Why Restaurants Matter (and Why You Should Tip Generously)

Categories: Wine Time

tour d'argent paris.jpg
Photo by Jeremy Parzen.
The legendary Tour d'Argent in Paris, where I had one of the most expensive meals of my life. It was worth every penny.
Last week's post Corkage: A Privilege, Not a Right generated a heated comment thread.

"Are you f'n kidding me?" asked "Corkage Smorkage" rhetorically.

"Offer your server a taste of your wine." ???? I'm already paying them a BS "fee" to open it. What's next, offering them a taste of my food so they don't feel left out. And "Be sure to tip generously, keeping in mind that your bill will be significantly lower than it would have been otherwise." ??? Huh? Now I have to tip more because I was savvy enough to bring my own wine? I guess if I just eat at home, I should send the server a check because then I REALLY had a lower bill than I would have. What inane drivel.

"His Fusiness" added: "I shouldn't have to pay for every single little thing because the restaurant industry as a whole won't take care of their employees."

And "Not Enough Money for Everyone" chimed in approval: "I have to look after myself and family, I can't afford to put a server through college!"

Whether we like it or not (and I happen to like it), the moment we sit down in a restaurant we enter into a social compact.

Whether or not we decide to respect that unspoken agreement is another question.

Restaurants play an extremely important role in human interaction and sustenance. The services that restaurants and restaurant workers provide us range from simple convenience to theatrical backdrop (how many people do you know who have proposed to a spouse or broken up with a partner in a restaurant over a meal?). And restaurants often allow us to enjoy luxuries that we couldn't otherwise afford on a regular basis.

The earliest restaurants were taverns and inns where medieval travelers would stop during their voyage or pilgrimage to "restore" themselves. Later, during the industrial revolution, as the great urban centers of Europe began to grow, the restaurant was born as we know it today. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word restaurant began to appear toward the end of the eighteenth century: As a result of the migration from the countryside to the big cities, the new city dwellers needed a place to eat -- whether the proletariat factory workers or the newly emerged middle class populated by the factory managers.

With the industrial revolution and urban migration came the birth of the bourgeoisie, and with the bourgeoisie came the notion that luxury should be available to everyone.

And here we are today. If you are reading this, you are most likely a member of the bourgeoisie and when you sit down in a restaurant, it's more likely than not that your server and your sommelier are your social equals and your intellectual peers (not to mention your countrymen and fellow citizens).

Today, tipping is generally not expected in Europe (you pay for service with a "cover" charge per person). But in our country it is. And when you sit down in a restaurant, you know full well that you are obliged -- not by law but by social compact -- to tip between 15 and 20 percent. If you pretend otherwise, you are engaging in outright dissimulation.

And while there are certainly dishonest restaurateurs out there, most restaurant owners and workers are honest, industrious people (and I make this observation as an avid restaurant-goer).

The dishonest ones are to be avoided, and the genuine ones recognized for their efforts. In the era of eno-gastronomic blogging, there's really no excuse for going to a bad restaurant anymore. We have more access to peer-generated reviews than ever before (and if you're reading this, you certainly know that).

If visiting a restaurant causes you or your family economic stress, you shouldn't dine out: Dining out is a privilege in our country, not a right. And if you feel like the custom of tipping is unfair to the patron, then you should go to restaurants where it's not expected. There are plenty of options (fast-food venues, barbecue joints, etc.) where you can obtain sustenance and socialize without being expected to offer a gratuity to your server. (For example, at The Burger Guys, one of my favorite Houston restaurants, tipping is not expected, corkage is free and BYOB is encouraged).

No matter where you decide to eat, keep in mind that the restaurant owners and workers can't survive without you. But the fact of the matter is that you -- as a member of Western society -- can't survive without them either.



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Location Info

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The Burger Guys - CLOSED

12225 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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85 comments
SirRon
SirRon

I agree with you and applaud all the policing you do.

Not Enough Money for Everyone
Not Enough Money for Everyone

You're correct, I should NEVER eat out again, because I shouldn't condone and patronise the establishment that stoops to pay it's employees $2.13 an hour, it's despicable. And, I'm working-class (not middle-class), not a self-important jackass, it embarrasses me in the supermarket that people bag my groceries for me (we do it ourselves where I come from) it's not a "privilege" to let baggers do it for me. But, on the other hand, I don't want to do them out of a job, so I keep my discomfort to myself (and I don't tip them). If I decide to eat out, it really is a treat for me, and I do tip fairly, but I don't like it. I don't like one bit that I am somehow obliged to supplement someone elses income with mine (it's like taxation).  You all need to all get off your high horses and STOP telling me how to spend my hard earned, disposable income...it is absolutely none of your business...if you wish to tip waiters 50%, bravo to you, I simply do not care. 

Bill Stevens
Bill Stevens

Don't dine out if you don't know how to act. I support a family of 4 on $2.13 hr plus tips. If you stiff a server they actually end up paying to wait on you. They have to tip out their buss boys and bartenders. If you don't like the practice take the above advice and eat at Burger King

SirRon
SirRon

I tip. Every time. But I also think the system doesn't make sense. It's ignorant to say I have to go to Burger King because your employer thinks you are worth $2.13/hr plus whatever people gift you. You did take that job, right?

Don't you feel like you are telling me what to do with my own money when you say something like that? When I support *my* family of four and take them to eat using the money my employer pays me, I strongly believe I shouldn't have to arbitrarily figure out how much you are worth. I want your employer to tell me that. I'd rather 15% higher prices on the menu. Then, if you really make the night special, I'll leave you a cash gift. A gratuity.

And I don't care what you do with that money. Video games, kids clothes, beer, charity, etc. That would be kind of presumptuous of me to manage your family's money, don't you think?

Chef504
Chef504

As someone that has held every post in the industry and mange now I do not fault an employee for remembering a shitty guest and giving that guest service that fits the attitude. I just want the heads up. I also agree that service as a whole has slipped into some sort of entitlement nightmare. A server, bartender or anyone else in the industry has to earn their keep, but if I know that employee is a good one and busting their ass, and the guest wants to just be a stingy douche than that guest will get due service. I am currently in a job where I manage a few restaurants, and have been short staffed. After many years of not bar tending I am having to cover some shifts. My bar tending experience is from New Orleans. My service the first time I encounter a guest is on the assumption that I am dealing with someone that is not allergic to giving a tip. The guests will get my best service. However, all that changes if I am made aware that I am dealing with some no tip douche baggery. I had two guests come in the other day and run me like a dog racking up a $180 bar tab. They left $0 for a tip. I assure you, I damn sure remembered them. They came in the next week where they were greeted with the worst service possible by my standards. The bare minimum. They asked why they seemed to be getting over looked. I simply replied that you get what you pay for guy. He seemed angry, but after he and his lady left their seats were promptly filled. If they never cast their shadow on our restaurant again I DON'T GIVE A FUCK!!!!     

Cheflambo
Cheflambo

Chef504 - I have no doubt your story is true, but I wonder -- 2 people drank $180 worth of alcohol?   Even if you're at Anvil, that's a lotta booze.  Im not so sure I could calculate 20% of anything in that condition.  Ive tended bar too, and if I saw a couple working up a tab that big, I think an "auto-gratuity" might actually be appropriate.

SirRon
SirRon

I wish I could get away with that in my job. I think we can all agree that rude and stupid people don't deserve sh!t. When it comes to my job, and I've worked service before, I learned to just let all that crap bounce off me.

Treating people bad is self-indulgent and doesn't really accomplish anything.

Guest
Guest

Ronnie boy, ya just don't get it do you. I know this whole 'common sense' and 'fairness' thing really is foreign to you, and hard to understand, and you struggle with these concepts on a daily basis. I know. As internet troll's go, you pride yourself on being one of the more astute and self effacing one's, hitting 'like' frequently after someone verbally attacks you etc, etc. Your act is old and stale my friend. The reality is your just an ass. You constantly harp on this theme that restaurant owners don't pay the staff what they should, that somehow the owner is getting over on the $2.13 hr employee and that you want no part of having to support these employees because it's not your fault the owner isn't paying them what they should. Your ignorance of the business model of how restaurant's work is astounding. Restaurant's cannot stay in business and serve a product at a fair price if they must pay all serving staff minimum wage and above. It's an impossible business model that can't work. You would have $25 hamburgers, $10 fries, $40 sushi rolls. I suppose being the ass that you are you would say, "well if that's what the free market bears then so be it". But the free market developed this other business model that relies on a small social contract called tipping. It tends to work fine for most normal people. I know it just tears a prick like you up inside, this social contract. 15% more you say? Hardly. Try a minimum of 25%, more likely in the 30-35% percentile. This system, that allows a ton of hardworking people to put their way thru college, support children, make ends meet when no other jobs are available for whatever the reason. etc etc tends to work out pretty well for guest and employee alike when we all act with a common sense of decency. You have some delusional perception of the greedy owner not paying people what they should and thinking he will simple ask you, the customer, to do his dirty work and pay them so he does not have to. You need therapy bro. The business model cannot work your way. People are not going to pay 25-35% more for the same product they have traditionally consumed at a certain price point. So most full service restaurants go out of business or better yet, never even open! Hooray! SirRon gets to be right, the wretched social contract is no more, only the rich and well off get to eat out and the rest of us just will have to make do at home. This is what would happen if SirRon got his wish. Your all tangled up in distorted semantics. You only wish the restaurant owners would pay their staff 'fairly' you say. They do. The chef makes a very good salary in many restaurants. The Ched de Cuisine, Sous-Chef, Pastry Chef must be compensated as well. The line books. The GM. The AGM. The Hostess', the Bussers, the Dishwashers. There are a ton of staff who are paid a decent to good salary depending on concept and success. The waitstaff are usually the only ones who get the $2.13. So stop acting like this is some line item salary structure across the board. It's not. If an owner can make 10% profit per month after all costs, that is considered a success. Some only make 5% profit. For every $100, they will keep $5 at the end of  the day. Very view rake money hand over foot. Most owner operators work 75 hrs plus a week, some close to 100. This is not said to make anyone feel empathy for any person who chooses the restaurant business. Its simply to show my good friend Sir Ron that this fantasy he has in his head of the big bad greedy restaurant owner paying his staff a pittance and passing along his dirty work for his customers to fill in the difference is pure and utter bullshit. Like the commentator Anse said, "just don't be an asshole'. I know it's hard Ronnie boy, but for the love of god, please, for all our sakes try it on for size. Take a spin in it. You may just like it.

SirRon
SirRon

Guest, thank you for truly following along. Thank you for the math lesson. That may quite potentially be my worst subject. Thank you for the m-w work. I totally didn't understand the meaning of mandatory. I see that I understood difference between 15% and 35% or 20% and 30% of the content now. Thank you for the entertainment, which is why I'm here here (apologies to Shilcutt and NLH). And fantastic use of "me thinks."

Folks, tip your servers. It has been real. Remember to click the like button. If you want more, please click on my real name, "SirRon." I've got to feed my family too. God willing they wake up tomorrow to a slightly better World and much better Interwebs. Finally, a shout out to all the Guests out there. Without Guests, there would be no... anything. G'night!!

Rjsinc2003
Rjsinc2003

Mandatory Ron? If that were actually a true statement, then how is it that so many people stiff their servers and don't tip shit? I thought it was mandatory? How about 'highly suggested'? With a full escape clause for you cheap SOB's out there to walk away leaving no tip or a crappy one if that is what you so choose. You do pay the extra 15-20% if you actually do pay. Literally. It is far from mandatory in the absolute literal sense of the word. This city is littered with tons of shitty tippers. I would guess 25% of diners are shitty tippers. So when one actually pays the suggested tip they do pay the extra 15-20%, your math is spot on. Except I said it would be more like 30-35%. Now I'm no math wizard but me thinks that is another 10%-20% more then what you said you normally pay. Something about the difference between 15% and 35% or 20 % and 30%. Lets see if I take 35% minus 15% I get? Whoa, another 20%.!! Wow. So in reality you would be paying another 10%-20% then what you pay now. If that were to be the law of the land there would be ghost towns in most full service restaurants buddy boy. So let's say for the SirRon record: Yes, EVERYONE should tip and let's keep the price point where it's at. There is clearly no other way of looking at this...On second thought there is the troll-ian way of looking at this, they call it the SirRon way.

SirRon
SirRon

Very good, Guest. It's clear that I'm the ass and you, Guest are totally awesome.

I don't follow your awesome "logic" though, Guesty-boy. The market bears "$25 hamburgers, $10 fries, $40 sushi rolls" right now because tipping is mandatory through this social compact! Right Guest? I literally pay 15-20% more for all the food that is served to me. I know I'm just a jackass internet troll, but I think the math works out the same in your case and in mine.

Guestlove, you can't have it both ways. Either you think everyone should tip or you think it waiters should starve and not support their families. There is clearly no other way of looking at this.

If I convert just one person... ;)

Guest
Guest

And I am the idiot who didn't proof read this first before hitting send- typos dammit.

Not Enough Money for Everyone
Not Enough Money for Everyone

I am now more thoroughly convinced than ever that I should never really eat out ever again.  I don't feel good about giving a waiter a $50 tip on a $200 bill - I just don't.  My "social compact" instead, will to be to take that $50 and give to the local Food Bank, and I'll put my money where my mouth is this weekend at church.  Keep all your fancy meals in Sotto...there are real people starving out there, they deserve my hard earned money more than any server with entitlement issues.  Again, a tip is a gratuity, not an obligation.

HLindsey
HLindsey

You're right. You should never, EVER eat out again.

Not Enough Money for Everyone
Not Enough Money for Everyone

You're correct, I should NEVER eat out again, because I shouldn't condone the establishment that stoops to pay it's employees $2.13 an hour, it's despicable.  And, I'm working-class (not middle-class), not a self-important jackass, it embarrasses me in the supermarket that people bag my groceries for me (we do it ourselves where I come from) it's not a "privilege" to let baggers do it for me.  But, on the other hand, I don't want to do them out of a job, so I keep my discomfort to myself (and I don't tip them). If I decide to eat out, it really is a treat for me, and I do tip fairly, but I don't like it. I don't like one bit that I am somehow obliged to supplement someone elses income with mine (it's like taxation).  You need to all get off your high horses and STOP telling me how to spend my hard earned disposable income...it is absolutely none of your business...if you wish to tip waiters 50%, bravo to you, I simply do not care. 

Hanabi-chan
Hanabi-chan

By the way, waitstaff are REAL people with bills to pay, families to feed, house etc.  You do know that they are paid far below minimum wage right? And tips for service is how they can even hope to bring home a bit of money at the end of the night?

You strike me as being one of those self-important jackasses who make waitstaff bend over backwards  for the "privilege" of serving you, then call them "entitled" when you stiff them at the end of the meal and they don't see it your way.  I am sure you are the type of customer that many restaurants prefer not to see walk in the door. 

If you decide to grace a table service restaurant with your magnificence, try treating the staff like they are human beings who are trying to survive like the rest of us. I am sure you will find your dining experience far more pleasant.

Hanabi-chan
Hanabi-chan

So it is considered an entitlement to paid decently for doing your job?

SirRon
SirRon

That is, quite literally, the actual contract between employer and employee!

rfrederichs
rfrederichs

I usually start at 20 percent on the pretax amount now, which used to be my high point. If the meal comes to $100 or more, I usually end there, too, but for something in the $50 range, adding two bucks takes the tip from adequate to generous. I don't care for the system, either, but I think the lowest position you can take is to keep your money in your pocket on the grounds that you're trying to change the system. 

Anse
Anse

Long ago I set aside crusty old religious tomes in favor of a simpler, and far more precise, moral code. It is this:

Don't Be An Asshole.

It's a wonderfully succinct faith, and it's lone commandment can be applied to most any situation in which ethics must be considered. People who complain about tipping and corkage in restaurants commit this single indefensible sin. I don't believe in hell, but I do believe in comeuppance, and shitty service shall be your reward. Stop whining or go order a Happy Meal.

Hanabi-chan
Hanabi-chan

Anse, that is a very good moral code to preach and practice. If you treat someone like crap, don't expect to be treated with dignity. A little kindness and empathy go a long way.

Guest
Guest

How is it that every few years the restaurant industry adds another 5% to the expected tip?

SirRon
SirRon

College gets 5% more expensive every few years.

Texmex01
Texmex01

So using that math, Lap Dances should rise @ the same pace, I mean these girls are just trying to put themselves through school......

SirRon
SirRon

I believe if you did the market research you would discover they correlate precisely.

Wyatt
Wyatt

You know where tipping isn't an issue?

STALINGRAD, WINTER 1942

Highly recommended

Cap'n
Cap'n

Just out of curiousity, when did "server" become the preferred term for "waiter?" Or is there a difference?  "Server" sounds like a utilitarian function -- like the people spooning up your dishes at Cleburne's Cafeteria or schlepping you a bottomless past bowl at Olive Garden.  "Waiter" sounds like an actual profession above and beyond trotting out plates of food.  Just curious how waiters/servers feel about the whole thing.

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

I feel like the distinction was made around the same time as "flight attendant" instead of steward/stewardess or "mail carrier" instead of mailman. Have an idea it has something to do with "server" being more or less a gender-less noun, which can then be broadly applied to people in that position across the board instead of saying the more cumbersome "waiters and/or waitresses."

Indospear
Indospear

The restaurant industry does account for 10% of the labor force in Texas alone.  Thats over 1 million people.  So yes we need restaurants just as much as they need us.

SirRon
SirRon

I genuinely hate this forced "social compact" you idealize. However, I don't mind rewarding outstanding service. I make all other tips because *you people* have shamed me into it.

I fully support a system where restaurant owners fairly pay their own employees. That extra cost should be reflected in the price of the food. I know how much a pair of pants costs, and I make my decision on where to buy that pair of pants based mostly on a store having what I want, the price, and the convenience. All that romantic crap above is lagniappe.

The same goes for 98% of my dining experiences.

Speaking to my version of the tipping system that you people defend so passionately. I flat tip drinks (different depending on the drink). Percentage tips don't make any sense to me. Overall dining tip should the bill be less drinks, less tax, times 15% (and I hate all you guys for that), and plus a flat but fair tip for drink service. I'll fight to the death anyone who thinks different. Uh, seriously.

Bruce R
Bruce R

Man, I used to think you were cool. But your just some jerk sitting in front of a computer, just like the rest of us.

SirRon
SirRon

I don't do this for any of you, but I think you are cool, Bruce. I can't quit you.

MadMac
MadMac

He's the same guy that rails against unions even though his statement is the best argument for them. But I agree. Let's ditch the tip systemp and instead of a burger for $7-10, it should be $12-15. That $40 plate at Brenan's/Mark's? Now $55-60 and on down the line. But restaurant owners don't want that because then the DOL would stay in their books and surprise, surprise, surprise, look at all this taxible income you didn't declare. Just ask Mr. Batali/Bastianich. 

Fangard
Fangard

I disagree. I don't think "rich people" mind giving their money away. I just think they want to do it on their terms, not some social/governmental mandate.

SirRon
SirRon

Ron Paul is mainstream. You are right. Rich people, in general, don't like giving their money away. However, that feeling is in line with pretty much everybody else. Good chat, H_e_x.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Because of the current loopholes, but they would also love a flat tax, just ask Ron Paul.

SirRon
SirRon

What the? The wealthy support the current system!! EOW commenters be crazy.

H_e_x
H_e_x

The wealthy. I mean I guess the non-wealthy could support it, in the same way that a young child could support NAMBLA.

SirRon
SirRon

Trolling troll comments for the good of the land. That we be!!

MadMac
MadMac

I thought we were discussing trolls, oh well, whomever.

SirRon
SirRon

Would you like to start discussing taxes here? Pot or kettle today?

MadMac
MadMac

Oh, trolls be trolling on the Press, all the troll-long day.

SirRon
SirRon

I only know what I know, and I don't know anything about unions.

I do know about taxes. Let's flat tax income. That sounds like a pretty good idea.

H_e_x
H_e_x

You know that servers aren't paid well, and we all know that they should be paid a good wage, but why punish them just because you don't like the system? How is that helping anyone? 

SirRon
SirRon

I said I participate in the system, but also hate it. That isn't a concept that is very hard to comprehend, right?

Kelli
Kelli

I typically tip between 15-20% on most checks, and up to 25% on great service.  However, I don't feel that one should be "obligated" to adhere to this number.  There have been times when prices weren't accurately represented to me and what I budgeted for wasn't enough to cover my normal ?% tip on a check.  And if the prices aren't correctly expressed, I feel this counts against their tip.  There have also been times when the service was absolutely horrible.  And in this instance they get anywhere from 10% to little to no tip.  Most people in Texas, if they've lived here in the last 30 years, are VERY aware of what waiters make for minimum wage.  But they choose that, just as they choose to keep the majority of their tips (some tip out to other people, some don't claim them on their taxes so it's all take home).  Just as they choose that wage and profession, we choose to compensate for the type of service they provide.  If this wasn't the case, we'd get shitty service all the time and still be expected to provide the expected 15-20% tip you say we should because of a social compact. 

Nicholas L. Hall
Nicholas L. Hall

Jeremy,

I agree with you on most every point made here, but must ask: what about poor service? Do you adhere to the "20% regardless" philosophy?

Turtletxn
Turtletxn

When you dine out, you are paying for that service. YOUR SERVER IS PAYING FOR YOU TO DINE AS WELL. That's right. Your server has to "TIP OUT" on every check. They tip out to the house, bartender, busers, etc. This is a way for the server to work and earn money, so next time those of you who do not tip, think it isn't your problem that they have to pay for college, please make sure you are that comfortable with eating on someone else's hard earned nickel. These people make less than $3 an hour for you to come in and enjoy their service. Like the article said, if you do not enjoy it, then don't go back. There are plenty of hard working servers that pride themselves on taking care of you.

Springs1
Springs1

 "YOUR SERVER IS PAYING FOR YOU TO DINE AS WELL. That's right. Your server has to "TIP OUT" on every check."

This should be an INCENTIVE to try your best. For some reason, I see a lot of servers that are just lazy and don't care.

Do you truly work hard? For example, do you write down the customer's orders and ALL requests they ask for? Do you compare your written order to the food for obvious errors? Do you compare the check prices to the menu prices to make sure you aren't overcharging the customers? If you don't do all of those things you aren't a hard worker.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Your vision would work in a perfect world, but we do not have that. Having worked a bit in restaurants and currently dating someone who works in a restaurant (not a high end one, more middle range), many people leave no tip, regardless of the quality of service.

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