Excuse Me, Can I Please Get A Refill

I spent quite a bit of time serving tables. I did not start my career by serving, I started it at fourteen years old washing dishes, but eventually made my way to serving. I have served at places like the Blue Bonnet, Western Rib-Eye, Logan’s Roadhouse, T.G.I Friday’s, and Pikk’s Tavern. And I was, am if I had to do it again, a great server. And let me tell you why.

How many times do you go to any number of restaurants that have servers? You go in, sit down, and hear the same thing every time. “Hi, welcome to Red Lobster, my name is Amanda, can I get you guys started off with something to drink? Perhaps a nice iced cold beer or a freshly squeezed lemonade?” (Please, when speaking that sentence do so in a “I hate my life” overtone.

So you hear this time and time and time again. But why does he or she make direct recommendations to you when you know in the back of your mind before you even get to the place you are going to have a water? Lemon or no lemon, that is the question. But these servers do this to try and up their tip average. But how in the world does selling you a beer up that server’s tip average? Well, it is proven that increased ticket averages also lead to increased tips based solely on the fact that people tip more when they spend more. And that is not always the case. But every restaurant that I have ever worked as has told me that story and “demands” that you up sell your tables. I never up sold my tables and I will tell you why.

I did not base my tip average on sales. Sure, you run a risk of a higher tip average the higher the check goes. Anyone that knows how to tip (and a lot of you, and I mean a LOT of you, have no idea how to tip) will leave a minimum of 15%. But lately, the minimum has been going to 20%. Of course, the first comment any of you will have is, “But the economy is bad and I can not afford to tip.” Well then why the hell are you eating at a restaurant? If you have money to eat out you have money to tip. Period.

So I based my tip average on total number of guests. I would always try to close (and I usually got what I wanted because most people that serve hate their jobs) and I would always demand at least a four table section. There were times that I would run eight to ten tables all at once. Service is not a hard job. If you have two arms and half a brain you can handle it. Work smarter, not harder.

So I would run under the philosophy that on any given night if I waited on twice as many tables as everyone else due to speed of service and a check down check back attitude that I would in theory make twice as much money. And that always worked. Let me give you the perfect example.

I was waiting tables at Logan’s Roadhouse one night (and stop laughing, I made a ton of money in those four peanut covered walls) and I was in a closing section with Barb. Barb was an older lady and was a funny person to chat with. She, like everyone in the service industry, had her issues, but they led to more conversations behind her back than anything. (Being a server is ruthless, and if you have never served, do it. It is perfect for those wanting some extra spending cash and almost every restaurant will allow you to make your own schedule. But be prepared to work weekends. That is just how it is.)

So Barb and I are working together and I come in at 2 P.M. I was in a little early because any table that I could pick up was money in my pocket that was not there by sitting at home. Barb came in at 3 P.M. I had one table in that hour so please do not think that single set of 60 minutes is the reason why I made as much as I did. So she comes in at 3 and we work throughout the night, closing at 11:00 P.M. So at the end of the night (and this was a Saturday) I asked her how much money she made. She said just over $100. Well, I had made just under $300 that given night. (An average night for me at Logan’s was anywhere from $125 to $300. I had one night I made $395. And that was not on a double shift.) So then I proceed to ask her how many guests she waited on. And since we were forced to place the number of guests that we had served each time we rang in a ticket, she proceeded to tell me just over 70 people. That same night, in just an hour longer, I had served 135 people. And we did not handle parties that evening.

So that just goes to show that if you serve more guests then you are going to make more money. The check average means nothing. I have had tables that spend twenty bucks leave me fifty dollar tips and tables spend over a hundred dollars and leave me nothing. So yes, check average is part of it, but the number of guests that you serve is just as, if not more, important. And Logan’s Roadhouse is not a place you go to sit, have drinks, and hang out. Maybe in the bar, but not at the checkered covered tables.

But that leads me to the point of this discussion. A couple of nights ago Mr. Johnny Depp left a $4,000 tip for a server in Chicago. Depp, who has stated that money is not the reason for his happiness (which I find hard to believe) left the massive tip at a steakhouse after a release party for his new film. That film looks amazing, too. I can’t wait to see it. Him and Batman starring in an old timed gangster movie has to be good.

So that just proves my point that you can not base the tip off of the total of the bill. That bill might, even with some bottles of $500 wine and some high end steaks, cost just under $5,000. (Quit freaking out that that is a lot of money. Places like that see bills stack up next to ten, fifteen thousand for a dinner party. That is not a big deal. Especially for someone like him.)

So the next time that you are at a restaurant and you have a great experience, I want you to remember that you did not have to cook that meal. That you did not have to refill those drinks. That you did not have to get yourself extra rolls, or extra sour cream. And when it was all over you did not have to do those dishes and clean up your mess. The server did it. So leaving a mere 20% of your bill is the least you could do for those hard working individuals.