So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

Daily Archives: February 6, 2010

Oh, Canada

No really. Oh Canada :sigh: Why don’t you know any better?

$30 on $300 is a really shitty tip. It really is.

What astounds me is, from all accounts, you’re supposed to have roughly the same tip standards as us in the US, 15% as the “average”. I’ve already given up the idea that, unlike many in the US, you’re just not going to tip on the final post-tax total. I get it, really I do, so, when the bill is $330 and you leave me $30, I give you the fact that you’re actually only tipping on $300. I also give up any notion of getting 20% even with the most outstanding service. That’s just a given.

So why is it that 10% is such a common tip? Is it because you know you’ll never be back in the same restaurant, so you feel you can save money on the back of your server? Is it because you’re proud of being thrifty? Anyone who spends $330 on a meal for you adults and two young adults is obviously not so very concerned about “thrift”, if you catch my drift. Do I really have to tell you that I make 2.13 an hour? I know it’s not that way everywhere in the States, but 9 times out of ten, it’s well below the $7 or whatever minimum wage is today.

You are all so nice and well-scrubbed and well-spoken. Your grooming is above average. You like to watch men with sticks and dangerously sharp shoes slam into each other, occasionally slash at each other with said sticks and get into massive fights. I can dig that. Hell, those very people know how to tip, even when they come from the Uzbekistan or Finland.

I guess what I want to know is where this 10% thing that you have become so famous for comes from. Apparently it doesn’t come  from your own restaurant tipping traditions. How is it that so many of you are on the same page on this?

Could you please turn the page?

PS, I almost made $200 tonight. I would have had you even bothered to tip $35 on $300 (pretax), which would have still been a shitty tip (five more bucks would have killed you?). It makes it really shitty when you make $196 having had 20% of your business leave you a bad tip and leaves you just short of a milestone number. That’s right, your shitty four top was 1/5th of my whole night from a sales standpoint. On a Saturday night. It was actually a fourth of my covers, having waited on 16 people total (6 tables total). I can hear you say, “Well, I spent money, didn’t I? If I had only spend $200 and left you $30, you would have done about the same amount of work and you would have gotten your darned 15%, right? Well, my friend from the North, it doesn’t work that way. It’s a percentage game, which you know, since you lift me almost exactly 10%. You knew what you were doing, didn’t you? Plus, if you had only spent $200, you would have left me $20, you smartass!. I don’t think people outside the industry know how we feel about our percentages. I know it’s all about how much you take home in the end, but we really do gain job satisfaction out of hitting our marks, and that includes hitting our percentages. I would have rather ended up with $180 in sales if you had spent $150 and left me $ 22. I would have felt better about the night. Yes, I know it’s really not about my feelings and all that, but I just wanted you to know.  

OK, rant over. I feel better now.

Good and not-so-good news about restaurants in this economy


Nation’s Restaurant News has two articles in their “Breaking News” feature that points out the complexities of restaurants dealing with the economic crisis: 

O’Charley’s posts positive guest counts By Elissa  Elan 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 4, 2010) While consumer pressures tied to the recession pushed fourth-quarter sales into negative territory at the three chains of O’Charley’s Inc., its namesake brand and Stoney River Legendary Steaks chain posted their first year-to-year traffic increases in more than three years. 

The company also posted a narrowed net loss of $15.2 million, or 72 cents per share, for the quarter ended Dec. 27, versus a loss of $68.2 million, or $3.34 per share, in the same quarter a year ago. The improvement was mostly because of year-ago charges, when O’Charley’s booked more than $60 million in impairment for goodwill and restaurant closures. 

Latest-quarter revenue declined 6.9 percent to $188.9 million, the result of consumers cutting back on spending, O’Charley’s officials said. The company, which operates or franchises 368 restaurants under the O’Charley’s, Stoney River Legendary Steaks and Ninety Nine Restaurants casual-dining brands, had expected sales of between $190 million and $195 million. 

Read the rest of the article here:
Notice that this is a good news/bad news sort of thing. Cover counts are up, but people are spending less. This means that sales are still soft.

U.S. restaurant count declines

By Molly  Gise 

CHICAGO (Feb. 4, 2010) The number of U.S. restaurants fell this past fall as the industry continued to suffer from serious declines in traffic and sales. The rate of closures, however, was less than what was reported last spring. 

According to The NPD Group’s ReCount data released Wednesday, the total number of U.S. restaurants declined 0.3 percent, or by 1,652 restaurants, to 578,353 locations in the fall of 2009, compared with the fall of 2008. ReCount tracks commercial restaurant locations twice a year, in the spring and fall. 

Restaurant closures were more severe in the spring of 2009, when the total number of U.S. restaurants fell 1 percent from a year earlier, reflecting the loss of more than 4,000 eateries. 

“NPD’s fall 2009 ReCount reflects a slowdown in chains expanding, and two years of a challenging economy already weeding out the poorest performing restaurants,” said Greg Starzynski, NPD’s director of product development for foodservice. 

Read the rest of the article here:
So, while there are positive signs, the restaurant sector continues to face challenges, which makes it even more incumbent for waiters to execute at a high level. If you’re seeing more people but less total sales, upselling is more important than ever. As always, upselling shouldn’t be done solely to extract the maximum amount of money from the guest, but should be done to enhance the dining experience. Never lose sight of this basic tenet.