Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rio Rita + A Few Tips On How to Tip a Waiter

The first place I ever went in Austin was Rio Rita, near 6th street in East Austin.  This, of course, is if I don't count the few trips to Highland Mall I've made with my step-sisters on our regular day-after-Christmas-pilgrimage to Austin for the past few years that we've been a family.  Rio Rita was my first night out in Austin, where I met Eirik before going to watch him host the weekly poetry slam down the street at the Scoot Inn.     

The website claims that it is a "swanky lounge" at night, and this is an accurate description.  I really didn't feel cool enough to be there, nor have I ever since then, but the bloody Mary's (also known as mini-salads) are so damn good that I'm going to keep wearing my hipster cloak so I can sneak in.  If I could present the drool that just filled my mouth when I typed out the words "bloody Mary" as evidence, then you'd know that Pavlov didn't lie, and neither do I.  They are fan-freaking-tastic, but will burn you like a scorned ex-girlfriend, so chase it with water if you're a wimp like me. 

In thinking about restaurants, I wanted to post a few notes about proper tipping etiquette, as I don't feel these rules have been shared with enough people.  When I made my first trip to Rio Rita, I was surviving off my tips as a waitress at the Killeen Bennigan's, since I'd left my job of teaching high school kids to read real good so that I could move here.  And when I say "surviving off tips," I really mean stuffing my pockets with nickels so I'd make a cool jingly sound when I walked, then bumming actual dollars off my friends and family so I could eat, (thanks guys). 

So, in the spirit of the holiday season, exorcise your inner scrooge, and follow my tipping guide to make sure that you aren't short-changing any of the gracious wait staff you encounter at your favorite eateries:

Rules for Tipping Like You Care About Human Life:

1) Tip 20%.  This is not difficult to figure out.  10% = moving the decimal place over ONE SPOT.  For example, if your bill is $17.83, then 10% is $1.78.  Now double this to get 20%.  And if you either don't know how to add in your head, or want to double insure that you aren't a jerk, then ROUND UP to the next whole number.  So your final tip should be either $3.60 for the thrifty diner, or man up, and tip a full $4.00.  That waiter probably spent at least an hour tending to your table.  Don't you think he or she at least deserves 4/hour for their time?

2) TIP FOR THE WHOLE BILL.  Not the discounted bill.  Not minus what you sent back.  Not the cost after coupon.  So this rule should be broken down into three parts:
         a) You didn't like something and the cost was deleted.  Tip as if the price were still on the bill.
         b) You ordered something and exchanged it for something else.  That's double the work.  And in both this scenario and the one above, your server has to track down the manager, display the rejected dish, explain the reason for the send back, get the manager to delete the charge from the bill, (tracking down a manager can be like hunting wildabeasts in New York), explain to the cooks what was wrong, wait on the new dish in neglect of other tables so it can be brought back ASAP, and then the waiter must be really apologetic as though it were their fault you didn't like the dish they had no hand in making. 
        c) You had a coupon.  20% off.  Kids eat free.  Whatever.  Tip as though you didn't have it. 

3) Keep in mind that your waiter is not: the cook, the bar tender, or the manager.  Your waiter has no control over how long the food takes to make, how it tastes, or how long it takes for your drink to come up at the bar.  Do not punish the waiter because the kitchen staff and/or bar staff is slow. Note: it is also not the waiter's fault if the dishwasher quits at the beginning of shift, and no food can come out until all of the backed up dishes have been cleaned so there's a fresh plate to serve your dinner on.

4) At most restaurants, your waiter will tip out the host, the kitchen staff, and the bussers.  That means that 3% of your $4 tip does not stay in his or her pocket.  Most hosts only get this 3% as their pay.  I once busted my butt filling in as a host for a four hour shift and only made $20.  Mad?  Indeed I was.  Let's not even talk about how much my master's degree cost.  $20 bucks for four hours?  Grumble grumble.

5) $5 is not the universal tip for a large bill.  Don't look at your $45 dollar bill and think that throwing down a fiver is decent compensation because five bucks to you seems like a lot of money.  Do the math.  20%. 

Eirik accusing me of leaving dishes in the sink at home.  This is why we eat out.  And tip well.  Dirty dishes are gross, especially other people's.


Grant said...

You should try the bloody marys at Franks. They have bacon and cheese in them.

Lovejoy's also makes a bloody maria. Its a bloody with tequila that is infused with hatch peppers.

I am a good tipper. I usually leave around %30. But I have no problems leaving a crap tip for a crap experience. My food can be terrible, order put in wrong and a baby can be crying a table over from me but if the waiter is polite curious and professional they will still get a tip from me.

Amanda said...

I'll skip the bacon :)

But I think I need to take your recommendation of Lovejoy's very seriously!

I agree with the polite part - I got left a penny once because an order was messed up, but I have never in my life been rude to a person's face, so a penny was beyond insulting. I memorized the guy's name and looked him up on facebook... debated sending him a nasty message after I quit, but decided it was best not to be the creepy bitter ex-waitress. I'm still all that, just minus the creepy.

That Chelsea Girl™ said...

I've worked in the restaurant industry for eight years, and it really bothers me how some people crappily tip. Thanks for educating the general public :)

Springs1 said...

"how long it takes for your drink to come up at the bar."

You do have control over that.

1. WHEN do you put my order in? Do you wait until you get 3 other table's orders or do you go right to the computer to put my order in? That counts A LOT.

2. TWICE this has happened where the server FORGOT to get the margaritas from the bars.

Once, at Applebee's, the waiter forgot to get my margarita from the bar I waited 25 minutes for it, literally. I had to ask him where my margarita was, that is the ONLY reason why I got it then, otherwise, I wouldn't have probably received it. He didn't even ask the manager to comp something. He received a bad tip. I know for a fact that he forgot, because he apologized and just grabbed it from the bar. He didn't have to wait any amount of time. Also, I reminded him, so it was confirmed he forgot it.

Another time at Chili's, ordered margarita at approx. 9:02p.m., waitress didn't come to ask if I had received it until 9:18p.m., which I didn't. Then, come to find out at 9:30p.m. from the manager that they were out of the Presidente' shakers so my margarita got made in a different glass. So my margarita got to another customer. My point is, even though it was the fault of the bartender for not communicating with the server, my server should have gone to check WHERE the heck it was by 9:12p.m. at the lastest. My husband and I had well finished our food by then even. My server was at fault entirely for not checking up on GETTING that margarita to my table and could have known it was in the wrong glass by either bringing it to me in the wrong glass or finding out some other server took it. Either way, my server COULD have found out what had happened MUCH, MUCH SOONER, regardless of the lack of the bartender's communication with our waitress.

"Your waiter has no control over how long the food takes to make,"

You sure do if you put in the wrong cooking time such as "Well Done" instead of "Medium Rare." It takes longer to get a well done steak cooked. If you put in the order wrong, YES, it was your fault in that instance I waited longer due to how long my food took to make, because you put in the order wrong as to how long they had to cook it.

In general, you are right about you cannot control how long they take to make your food, but you can control WHEN you put in the order and WHEN you go get it if you aren't serving someone at the moment, such as if you are chit chatting when my food comes up and just sits, well that's on YOU TOTALLY why I am sitting there longer waiting to eat my food. We have had these situations happen before to us.

Continued next post:

Springs1 said...

"c) You had a coupon. 20% off. Kids eat free. Whatever. Tip as though you didn't have it."

I only agree if the service was good. If the service is bad, the tip will be based on the discounted amount.

I also feel if it's a small amount off your bill such as $5 off 2 entrées, you should get a tip based on the discounted amount regardless, because when the prices go higher on the menu due to inflation we tip higher, so when the prices go lower due to a coupon($2 less per entrée), that is lowering the prices through the use of a coupon, therefore, the tip should be based on the lowered prices, just as we tip higher when prices go up, you get a raise sort of. It's only FAIR to tip lower when the prices go lower and tip higher when the prices go higher as far as small amounts off like that, that are coupon related.

"a) You didn't like something and the cost was deleted. Tip as if the price were still on the bill."

I disagree in that you should tip as if the price were still on the bill, because I think you should tip WAY HIGHER for the server having to do that bullshit. If you don't like something and they get it comped for you, that's really considerate and nice, so you should be WAYYY NICER back by tipping WELL OVER 20%, like 28%-30%.

"b) You ordered something and exchanged it for something else. That's double the work."

I honestly feel you shouldn't be able to do that trick, basically trying something for free. If you do get to do this, you should tip wayyyy higher at least 25% or more, at least, even if the service wasn't that great, the fact that the server did that for you was well BEYOND the call of duty.

Double the work should equal more tip, PERIOD, unless the server is rude to you, which if they got you a comp, chances are, they were nice. Now if it's only because you begged the manager to get something comped, then of course don't count that your server did anything when they didn't do ANYTHING in that case.

Amanda said...

@Springs1 - I agree that some of the cases you have pointed out are exceptions to the tipping rule. These things should always be considered by a patron. I also think that politeness makes up for some mistakes - as a waitress tends to be doing 50 million things at once, and everyone is forgetful once in a while. If bosses deducted from people's salaries when they made a mistake, we'd all know what it feels like to be docked for leaving a drink by accident. It pleases me greatly to see you say you'd tip over for a waiter who has had to go through lots of trouble - that's very compassionate.

Thanks for reading through - I looked at your profile and you seem to have a lot of insiders knowledge about the restaurant industry!

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