Raising Generous Tippers

Almost twenty years ago I was a single mother of three.  We didn’t eat out often but Fridays were and still are religiously observed as  “Junk Food Night” in our family. My kids are third generation “Junk Food Night” devotees.

Usually we ordered out for pizza but one Friday night we went to a local sit-down Chinese restaurant.  We ordered and ate and when the bill came I paid it and then left a ten dollar bill on the table.  My youngest daughter, Rachael, asked why I was leaving extra money on the table-a fair question since we didn’t really have “extra” money just lying around.  I explained that it was a tip for the waiter for his good service and that it was customary to leave money for the person who waits on you.

A few weeks later on Junk Food night, we called in our pizza order and when we went to pick it up we found there were no parking spaces, so I gave Rachael a couple twenties and she ran in to pick up our order while I drove around the block. When she gave me the change it seemed very light so I asked her how much the pizza order had cost.  She said, “Well the pizza cost 22.95 but there was a jar for tips on the counter so I put in ten dollars.”

We had a conversation about percentages soon after but to this day Rachael is a generous tipper…

What do you guys think of the small but growing trend of paying servers a decent wage and doing away with tipping?  If you are not familiar with the idea but are curious, here’s a link to a Washington Post article on the subject:  Why Some Restaurants Are Doing Away With Tipping .

As a former bartender and server for years, I can say that the biggest inconvenience of the tipped lifestyle was the inability to predict my earnings. I was at the mercy of the public for the majority of my pay check and good service did not always equate to good tips just as bad service did not automatically equate to bad tips. It really all depended on who your customer was, where you worked and what shifts you pulled.  But still, the reason I did this type of work was because in general the earnings were higher than the non-tipped positions I was qualified for.  I wonder how today’s servers feel about earning an hourly wage and abolishing tips?  Aren’t they concerned they will earn less on average?  I’m in favor of paying higher menu prices in exchange for not tipping.  It will save Rachael money.

Chicken out

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  11 comments for “Raising Generous Tippers

  1. Doug in Oakland
    August 9, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    As a former cook (ten years) I must say that I found getting tipped out by the servers very convenient: the pay wasn’t great for a line cook, but the extra little bits of nightly money could carry me over if my bills had eaten up my whole paycheck.
    I actually like to tip. I do think the system is (I was going to call it “chickenshit” but then remembered where I was commenting) rigged in order to allow sub-starvation wages for workers who work really hard for what they get. Yes, I realize the the restaurant business is low-margin, and most start-ups don’t make it, but that is true in the economy as a whole as well.
    My take away? Abolish tipping, and pay a living wage, and some people will tip anyway, because, like me, they like doing so. I don’t think the sky would fall if servers were paid a living wage and collected the occasional tip anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 10, 2015 at 2:10 am

      Hi Doug,
      I’m glad you worked in a kitchen where the cooks got tipped out. Of all the places I worked, I only worked in one where that was the norm and I always felt the imbalance created a divide between the kitchen and front of the house. You are a cook and you’re working hard, sweating your butt off, and the front of the house is earning two to three times more on a good night. And you’re right-I think people will tip anyways. In the articles I’ve read, anyways, that’s been the case. I liked how one restaurant did it-he paid his servers 20% on their sales, plus a decent wage, so there was still a merit-based aspect that would encourage good service, upselling, etc, but people also knew they would make money even if the restaurant was empty. And that’s another thing-restaurant owners love to say, “you got time to lean, you got time to clean”, or something along those lines, meaning that when the restaurant is empty the servers should be cleaning, but frankly, cleaning toilets for $2.00 an hour? Doesn’t build employee satisfaction!

      Like

  2. Anonymous
    August 10, 2015 at 12:53 am

    Hey Chicken
    My two adult daughters live in Seattle, where the whole thing started. Predictably, given their politics, they are very in favor of the idea of a minimum wage being a living wage. As am I. Ivar’s, a Seattle institution, took the idea one step further, and instead of doing the graduated approach mandated by local law, moved everyone immediately to the 15$ step or beyond. And told customers tipping was no longer needed. The results were dramatic, some of their workers wages increased by 60%, customer satisfaction skyrocketed, and….people continued to tip, even though it wasn’t necessary.
    The oft-repeated idea that it’ll bankrupt small business, deprive teenagers of summer jobs, etc doesn’t hold water under scrutiny.
    Have your read about the Seattle company that took the idea several steps further? The owner looked at what constituted a real ‘living wage’ in the area, and made the minimum wage at his company 70K. The receptionist at the front desk makes 70K. The resistance has come from other companies, complaining it ‘makes them look bad’. I have no sympathy for them.
    Pretty predictable, given I’m a commie pinko radical, eh? Call me Che, another medico gone bad……

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 10, 2015 at 2:25 am

      Hi Mike, That’s so funny-I didn’t know it was Seattle, but I think I just read an article on Linked In about those two very companies. It was a case study where one company increased revenue and the other did not. The restaurant saw morale go up and increased revenues as a result of increasing the hourly wage to $15, whereas the company that increased the minimum wage to 70K had some issues. In the former case, customers were supportive and could experience the better service and morale, whereas in the second company (I think it was a credit card processing company), it created some problems within the company where some people felt undervalued as a result of everyone earning so much, and ended up quitting. In addition the company didn’t realize great increases in revenue because (reportedly) the end user wasn’t engaging with company employees. In other words, back in that restaurant, when someone had their credit card processed, there was no smiling, 70K earning employee asking them to sign their receipt. But regardless of all that, I admire the guy that made that decision (well, him and anyone that makes that decision). There’s an old saying-you get what you pay for. I think that’s true in terms of payroll, as well. Treat people well, they will treat you well. And besides, as a commie pinko radical wannabe, it’s just the right thing to do.

      Like

  3. Judith Blacquier
    August 10, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. August 10, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    What great subject matter. I always tip well, even for bad service. Being a server — dealing with the public at all, for that matter — is tough, tough work. $15/hr should be the law of the land — and I’d still tip.

    Liked by 1 person

    • August 10, 2015 at 5:49 pm

      Thanks Jayne-and yes, I agree. In RI they are trying to raise the minimum wage but it’s not something you can live off unless you’re single (maybe) or a young kid still living at home. When I was 19 and out on my own for the first time, the minimum wage was around $5.00 an hour, but my rent was only $175. Now minimum wage is around $10 but rents are around $800…So minimum wage doubled and rents (and other expenses) quadrupled?

      Like

  5. jenny_o
    August 11, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    In my part of Canada (at least), waitstaff make minimum wage to start, with some increases for experience – and most people tip over and above that, usually a minimum of 20%. Interesting cases that you and Mike discussed. You have a generous daughter, and that’s a good thing (to the extent that she can afford it!).

    Like

    • August 15, 2015 at 12:32 pm

      Hi Jenny-That’s Canada-always a step ahead of us:-) Yes, she is generous. And funny and thoughtful:-)

      Like

  6. August 15, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    My daughter owned a restaurant for sixteen years, and learned the business on the fly and as she grew it. The business is its own specialized trade, in my observation. She paid a decent wage, her waitstaff tipped out the bartenders and the “back of the house” ( l learned many terms listening to her). She offered health insurance. She was a leader in her niche, using locally sourced and in season foods. The restaurant earned a wall full of awards. The restaurant had everything going for it except the neighborhood it was in, and older east side of Cleveland. Much of the inner city gentrified, but her neighborhood did not, and last year and this, between the awful and prolonged winter and the iffiness of the neighborhood, customers did not come, her catering business did not take up the slack, and she had to close. Ironically, the paper and the trade publications praised her pioneering work as they noted her restaurant’s closing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • October 28, 2015 at 2:24 am

      Hi Joanne-I’m sorry I missed this comment. Your daughter’s restaurant sounds like a place I would love. One good thing about the industry is that once someone makes a name for themselves, like youir daughter, future opportunities present themselves. I hope that she has the chance to reinvent all that she has to offer and that maybe, someday, I’ll find myself there in her new place.

      Like

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