Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tip Sensitivity Training

As a server, I should be making a lot more money than I do .However, thanks to a wide range of reasons; tipping 20% is still the exception and not the rule. Previous misconceptions about servers have led people to believe that bad service is intentional, often resulting in poor tipping habits. Due to the current economic climate, thousands of college graduates have no other option than to earn a living in the service industry.  Combined with a desire to remain profitable and stay open, the standard level of service in restaurants across the country has improved. And yet, tipping habits have not.

According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant industry sales are projected to total $660.5 billion for 2013, demonstrating that Americans are willing to spend their hard earned money on food but not on tips. Because if everyone tipped around 20%, the 13.1 million servers across the country would accumulate over $1.2 trillion in tips. My math stops here, but I think its safe to say, there aren’t many, if any, rich servers.
The economy is an easy scapegoat for bad tippers. However, in my experience; poor tipping habits are the product of selfishness and ignorance.  Yes, the economy is responsible for smaller budgets but the numbers prove that people are not willing to give up the experience and convenience of dining out. But instead of choosing less expensive entrees or going out one less time a week, people selfishly accommodate their budgets through the tip to the server, because this is the part of their experience that affects them the least. Less offensive, but just as damaging, is the practice of ignorantly justifying a bad tip because of poor service.  Tight budgets are making people less empathetic and more likely to look for reasons to decrease the tip.
Servers are working hard to ensure that you feel good about spending your hard earned money. It is a selfish and ignorant decision to reward that hard work with a bad tip. This problem would be solved ( so would world peace) if everyone was required to work in the service industry for at least one week. Much to the disappointment of bad tippers everywhere, I was unable to get this enforced. Servers are trained to provide a pleasantly memorable experience to everyone they serve. But are people trained to be good guests? I think if there was a poll, most servers would agree, a lot of people are very difficult to wait on. Given all the training servers have to go through for a job they are more than likely over qualified for, maybe people would benefit from a servers perspective.
Tipping Sensitivity Training
Many people are under the false impression that despite having never worked in any type of service industry, the Food Network has clued them in all things restaurant and service related. Unless you are willing to try serving for even just one day, please accept that you do not and will not ever understand. More so now than ever, people are relying on tips to make a living; so despite what you might believe, most people are striving to provide you with perfect service. Often, things that are out of your servers control will be misconstrued as bad service. However, there are times when unfortunantly, you just get really bad service.
The most important thing to remember is just like you rely on your paycheck to survive, servers rely on tips. Similarly, they should be earned. After this, you should be able to differentiate between bad service and busy service.
Why 20% Should Be Everyone’s Baseline Tip
  1. In general, a servers base pay is $2.13 an hour.
  2. Depending on the restaurant, most servers will never take home 100% of the tips they make. There are other employees (food runners, service bar, the host staff) that will get a share of their tips. This is called tip share.
  3. Often, tip share is based on a servers total food sales. This means that even if they received no tip at all from some tables, they still have to tip out on those sales. Basically, if you leave no tip, the server just paid to wait on you.
Outstanding service deserves more. Bad service deserves less. Based on the standards restaurants are trying to hold their servers to, bad service should not be something you frequently encounter. Bad service and busy service can look similar. If it’s a busy shift, look around and see if you see your server stopping by a lot of tables. If that’s the case, try and be a little understanding that your drink is getting low. More than likely, there are guests engaging in irritating behaviors described below. If its not busy, and you never see your server…
There are a lot of things going on in the back of the restaurant that servers are responsible for despite the popular opinion that we are back there doing nothing. Just keep that in mind if you need something and your server isn’t readily available. Attitude(caring/helpful but appears busy or lethargic/lack of empathy) can determine if you think you're getting bad service or busy service.

Irritating Guest Behaviors
Although they might seem insignificant, here are some behaviors to avoid that drive servers crazy no matter where you are eating and what kind of response or reaction to expect
  1. Don’t give me drink order and ask for peanuts/bread/rolls before you even allow me to say my name.
That’s fine, but since my name isn’t important, I won’t be repeating it and I don’t answer to finger snapping, keys jingling or hand waving.
  1. Don’t try to get my attention by snapping your fingers, jingling your keys, or waving your hand.
I am required to introduce myself. Either you weren’t listening or you interrupted me. If you ask, I will repeat my name…or a fake one.
  1. Don’t tell me you and your 5 guests are ready to order and then you aren’t.
I have no problem answering your questions. And as much as you believe you are…you are not my only table. But unfortunately, I do not have time to list the 12 sides and 12 salad dressings to Every. Single. Person.  I will point them out to you on the menu and tell you I’ll be right back. There is someone snapping her fingers at me.
  1. If I ask you if you would like an appetizer or a starter, don’t ask for the free bread/peanuts/rolls.
Appetizers are something you pay for that not everyone gets. The bread/peanuts/rolls are guaranteed…but it might take longer for you to get them now.
  1. Don’t hold my table for 3 hours, especially on a Friday or Saturday.
I appreciated your business but Starbucks has nicer chairs. Unless you want to pay rent. And in that case, its 20-30 an hour. Which is what I could have made if YOU HADNT BEEN TALKING ABOUT NOTHING 3 HOURS AFTER YOU ATE! And no, you will not be getting a refill. The coffee is cold because I poured it 3 hours ago.
  1. Don’t berate me because your favorite dish was removed from the menu.
Although my server apron and matching staff uniform makes me look dignified, I actually have no direct connection to the important person who makes those decisions. But yes, I will make sure that the VIP gets your complaint Mr. Smith
  1. Don’t tell that I cooked your entrĂ©e wrong.
I’m sorry I cooked it wrong. I forgot about it while I was out in the dining room waiting on you.
  1. Don’t hand me a credit card and a gift card and tell me to do the gift card first.
SHUT UP!!!! AND THIS WHOLE TIME….I’ve been running the credit card for a random amount hoping that the gift card would have enough to cover the balance! THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION.

Like any profession, waiting on tables is not something everyone can do. The communication skills I have learned are invaluable and it has given me a deeper appreciation for genuinely decent people. Most importantly I have learned how just a few dollars can make or break you. The next time you go out to eat and you think about leaving $8 instead of $10, ask yourself if you’ll ever miss that $2. Despite good service, your server may have been getting undertipped all day and its not their fault you really didn’t need to come out and eat today. All those $2 dollars add up fast.
Because I am a server, there are a lot of things I do, but really don’t need to be spending money on. However, every time I consider keeping that extra $2 or $3 dollars, I have to remind myself that it was my decision to eat out and my server shouldn’t be punished for my irresponsibility.

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