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Tipping…. is there a way to tell if tips are shared in a pool before I tip? If I have bad service from a server but I see the bar-back hustling I would leave a good tip. If it’s not shared, I wouldn’t leave a good tip.

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Great question!

I would suggest asking your server or the manager before being seated how the house handles tip distribution. You could even ask at the time of making a reservation “how are tips handled for your front of house employees? Are you a pooled house or do your servers share their tips?”

SHARING TIPS: In this arrangement, servers take in all the tips, and are then required to “share” a percentage of their tips via a pre-determined formula that’s set by the house. In the example you described, a bar back is often getting a percentage of the bartender’s total sales.

POOLING TIPS: It’s a bit different in a pooled house, where each member of the service teams gets a portion of the total tip pool, depending on their position.

In either case, the hustling bar back will get some portion of the tip you leave. Perhaps you could always keep a little cash in case you want to directly tip a particular employee. I’ve had this happen to me where the guest folds a twenty dollar bill and palms it to me on their way out the door, tipping me on top of the gratuity left on the check itself.

Does this make sense?

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At a lower-end restaurant than what you work in, Michael, (Maggiano’s, for example)… it always seems like when we need something it’s an inconvenience for the server. Sometimes I don’t see servers for 10 minutes or more because it seems they are always busy with other tables. Why don’t restaurants just make it a point for their servers to check in with every table every few minutes no matter what?

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Frequently checking in on a table is part of the “steps of service,” and every server should be doing it. It’s possible that Maggiano’s is understaffing their floor because of labor costs, so their servers might have bigger sections than they’re able to handle.

One way to handle this as a guest is to be VERY clear with your server when they’re at your table, and try to batch your requests so that they aren’t having to get you something every time you see them. Need extra lemons for your ice tea? Ask for them WHEN you order the drink, not once the drink arrives. The more steps you add to your service experience, the more lag time you’ll experience, especially in over-stretched, under-staffed restaurants.

If this is a chronic experience at a particular restaurant, assume that the servers aren’t being trained properly, and take your issue to the manager.

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Is the place you work for like a super high end place?

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Yes, I’m a Captain at a fine dining restaurant in Silicon Valley. Guests in my section are spending about $150 per person. I’ve worked fine dining for the past 20 years, but my current position has the highest check average, level of expectation, and detail that I’ve experienced. Kind of speaks to the tone/nature of my most recent videos. Lot’s of stress and pressure to process.

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