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Heights Eater: All About Tipping

Too much? Too little? Eater has a candid conversation with local wait staff

This week Eater was part of a heated debate on the virtues of tipping. The group, much like the demographics of Hasbrouck Heights, was comprised of people of varying income classes. And the opinions were strong.

Half the room felt very strongly that servers work very hard and they should be tipped at least 20 percent regardless of the experience. Those people had all had some sort of experience in food service before.

A few people believed a 20 percent tip is appropriate when the service was as expected, and a poor experience should earn the server 10 to 15 percent.

One man in the group insisted that he does not have enough money to leave large tips, so he typically leaves about 10 percent.  His comment inspired this week’s topic because although it is something not generally talked about, tipping does come with a set of social guidelines.

Eater stopped by The Heights Bar & Grill and spoke with two servers about tipping practices they experience. Both servers asked to remain anonymous as the bar is a local establishment and neither felt comfortable speaking about any regular customers, understandably so.

Jane (not her real name) said that it is nearly impossible to tell how a person is going to tip before they sit down. “You can’t really profile people. Lots of times you think that this guy is never going to leave a good tip and he surprises you with 25 percent!” Bill (not his real name) echoed that sentiment.

“Because this is a local place our customers take care of us for the most part. Sometimes we get lousy tips on bar bills, but some people think that you don’t need to tip on alcohol if you are not sitting at the bar” said Bill. “We have experienced regulars who stay for hours, and winds up leaving behind a $2 tip, and probably thinks he is leaving a big tip.”

Both servers have been in food service for over 10 years, so Eater inquired if they thought that the economy has impacted their tips. Both were quick to say that they have seen a lot less customers and lower check totals but the tips have not really changed.

Jane remarked “I make less money than I did 8 years ago but I also don’t work as hard. A place like this [Heights Bar & Grill] is great because it does better in a lousy economy. People can’t afford fancy dinners, but they can afford a burger and beer.”

It was great to learn that local residents are taking good care of their servers. To the point of the man who argued that he cannot afford to tip—either order less and leave a 15 percent tip or don’t go out to eat. In the United States, tipping is part of the requirement to dining out.

General Tipping Etiquette Guidelines

  • A minimum of 15 percent is expected
  • Always tip on the full amount of the original check total, not the price after discounts or groupons
  • Tip on alcohol. The only exception to this is tipping on only a percentage of an expensive bottle of wine.
  • Had a bad dining experience? Consider the reason for it before taking it out on the server. 
  • Keep in mind that everyone else in the restaurant gets a paycheck. The servers and bartenders receive only tips (and a few dollars an hour). They often take the brunt of someone else’s lack of interest in your dining experience.
  • Tipping on take out orders is always appreciated. 5-10 percent is usually adequate, depending on the type of food and complexity of the order. Remember, the server still had to take, place, and pack your order.

Don’t forget to ! Remember to pose a food-related question and Eater will find the answer via the comments section, e-mail, twitter (@HasbrouckPatch) or on Facebook.

Jack Coneys July 25, 2011 at 01:06 PM
Good job. I found this article helpful.

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