What to Tip?

When milling through Fark today I came across an article in the Star Tribune, “Restaurant tipping points“. I was thinking that this article would be about what is the proper way to tip those that serve you when dining out. Instead it was about how the people that serve you try to get back at you and what they think you, their customer, should be tipping. So, that made me think about what do I think about when I go to tip somebody for service done when dining out.

Before I get any further into this, I just want to mention that this is more of a reflection/response to the article. There are a lot of things that go into how and why I tip people the way I do, but this is more of an overview of the Einstein type thought processes I have when I tip… or something.

For any of you that have dined out with me in the past, you know how much I regard good customer service. For me, this is one of the most important things when interacting with a company, be it a restaurant or whatever. I say this in the frame of dining out, but it goes for all other things as well. However, I’m mainly focusing on the service provided when dining out.

Overall (99% of the time) service when dining out isn’t poor, it’s good or even great. It is just exactly what is needed for the meal to be ordered, enjoyed, and then conversation afterwards. Now, it goes without saying that you could typically expect service to be much better as the cost of the meal increases. From my experiences this tends to be true, but there are cases were opposites happen (better establishment/not as good service and vice versa).

There are many cases in which I’ve had great and really outstanding servers. This is usually the case, like I said, 99% of the time. They are just great servers and they make you glad that you are out and enjoying their restaurant to get a meal. Their attitudes are what usually seal the deal. One place that does a great job time and time again is Red Robin. I can’t remember of a time where service was poor. Especially when you are there with a large group. They will split checks for you and they are just outstanding. It makes me want to go back there more often (despite it being right across the street).

I really enjoy going out and getting food or drinks. But, sometimes the service can make or break it for you and your experience. I try to leave the suggested 15% for each server that I have, but sometimes the service will lead me to increase or decrease that amount. But, I guess I’m tough on servers at times. However, excusing bad service because a tip is expected just won’t fly with me. I’ll tip you in regards to the quality of your service every time and if it’s really bad I just might tip the chef.

Edit: It was not my intention when writing this to offend those who have worked in the food service industry. I am writing this as a consumer of the service that they provide simply not knowing what it is like to work in a position like that. The closest that I can come to that is IT Help Desk support, but that is a wage job without tips. I realize that people have bad days, I do like everybody else. Maybe the person in my example was having a bad day, I just don’t know. But, like I sad, bad service is very very rare and I can only think of a handfull of times in the past 10 years where this was the case. My apologies to those whom I may have offended.