Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Attention waiters and waitresses of the world: I've got a tip for you...

So what's up with customer service these days, specifically in the restaurant industry? I realize that as a single diner who's ordering his dinner at the bar, I'm not going to be your cash cow for the evening. But that's no reason to provide second-rate service. If the meal is good and you make sitting in your establishment a pleasant experience, trust me: I'll take care of you -- I am a pretty generous tipper. But if you treat me like I'm a burden - like my waitress at a Louisville steak house the other night who wouldn't make eye contact with me, served my salad without a fork and knife, and then took five minutes to bring utensils to me - it's going to be your loss.

So all I ask is for a genuine smile, some eye contact, and maybe a "Hey, is everything OK?" or "Is there anything else I can get you?"

A quick story: I was at the Las Vegas airport last month, and had about 45 minutes before I had to be at the gate for my flight to Boston. I went to California Pizza Kitchen, where I grabbed a spot at the bar and ordered a small pizza and a beer. Fifteen minutes later, I asked the waitress how much longer it would be before I got my lunch. "You never ordered a pizza," she said dismissively. When I told her that I did, indeed, ask for a pizza - from her - she said, "Well, I don't have any record of that order." Period. Not, "I'm sorry, can I put in another order for you?" or "Sorry for the mix-up, can I get you a beer on the house?" or "Sorry about that. What can I do to make this right?" So in the end, a $4.50 beer + a zero percent tip = $4.50.

If you get really bad service in a restaurant, do you still tip? 


  1. Great post Mike! OK, here's my favorite story: We were at the Red Parrot in Hull, MA (not exactly a 4-star establishment, but they do offer table "service"). We were on the outdoor deck, above the main restaurant. After a ridiculously long wait, the waitress finally came to our table and I ordered a Corona with a lime. She looked at me and said, "Uh, I'd have to go downstairs for a lime." So I said, "Oh, well I'd like a lime, thanks." Eventually, our beers came but alas, my Corona did not have a lime with in. So, when the time came to pay the bill I realized that in order to give her a tip, I'd have to go into my wallet for that. And so I didn't.

  2. Airport bars have captive guests. If you don't like the service, they have a whole plane-load following you in 10 minutes anyway.

  3. Poor service really irritates me. I always want to explain to the server or host or whomever that they work in the food SERVICE industry. If they don't want to help people or bringing you what you've requested is a hassle, then they need to find a different job: preferably in the back corner of a warehouse away from sunlight. I hate to not tip but I also hate being ignored and in these cases, I, does indeed, come before U.

  4. Julie: Love that story. We need to join you at the Red Parrot sometime. Have never been!

    Paul: You're right, of course, but with all those folks in vacation mode and on business accounts, wouldn't you be on your BEST behavior if you a server in an airport restaurant?

    Demotheus: I was tempted to stop by the manager's station on the way out of the restaurant and explain what had happened...but truly, i was so disgusted by the waitress' attitude i didn't have it in me. I believe that at least SHE understood the reason she earned no tip.

  5. It's not unusual for me to be traveling by myself at least part of the time, whether it is a work or personal trip.

    For a while, traveling alone can be fun for me -- no one to consult or adjust to. But eating out is hard.

    Room service generally costs a lot for something awful, and it's no way to see a city. So, I usually look for wine bars or nice restaurants with a good sized bar. (I hate the idea of a table by myself.) Very often, I get fabulous service and the right amount of nice attention.

    I think a good server has a spot of sympathy for solo travelers. I am not looking to have a pal for the night, but it's nice to have some friendly words.

    This winter I was in Key West a day before a friend arrived. I gathered up my courage to eat by myself at the bar of a nice restaurant. The lovely, lovely bar tender/server made me feel welcome. She got a huge tip from me and I enjoyed giving it.

  6. I always gave special attention to the single diners, offered them magazines or newspapers and chatted them up. I knew it wouldn't make me more money per se, but I think most servers put single diners at the bottom of the priority ladder and that's not right.

    I would never stiff a waiter though, the lowest I'd go is betwen 5 and 10 percent.

    Yesterday for the bday dinner the server arrived and asked if we were ready to order. I said, "Hello, how are you?" Then I asked if there were any specials. He wasn't very good, but we ate in a timely manner and so we left 15%. Usually it's 20, but when you feel more like an imposition.....



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