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Check, Please!

By Staff | Jan 17, 2013

Every so often you hear how this is “such and such” week, or “National doo-dah Day”, as it seems that just about every occupation, cause or whatchmacallit has a special observance all of its own.

Some are very well known, traditional observances, such as May being Beef Month and June being Dairy Month. There is a Hamburger Month, which I was introduced to a year ago.

Actually, I found out the other day that January is National “Be Kind to Food Servers Month,” which, according to organizers, is “a time to recognize and show your appreciation for the hard work and contributions of people who help make our dining experience more enjoyable.”

So let’s look at this most noble profession Food Servers.

The first thing you need to appreciate about this is really very simple you be nice to the food server, and your food doesn’t end up on the floor or in your lap.

Actually, the first reason to be nice to a food service is the old Golden Rule do unto others as you would have done to you. In other words, they’re people just like you and me, so be nice.

The second reason, which usually gets lost in the shuffle, is a little more direct. The typical food server is not pulling down $30-$40,000 a year in salary unless the food service gig is something to while away their off-hours. Nearly every food server is working for less-than-minimum wage, or very close to it. Usually, they receive an hourly salary, and tips, which in many cases, they have to report to their employer. Sometimes, tips are thrown in a pot and everyone on the serving staff gets an equal cut, whether they worked hard or not. See, employers figure if the server gets a tip, the tip makes up for the lower rate of pay.

The expectation, of course, is that tips will make up the difference in their wages so they reach at least minimum wage. At least that’s how it works in theory.

So, the server does their best to make your dining experience pleasant, in the hopes that you’ll reward them with a gratuity, i.e. tip, when you get your bill.

Now, how much should the gratuity be? Currently, standards for tipping are at about 18 percent of the total bill. For the sake of simplification, go with 20 percent.

Here’s your math lesson for today. You dine out on the deluxe chilidog with extra onions with a big orange drink and onion rings total bill, $10. At 18 percent, you should leave $1,80 for your server, or if you’re really a nice guy or gal, you leave $2 on the table.

But the idea of being nice to the server isn’t all about a tip it also deals with a little compassion and understanding on your part.

It’s so easy to go to dine at a restaurant and settle into a foul mood if you don’t get immediate if not sooner attention from the serving staff. When an establishment is busy, the servers have to work in a priority mode. In many cases, the server may have to clear the table, re-set it for the next guests, seat the guests, take a drink order, leave menus, offer suggestions, and then run and bring back the beverage order and take the order. When the order is taken, it goes to the kitchen where the kitchen staff takes over. Once the meal is prepared, the server has to bring it to the table, attend to any extra requests, steak sauces, etc, top off drinks, and then repeat the same process for another 10 or 15 tables.

So maybe you have to wait five minutes for that refill of water. Perhaps it takes that server a little longer to bring your check to the table. Don’t sweat it if it does. If you have the inclination to dine out and you want a fast, in-and-out sit-down dining experience, perhaps a full service restaurant isn’t your best choice. Try a drive-through if you’re pressed for time.

But if you want a sit down meal, where a server will do their best to make your meal a memorable experience, then don’t forget to reward that server for their efforts. If you are a regular customer, the servers may also remember your consideration and understanding as well.

Food service is just like it sounds, a service industry, and should be respected and appreciated.