Monday, November 25, 2013

Don't Mess with the People Who Handle Your Food

Nothing seems to get people riled up like a good discussion about tipping in restaurants. Over the years, I've witnessed some of the most heated discussions about tipping and poor restaurant behavior, with a clear divide between people who believe you should tip well and people who think servers make far too much money and we should all tip less.

One thing I've noticed? No matter what you say, people who tip 0%-10% at sit-down restaurants are not going to budge, no matter what you say.

Recently, my longtime friend Jilly re-posted a photo on Facebook that had gone viral. Apparently a pastor in St. Louis marked out an automatic 18% gratuity with the comment, "I give God 10%. Why should I give you 18%?"

Two things jumped out at me right away:

  • The woman gives 10% of her SALARY to God. The restaurant is adding 18% of the food she ate. Big difference.
  • Haven't restaurant workers learned by now that if you post a customer receipt online, you're going to be fired?
But I digress. The whole incident ignited a storm everywhere it was posted, with thousands of consumers offering their opinions. Most felt that the pastor should be ashamed of herself, especially since she called the restaurant and got the server who posted the receipt fired before issuing a public relations-guided apology to save her reputation.

However, a small minority came forward to agree with the pastor, saying 10% is a fair tip for a server. Those comments incited the usual, "You've obviously never waited tables" argument, along with, "If you don't want to tip, stay home and cook your own meals."

Another thing I've found over the years--people who don't believe in tipping 15%-20% are not going to change their minds. They're also not going to stop eating at Applebee's and Chili's, no matter how many times you tell them they should. They have their reasons and they don't think they should stop eating where they want to eat. They also don't believe a server will ever spit in their food. I hope they're right!

The tipped minimum wage has barely budged since 1966, when it was initiated at 50% of the minimum wage at the time. Currently, it's at $2.13 an hour, while the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. $2.13 is not 50 percent of $7.25, no matter how you crunch the numbers. Reportedly restaurant industry lobbyists work hard to keep the tipped wage the same--but if it ever increases to 50% of the federal minimum wage, you can bet that extra expense will be added to the menu prices.

The answer is clear. If you disagree with paying 15%-20%, don't punish hard-working servers. Punish the restaurant industry that makes sure the tipped hourly wage stays the same, decade after decade. By dining at home or choosing restaurants that pay their workers at least $7.25 an hour (i.e. fast food and fast casual restaurants), you'll make a statement to the national restaurant chains. You may very well be making your 0%-10% statement by keeping a server from providing food for his/her children that week.


  1. I worked in a family restaurant for 5 years; working both in the restaurant side and the bar side of it. I was making about $9.50 per credit hour (1992-1997) as a full-time staff without tips. Why? Because people didn't tip at the restaurant.

  2. I generally tip 15% to 20% and sometimes more (unless the service is atrocious). I do, however, resent a restaurant forcing me pay their employees' salary. I believe all servers should receive minimum wage for doing their job and a tip should be for going above and beyond the responsibilities for which they are paid. This would assure a fair wage for wait staff, better service for patrons, and customers who don't resent leaving extra in the form of a gratuity for those servers who provide excellent service.

  3. I had a roommate who was a server in a restaurant. It was amazing how rude some people were, and then on top of that, they wouldn't even tip appropriately. What is wrong with people? Everyone knows when you go to a restaurant, you have to leave a tip. It's just part of the deal.

  4. I was a server for a year at Crackerbarrel- sometimes I have dreams- nightmares!- of going back to work there, lol! And my thoughts on people who don't tip? If you can't afford to tack on a couple of extra dollars to your meal total, then you probably can't really afford to be going out to eat...Just sayin'. =)

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  6. Wow! That pastor. She certainly had that Christian spirit, didn't she? I'm sure Jesus approved. *Warning* *Warning* Sarcasm detected.

    As for tipping, I worked in the restaurant field. I never recall getting a decent tip. Even when people told me how much they loved the restaurant. Who knows. Generally, I try to tip 15% - 20%. Even if the service was bad, I try not to take that into consideration too much. Everyone has a bad day. I wouldn't want my boss to take money away from me just because I'm having a bad day at work. Things happen.