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Delightfully Delectable Dining

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"The Tipping Point"

Service in the Restaurant Industry

Today we pretty much accept tipping as an inevitable part of eating out but that wasn't always so. One hundred years ago there were many people who wanted to eradicate tipping, which had only become commonplace around 1890. They were convinced the custom was a foreign one that didn't belong in a democratic society. They felt it created an unhealthy master-servant relationship in which the server either groveled or tried to manipulate the customer. One of the things critics hated most were snooty waiters in upscale restaurants who made guests anxious by subtly hinting they were low-class pretenders who didn't belong in a fine restaurant. This worked like a charm with insecure folks who compensated by leaving a generous tip to prove they were legit. Restaurant patrons often debate over how much to tip. Leaving a tip at a restaurant gives the restaurant valuable feedback on its service. Tipping also changes from place to place. Tipping is forbidden in some places, like Russia and Japan, while in the South of France, it is the sole source of wait staff's income. In Europe many restaurants add a service charge automatically to the bill. In the US, tipping is often left to the discretion of the dining patron. If the diner received outstanding service and the wait staff focused on the dining experience, then expect to leave a generous tip. On the contrary, if the wait staff seemed rude, ignored the guest or made the dining experience less than enjoyable, then by all means leave a less than generous tip.

Now, I know cheapskate tippers have been around forever, in good and bad economies. A friend of mine was a waitress in college and told me many horror stories about bad tippers, from those that completely forgot to leave a tip to those that remembered, but onlyleft the bare minimum according to standard tipping guidelines. I consider myself a generous tipper, and I have continued that trend despite the economic downturn. If the service is particularly good, it isn't uncommon for me to leave an 18%-25% tip. For exceptional service, I take 15%, double it, and round up or down to the nearest dollar for an even tip. The difference in 25% and 30% is often only a dollar or two, and I figure the person serving my meal could use it.

I've heard it said before, but I am not sure if it's always the best theory. "If you leave a horrible tip to a server, there had better be a good reason for it! If he/she is rude or hostile, don't leave one at all. If he/she screws up your order and blames everyone else, then disappears for a cigarette when you need to pay the check so you can get to the an appointment like you said you needed to at the beginning of the meal...well then stiff them—he/she deserves it. It is probably the best training lesson they can receive that day." I know this sounds harsh, but is this the best way to deal with bad restaurant service? I have a quite a different and effective approach that is fairly simple. You can sense it almost as soon as you sit down. Either the waitress is in a bad mood, the restaurant is overcrowded, or no one comes to take your order right away.

This is going to be a bad restaurant experience. You have three options at this point. You can cut your losses and leave, taking your chances on another establishment. You can get your guard up and get ready to fight back. You also have the option of diffusing the situation. Personally, I like to leave. However, I am often with my very forgiving friends who like to give the benefit of the doubt. In addition to that, if it is a Friday night, it really makes no sense to leave unless you are going home for peanut butter sandwiches, as by the time you wait5 minutes for a drink order, and another 10 for the return you don't want to wait for another. With that said, I have only left a restaurant a handful of times. Option two you can prepare yourself for a fight when you sense hostility. You can become as bossy as the waitress is mean, but you risk being awarded with a burger that has passed the three second rule, or soda that someone sneezed in. If I decide that the waitress or other staff really deserves a bit of attitude, I make sure I do it AFTER I am done eating and drinking.

In case you haven't guessed, my typical tactic is to diffuse the situation. This is best done by being chatty and using humor. One of my good friends is especially good at it. He asked the waiter's name, calls them by name repeatedly, and gets them to talk about themselves. If they are still a little cold about at this point, I usually tag team him by making silly jokes and puns as I order my meal. This works most of the time. There arehowever, always exceptions. If at this point, we still get bad service, I get annoyed. My company might even get annoyed too. If my food is taking too long to be delivered, I take note of what is right or wrong. Then I also pay attention to if people who came in after me are eating if I was not served in a timely matter. Then, when the manager comes by to check... and they usually do, I make it a point to say something about it.

The key to complaining in a restaurant is to do it RESPECTFULLY. You might say something like, "I don't know if tonight is especially difficult or if the waitress is having a bad day, but..." At this point, either the manager will try to rectify the situation, or they will make excuses. The restaurant that tries to rectify the situation will get my business again. I know that many people follow this same model, and those that don't I suggest that you try it. Delightfully Delectable Dining is interested in what you have to say about local restaurants service. Take this attached survey to your next visit at one of our local restaurants and then send it in to our address. Of course we appreciate your help so we will of course show you, and your answers will remain anonymous. We will draw a survey and the winner will receive a $25.00 gift certificate to their local restaurant. Good Eating!!