In The Weeds: More Than Six People Can’t Do Math
Tis the season for drunken corporate Christmas dinners, dysfunctional family holiday dining and large-party automatic gratuities! You know, parties of 6 or more will be charged an automatic gratuity of 18%. Servers are all like, “That’s right bitches!” and diners are all like, “Oh no you di’int just add a tip to my bill!”
Ah, yes, the automatic gratuity. Or service charge. Or auto grat, if you’re street. Whatever you call it, it remains one of the most disagreed upon topics in the food world. Diners understandably hate it because they like to operate under the illusion that they are in complete control of the dining experience and that waiters must have the proverbial carrot dangled in front of them to perform with even a modicum of competence. Guests love to say that they’ll get crap service because the waiter knows a tip is included. More often, as my message board Internet research shows, guests have gotten burned on service and then burned again by having to pay an auto grat. In those cases, I suggest the diners inform the manager of their complaints. It will most always be removed. Managers love to be heroes. And they love to write people up and/or fire them. So it’s a win win for everybody, really. Well, except the server. But he sucked anyways.
From the restaurant’s perspective, they are attempting to protect their servers (such a rarity) from being underpaid, something that happens often with large parties with a single payer and nearly all the time with large parties who “all throw in.”
A single payer is often so shocked at how much it costs to feed more than 6 people, he attempts to save money on the tip line. Or he sees his bill for $600 and thinks $120 is way too much to pay a waitress. Certainly she’ll be happy with $80. That’s a lot of money for a girl! Diners don’t realize that a large table is often the server’s only table and that we have to tip out the support staff of hostess, bartender, food runner, server assistant, and silver polisher. Sidenote: Some places, I don’t want to name names but let’s just pretend it’s The Capital Grille, require the servers to pay the guy who polishes the silverware so they don’t have to.
As for “all throw in,” attempts…..c’mon. I work in the restaurant biz and can’t even organize a successful “all throw in” when dining with friends. It’s just too much math and stuff after a few glasses of bubbly. Plus, nobody remembers that they did indeed order that second beer and had an upcharge on their side substitution. They just think, “Okay, I had the salmon for $12 and one drink so I’ll throw in $18. That should do it. ” Add in taxes and the cheap friend who hopes nobody will notice they shorted the stack and f’ing forget it – there is never enough there to even cover the bill so you have to start all over again.
Having said all that, I am against automatic gratuities. They create a sense of distrust between the server and the guest. If you are a good server, you will work just as hard if not harder to create an amazing experience with an auto grat. You win some, you lose some but it all tends to even out over the long run. But then again, we didn’t have them at The Capital Grille unless the party had a contract with a set menu. I might change my tune if I had to work at Denny’s or TGIFreaky’s. Call me elitist but you know parties of 6 or more at Shoney’s definitely need some strict small-print guidelines on how to properly tip…and groom…but that’s beside the point.
If The Capital Grille servers were feeling a little nervous about not getting 20% from a large party, there were a few tricks to deal with that. When delivering the check before he sees the total, “For your convenience, Mr. Parker, I can include a service percentage on your final copy.” Ready to leave and wanting to move along, “Uhh, sure, that would be great.” Followed by the bonafied clincher, “What percentage would you prefer?” When the question is phrased as a percentage, nearly every guest will instinctively say 20%. Done and done.
So my dears, Merry Christmas and remember that Jesus is the reason for the season. And What Would Jesus Do? That’s right, tip 20%.