How to Tip in American Restaurants

Don’t you dare go out to eat again until you’ve read this. I mean it!

I used to be a food server or waitress. I’ve worked in casual dining at chain a restaurant (Chevy’s Fresh Mex) and I’ve worked in fine dining in the Napa Valley at Villa Romano Restaurant and in uber fine dining at Julia’s Kitchen in Copia. I have first hand knowledge of American tipping practices and I am about to share them with you.

By and large people tip well, but there are those few that are still clueless. They don’t know what is appropriate, how much to tip, or they just aren’t sure how much it should be. There are the ones that don’t go out often, maybe only on holidays, or maybe are foraying into fine dining for the first time. They can also be from a foreign country with different tipping practices than we have. This guide is for all of you!

Casual dining:

Poor service: 10% or less
Good service: 15%
Great service: 20% or more

Fine dining:

Poor service: 15% or less
Good service: 20%
Great service: 25% or more

What defines good service? Good service includes a polite server who is efficient. The server tells you any specials and takes your order, returns with your drinks in a timely manner, makes sure your drinks are refilled or asks you if you would care for another. They make sure you have the correct silverware. They check to make sure your order arrives correctly and that it is to your liking. If there are any problems or special requests they do their best to take care of them as soon as possible. Coffee and dessert are offered at the end. The check is presented and payment is taken care of quickly.

In fine dining each coarse must be cleared and new silverware provided before or with the next course. Multiple courses are not served together unless the guest specifically requests it. Appetiser, soup, salad, entrée, dessert are the basics. Servers or wait staff may also “crumb” the table, either after each course or just before dessert, which consists of sweeping away any crumbs on the table with a small tool called a crumber.

Great service, well you will know great service without me telling you. Your server and wait staff are friendly and caring and attentive and makes you feel like a VIP. They make sure that your dining experience flows smoothly and that you don’t have to worry about a thing but enjoying yourself.

How do you calculate? Let me make it easy for you. A lot of people go with double the tax, if your tax in your area is around 7% this works IF you round it up, because obviously doubling 7% is only 14%, not 15%. That gives you 15%.  Taxes can vary from area to area so the best way is just to look at the check total and figure from there, people it isn’t that hard. Let’s take a $100 check. 10% means just drop a zero or $10. If you need 20% double that, you’ve got $20. If you need 15% take half of that or $5 and add it to the 10% and you’ve got your 15% or in this case $15. Let’s try it with a $50 check. 10% drop the last number so you have $5. Half of 5 is $2.50 so add that to the 5 and you have $7.50 for your 15%, and double the 10% or $5 and that gives you $10 for your 20%. I hope this helps.

My last word is on gratuity. Some places add the gratuity. They may do it with parties of 6 or more, or they may just add it to every tab. It never hurts to ask your server if you aren’t sure. If they do add gratuity, find out how much. If they are only adding 18% and your server deserves 20% or more, it’s always very appreciated when you add extra. You’re ALWAYS welcome to leave them more.

Do servers split their tips with the other wait staff? Yes, they do. At the last place I worked we tipped 5% to the hostess, 8% to the bartender, 10% to the food runner, and 15% to the bussers. That totals 38%. Some places tip out more, some places tip out less. So remember that, the tip you leave isn’t only going to your server, it’s going to be split up between all the people who helped to make your experience a pleasant one.

Servers work for minimum wage generally and so the majority of their pay, the way they support themselves, comes from your tips. Please be generous.

For more tips on eating out please see my other post: Ordering Wine in a Restaurant.

73 Things You Might Not Know About Me…

1. I can dance.
2. I can dance and teach Polynesian dancing. Yes, that means Hawaiian hula, modern and ancient (kahiko), Maori, Tahitian, and a bit of Samoan.
3. I was president of a non-profit organization for 5 years. Ka Ohana O Na Huapala(the family of friends with much love), a non-profit Polynesian cultural group.
4. I love cats, and other animals too, but cats the most.
5. I used to manage a store called Nautilus Tropical Fish and Gifts.
6. I know a lot about taking care of aquariums and the names of most fish.
7. I was beaten up and robbed while working there.
8. I owned my own business for 20 years. I was a Mary Kay Cosmetics Consultant and I had up to seven consultants on my team.
9. I went to Dallas, Texas and Annaheim, California on Mary Kay business trips.
10. I’ve used Mary Kay Cosmetics religiously since I was 19 years old. (Thank you Trudy Ball, now my consultant!)
11. Pink is my favorite color.
12. I collect odd things in pink. I have a pink tool kit and extension cord. I have a large collection of pink depression glass.
13. I know the names of most flowers. I used to be really interested in gardening and read a lot of books. I like planting flowers, gardening.
14. I like to cook and bake.
15. I have over 50 cookbooks. I used to collect them.
16. I used to bake bread from scratch regularly when I was a teenager.
17. When other people wanted to grow up and be doctors and lawyers, I wanted to grow up to be a mom.
18. I took ECE (Early Childhood Education) classes at Fairfield High School to prepare myself to be a mom.
19. I LOVE being a Mom. I believe that I’m not going to be president of the United States, but that the most important thing I’m going to do is be a good parent.
20. I took square dancing lessons as a child.
21. I took bowling lessons as a child.
22. I took swimming lessons as a child.
23. I took ice skating lessons as a child.
24. I took piano lessons as a child.
25. I’m not really good at any of the things I took lessons in as a child.
26. I had a secret code way of writing messages with one of my best friends, Kathy White, in high school. I still remember most of it.
27. I was facinated with witchcraft in junior high school/freshman year of high school.
28. I used to have a palomino pony named Comanche when I was a child and lived up in Issaquah, Washington.
29. We had a creek, May Creek, that ran through our property and I saw salmon spawn.
30. I lived on the side of Tiger Mountain and used to play in the woods.
31. I know how to fish, but I don’t like to eat fish with fins. Yuk!
32. I do like shellfish! Crab, clams, lobster, shrimp, I’m not sure about oysters…I’ve had them smoked and they were good. I’m scared to try them raw.
33. I like to sing. I was in choir through most of grade school and in Acapella in High School. I know the words to a lot of songs.
34. I took knitting lessons at Michael’s Craft Store in Santa Rosa, but I really haven’t practiced. I can crochet a great baby blanket though!
35. I love time travel romance novels. My favorite is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.
36. I love to read. As a teenager I would read romance novels all night until the sun came up and I had to get ready for school.
37. The guy I was in love with during high school, and sometimes dated, was killed in a car crash during my junior year.
38. I like to take pictures. I’m starting to enjoy photography more and more.
39. I love flowers, I love the colors and the smell.
40. I work for the school district with special ed children, mainly autistic children.
41. A few nights a week I work at a fine dining restaurant, thought right now I’m between jobs.
42. I have two intelligent amazing children, girl -19, and boy – 22, they both still live with me.
43. I had a huge wedding, 500 people, a band, my polynesian group performed, I was married to their father for 13 years, actually maybe it was 15 by the time the divorce was final, but those don’t really count.
44. I am a serial entrepreneur. I have 4 websites planned!
45. My first website is thesmartmomsnetwork.com. I’m on my third developer…
46. In Feb. 2007 I founded and am Senior Partner of RW Investments. I run it non-profit. It is an investment club for women.
47. I’m 4 classes away from getting my AA in Liberal Studies.
48. I graduated from the Sacramento Entrepreneurship Academy (SEA) in 2005.
49. I used to work at Chevy’s Fresh Mex in Fairfield, Villa Romano in Napa, and Julia’s Kitchen in Copia in Napa.
50. My parents live two blocks from me and don’t drive anymore, so I am their chauffeur, and I don’t mind at all! They did it for me, now it’s my turn.
51. I write poetry.
52. I have family on my dad’s side in Washington State, and family on my mom’s side in Tennessee. No other family besides my parents and kids and I here in California.
53. My Dad was in communications with the Air Force for 22 years, he retired when I was five. Then he worked for Boeing making airplanes in Washington, then ended up retiring from the Fairfield Post Office as a mail carrier. My Mom taught kindergarten, worked as a cashier in restaurants, worked in a post office in Alaska, had a business called The Happy Hangers with her friend Cathy Miller where they did wallpapering, then had Mary and Gerry’s Yesteryear Antiques with her friend Mary Miller(not related to Cathy). She retired after working in the office at the mobile home park we live in.
54. When I was married we had two houses, the second one was huge, two story, four bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a huge backyard that we put a barked in play area for the kids with a swingset and fort and playhouse, and a huge fenced in oval doughboy pool. We lost that back to the bank, my ex talked me into declaring bankrupcy right before he asked for a divorce. Now I live in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath mobile home. Just for now. I’ll have a nice cozy house with a fireplace again soon, just wait and see! When all my sites are done on the internet…I’ll be the next big thing!
55. My son started taking college classes in eighth grade. He took Intro to Programming, CIS 1, and Into to Networking. I took all of these classes with him. He also took Fencing, which I didn’t take with him. He was in Acadeca, Academic Decathalon his senior year at Fairfield High School. He went to Europe for three weeks and visited Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic. He attended the San Francisco Academy of Arts University for one year, and was going to major in Computers, New Media. He wasn’t sure if this was really his life’s passion, so he dropped out to re-evaluate. He’s worked at Hot Topic, H & M, and currently at Barnes and Nobles. He loves to read.
56. My daughter was in Honors and AP classes. She was on the Yearbook Staff as Asst. Editor and formed a Knitting Club. She is attending the local community college completing her general ed. She graduated from the Hex Makeup School with her certificate in Makeup Artistry. She has worked for her father re-stocking at the commisary and currently is working at PVE (Paradise Valley Estates) in food service and freelancing as a makeup artist.
57. I took 3 semesters of Ballroom Dancing.
58. I have no fear of public speaking. None. A stage? A mic? A camera? I’m READY!
59. I’ve never colored my hair.
60. I pull out the gray hairs that show! I may have to start coloring it soon.
61. I have very long natural fingernails, but rarely paint them.
62. For some reason I have scissors in almost every room of my house. I just recently realized I do this!
63. When I was four or five I got lost at the California State Fair.
64. I started talking very early as a child, at 9 months old. Even before I could walk. By the time I was 12 months old I was talking in complete sentences and singing songs.
65. I did some modeling. I modeled shoes for Darlington’s. I modeled for a couple of friends who were photographers. One had an old fashioned photo booth and he used my pics for his display.
66. When I was in high school I volunteered at the S.P.C.A. Sometimes I was there by myself. Sometimes I had to supervise the bad kids who were sent there to do community service. That was a little scary. That’s why I quit.
67. I was in a pageant. I didn’t win but I was a fair hostess for the Solano County Fair.
68. While I was a fair hostess I got to ride in a helicopter!
69. I’ve been on TV! It was a local channel that filmed the school board meeting. The principal at my children’s school asked me to teach some children a Hawaiian song for multicultural week. I had to get up in front of the school board and introduce the children and explain what the song/dance was about. It was fun!
70. Chocolate is my favorite food, especially dark chocolate. Next favorite is Chicken Kiev.
71. I love to exfoliate! Buff, scrub, pumice, loofah…i adore it all!
72. I had viral menengitis when I was three and lived in Goose Bay Labrador. I almost died.
73. I was adopted. (see other post)

Chez Panisse

Yesterday, my friend Angela invited me to come visit her. She lives in Albany, next to Berkeley. I drove over and we decided to go out to lunch to this place that I can’t remember the name of, but she said it was across the street from Chez Panisse. So, I said, “What about just going to Chez Panisse?”. Angela said, “Well, I checked on that online and it said that you need to make reservations about a month in advance”. Angela is getting a degree at UC Berkeley (that I don’t remember the name of but it has something to do with food and wine). Angela also just finished reading “Alice Waters and Chez Panisse” by Thomas McNamee. (I can’t figure out how to underline the title here in WordPress – forgive me, I do know better). In any case I knew Angela would love to eat there between her major and just finishing the book, so we drove downtown Berkeley and found a parking spot and put 10 quarters in the meter. Berkeley is so cool and quirky. There were people picnicking in the grass in the meridian of the street. Lots of them! With cars driving by on both sides of them, like they were in a park! Most of them were eating pizza from a nearby place. I was dying for Alexandra’s digital camera! I had asked Angela to bring hers, but the battery was dead, so no luck there either.

We decided to try Chez Panisse before going over to the other restaurant, and they took us right in! We went upstairs to the cafe, which I am told is a bit less formal and pricey than the restaurant.

We were seating in a very tight spot, very close to another table, but we didn’t mind, everyone was very friendly. They first ask if you would care for still or sparkling water and they bring it the table in a pretty etched glass decanter. It says Chez Panisse on one side, and Still on the other. There was a wonderful flavorful brown bread that was served with some very yellow butter. Angela said that the guy that started Acme Bakery nearby had worked at Chez Panisse and Alice Waters had helped him get started, so we imagined that the bread was probably from Acme Bakery. That was where our bread from Julia’s Kitchen had been from, too. The busser girl told us the butter was from grass fed cows and that it was yellower because it had more carotene. Wow. I guess I didn’t even know what color butter was supposed to be. I’ve grown up on the pale butter made from grain fed cows. It’s kind of a shame.

We ordered a bottle of rose wine that was rather inexpensive and Angela said she had read it was one of Alice Waters’ favorites. It was perfect! Our server was apparently in training because another server came over to open our wine while instructing her. Later I saw her trying to open the wine for another table. I wanted to help. (I could have taught her much better…)

We shared an appetiser. (I’m on a budget) It was a salad with fried goat cheese. Angela once again said that she had read that it was one of the classic dishes at the restaurant. Next we share an entree. There was a boneless chicken that they said was pressed as it was cooked to make it crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. It was wonderful! As were the herbed peas. I’ve never had better peas. Honestly. And then there were some homemade potato chips as well. So good! Lastly, dessert. I had a peach and raspberry tart with vanilla bean ice cream and Angela had the fresh fruit, queen anne cherries and a plumcot. We were both in heaven! Truly a meal to remember!

In between all of this, I forgot to mention that since I knew I was going to be near Chez Panisse I thought I would bring along a resume and drop it off, since I am on the market at the moment. After we were seated for a few minutes I handed our server my resume and asked her if she could please give it to her manager. A few minutes later she brought it back to me and said it would probably be better to wait until I was leaving and give it to a manager myself, that way they might have time to sit down with and talk with me. Then, once again, a few minutes later a woman comes up to our table and says, “Hi, I’m Renee, did you want me to look over your resume?” I gave it to her of course and we continued our lunch. When we finished I checked to see if she was available, but the said she was in a meeting and had my number and would call me. Honestly, that is probably for the best, I don’t know what kind of interview I would have given after drinking half a bottle of wine!

Angela and I stopped and she got a couple of cheeses and some bread and salami and a lovely cold bottle of prosecco and we went back to her place, where her son Elijah and boyfriend Jesse were, and watched a French foreign film I had rented from Netflix, called Avenue Montaigne. Not Amelie, but very cute. We had the best French themed day!

Chez Panisse didn’t call today. Maybe tomorrow.

P.S. I LOVE blog comments!

I said NO

So, I turned down the job offer for a couple of reasons. The money might have been comparable…but…she might have expected a lot of me for that. Also, I felt really proud to work at Julia’s Kitchen at Copia. I really wouldn’t feel proud to tell people where I worked if I worked there, not that it’s a bad place or anything. It just would feel like a step backwards to me. There’s a big difference between fine dining and sushi.

I had planned to go out job hunting in Napa again today, but I am really low on funds and can’t afford the gas money. Sad. It’s up to $4.19 at the Bonfare gas station on the corner. I should have my monthly fsusd auto deposit on this coming Saturday, May 31st. That is all supposed to go to bills that come out of the account automatically. I really am not sure exactly when I’ll get my first unemployment check. So, I must be careful, and as hard as it is I have to say no to going out to brunch, going out to dinner, and going wine tasting. It sucks! I love all of those things!

Odd Job Offer

So I get a call this morning from a woman who tells me she is calling from the restaurant I applied at. “Which restaurant?’, I ask. (I’ve applied at 10, at least) She explains, then she tells me she would like to see what I look like. I ask her when she would like me to come in for an interview? She says 7. I ask, “Tomorrow morning? At 7:00 AM?”. She says, “No, tonight at 7”. I agree.

Tonight I go to the interview and mind you I have looked online at the menu, and it is pizza, pasta, and steaks. Not exactly at the price point I am used to, but I figure I will check it out, because it is located in a really nice area. I meet the owner and she hands me a menu and I almost cough because…it’s all sushi! I tell her that I looked at the menu online, and this is different! She says she just bought the restaurant three weeks ago and hasn’t changed it yet. She asks about my experience and I tell her. I look around the room and only see three tables filled. She says she would like to give me a two week trial. I tell her that honestly I don’t think I could make enough money there to be worth it for me. She looks at me and thinks and asks how much I made a week at my old job. I tell her about $500 working Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. She writes this down and I can see her thinking. Then she offers to pay me a salary to cover the wages I would miss working there. I was confused and wondered if she was wanting to hire me as a manager. She explains that most of the employees there weren’t much more than kids and that she would like someone older to work there as a head server/kind of a manager. I told her I needed to think about it and promised that I would call her tomorrow.

My gut feeling says, “No, this isn’t what I was looking for at all. I love working in fine dining”. But my head keeps going around with all the posibilities. I’m going to sleep on it and see how I feel in the morning.

Published in: on May 29, 2008 at 6:01 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

let go, fired, downsized, not needed

Hire me, please.  Yes, today I was let go, fired, downsized.  I was advised, “I’m sorry, but I’ve been told from the new president of
Copia, Garry McGuire Jr., to let all the part-time employees go.”  I am a part-time employee, so that meant me.  This actually happened when I called in to find out what time I worked tonight.  That may seem last minute, but actually I had called yesterday, as well.  And the schedule which starts on Sunday is rarely posted until Saturday afternoon.   

So, instead of working tonight and bringing home close to $200, here I sit, blogging. 

I don’t blame my manager Joel, he’s a sweet guy, and he’s just following orders, and truly seems to feel bad about it all.  He’s willing to give me a letter of recommendation and has given me a few leads of places that are hiring.  That’s all I can ask for at the moment.

It’s unfair though, because of all the food servers at Julia’s Kitchen, I actually have the most seniority.  Even though I work part-time, I have been there the longest, since October of 2006.  I have stayed when everyone else left, through five – count them – managers. Steve, Jane, Noel, Jane again, and Joel. Also, Rose, Jazmin and Eric who were acting managers for short periods of time. Also, I have regular customers who love me.  There are two couples that come in and ask for me every Friday night.  The Curley’s, John and Cathy, and the Poliak’s, Richard and Cathy. I had special plans for them to celebrate their 100th and 200th visit respectively.  The sad thing is, I won’t even be able explain and say goodbye to them or any of my friends/co-workers. 

Whose idea was brunch? Mine! (And it’s been very successful I must say!) Who always shows up for her shifts? Me! Who has come in many times on short notice to help out? ME!

I filed for unemployment.  That was a bit confusing.  Apparently both of my part-time jobs, including the one I’m not fired from – with the school district – will pay for the unemployment that I draw.  They seemed to want to know more information from the job I still work for than for the one I was fired from.  Why?

I have almost $300 in the bank and about $23 in cash.  To last until the end of the month. 

This sucks!

The plan is:  Apply for unemployment.  Check.  Update resume.  Make copies of letters of reference.  Start applying at every fine dining restaurant in Napa. 

Do I blame the economy?  Do I blame the new president of Copia, Garry McGuire Jr.?  I really don’t know who to blame.  All I know is that as difficult and unexpected as it is, I need to find a new job and fast.  Wish me luck!

TwitterCounter for @lauralovesart