or more hungry and sometimes grumpy people!
Take what a babysitter does, and times it by about 10. That doesn’t even include running food, pre-bussing tables, refilling drinks, and maintaining tedious side work.
It’s enough to make even Hulk Hogan sweat.
Now I am not defending those lazy servers who wont even crack a smile to you or refuse to accommodate their guests. If you get stuck with a dud, you are more than welcome to leave out the extra dough.
But if you felt that extra spark of service and left feeling warm and fuzzy (and not just because of the filet mignon you just scarfed down) than re-evaluate that 10% tip. Think of it this way, a server’s main income is affected directly by the tip you leave.
Serving is a very stressful job and many people support families or school by working their butts off for that final payout. So when your server drops off your check and thanks you for coming in, be sure to thank them with the tip they deserve.