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Old 08-19-2005, 12:24 PM   #1
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20% required tip, what do you think?

This place better have exceptional service! When I go out to eat, I honestly don't care about restaurant politics. I just want to enjoy a good meal with friends and family. I just wonder at what point will the tipping % stop raising? Usually it's 6+ with reservations are required 18%, now it's 20% here. I imagine other resturants will follow suit. Only thing bothers me is sometimes even with required tip, you dont get great service.

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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - The last thing you want when dropping $450 on dinner is a catfight to break out between the chef and the server.
But at many high-end restaurants, there's economic tension between the front of the house and the back.

Even if a literal fist fight is unlikely, the disparity is huge between what the kitchen staff earns and what waiters make.

Now, one New York eatery is taking steps in an attempt to close that gap, and it will take the discretionary tip out of the hands of the diner.

Effective September first, Per Se, one of the most highly rated Manhattan restaurants, is instituting a 20 percent service charge to all checks in lieu of a tip. The service charge will then be used by the restaurant to help pay all hourly employees -- kitchen staff, waiters, and busboys -- a flat hourly wage.

"Historically in restaurants, the service staff is awarded significantly higher wages than cooks and other staff who prepare the food on which a restaurant's reputation is based," said Per Se chef/owner Thomas Keller in a statement. "The gap in pay is so great that it is becoming increasingly difficult for young cooks to pursue their passion at the rate of pay restaurants are able to afford."

But the move by Per Se -- which those in the business say will be watched closely by other restaurants across the country -- could mean less money for waiters and waitresses.

Certainly, it will mean less control for those doing the eating, at least if you're the sort who uses the tip to reward or punish waiters for their service.

In the weeds

While Per Se would only say the new system is expected to boost the salaries of those not currently working for tips, some say servers are bound to take a hit.

"We were working with stupid amounts of money," said Bill Guilfoyle, an assistant professor at the Culinary Institute of America and a former wine steward at the Quilted Giraffe, a now-closed upscale Manhattan restaurant.

Guilfoyle said servers and other floor people at the Quilted Giraffe would make upward of $100,000 a year, while those in the kitchen might have taken home $30,000.

He said he saw no way around Per Se tinkering with its compensation without that top figure coming down. "The waiters are going to have to take a pay cut," he said.

With a cut in pay, or even the tip incentive removed from the equation, service could suffer.

"It's kind of like working for the government," said Paul Paz, an Oregon-based career waiter of 25 years and author of the book "Serving at Its Best." "If I know it's automatic, then there is no incentive to work harder."

Stiffing the diner?

Customers may also grumble as the power to tip is removed from their hands.

"They will lose the sense of control that they can reward or punish the server based on the service they receive," said James Oliver Cury, a food writer at the the entertainment magazine Time Out.

A poll by the entertainment guide Zagat Survey backed up Cury's claim. It showed that 70 percent of restaurant patrons surveyed in 2004 would rather determine the tip themselves than have the gratuity included in the bill.

Yet Cury cautioned against reading too much into the impact on the diner or the service. He said people tend to leave the same tip, which nationally averages 18.6 percent, no matter what type of service they receive.

Leave the tipping to us

Management at Per Se doesn't seem particularly troubled by these concerns.

Chef Keller has said he instituted a service charge at one of his other restaurants, The French Laundry in Napa Valley, and it has gone well.

A spokesman for Per Se said the stable salary -- which also comes with benefits like vacation and health insurance -- would create a more professional environment and increase motivation. He also said the customers might find it convenient not having to contemplate a tip.

Eric Lilavois, director of Per Se operations, said profit margins in restaurants are slim and the service charge is really what supports the staff.

But others questioned how slim margins really are at high-end places and the need to restructure the wait staff's pay.

"The owners of those restaurants are making huge profits," said Guilfoyle. "If you have these huge checks and these huge tips, why can't Keller afford to pay his staff more?"


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Old 08-19-2005, 01:02 PM   #2
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Personally I think they should abolish the tipping system completely. Give the waitstaff a regular salary just as an office worker would get. I do not see tipping as a way to ensure that I get good service, because the tip comes at the end of the meal and the server does not know what they are getting until I leave. It might be an incentive if at the beginning of the meal I told them that I would give then 20% if I was happy with the service, but less if I was not happy. I would never do that though. With our current system in the USA the tip is used as punishment for a job not well done, but that doesn't do much unless you are a regular customer and the waitstaff remembers you and knows why you gave them a bad tip.

As for this article, I do not think this is a bad idea, but I think it would go over a lot better if they did not say they were adding this to every bill. What they should do, IMO, is just raise the price of the meals accordingly (add 20% to each price). Then say that tips are not accepted at this restaurant.
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Old 08-19-2005, 01:31 PM   #3
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So, can someone tell me why it is harder to serve a party of 8 that are all
sitting at one table than to serve 8 people sitting all over the place? I've never really
understood that. I used to hostess at a resturant and often ended up serving the drinks, salads, soup, setting and clearing tables (all against the rules according to the big boss man but, someone had to do it!!) It was much easier for me to clear one table than three.

Anyway... I hate tipping.
But, I do it because it's expected.
I start out going in to the rest. with the intention of tipping well but, as the quality
of service goes down so does the amount of the tip.
A few things that make the amount of tip change are...
1. I always order hot water with lemon.. no lemon the tip goes down.
if they bring the HOT water in a water glass, the tip goes down YES, it does
happen.
2. Paul always gets either cold water or pop. And gets refills very easily. If they
bring me more hot water the tip goes up, if he ignores me it goes down.
3. I always ask for my salad dressing to be put on the side if it arrives on top
of my salad, the tip goes down.
4. I like nice a nice waitstaff but.. if they sit down to chat while taking my order
the tip goes down. I want to talk with my husband or friends not a stranger.
5. If I hear the waiter talking about how much he hates his job or if he complains to
me in anyway the tip goes down.
If on the other hand he says something nice about his work or the people he
works with the tip goes up.
6. If the place is busy and the waiter keeps up even if we have to wait a bit longer
the tip goes up. BUT, if there's not many people and I see the waiter hanging
hangiing around doing nothing and we have to wait down goes the tip.

I'm sure there's more but that's what I can think of right now.
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Old 08-19-2005, 01:34 PM   #4
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Paging Iron Chef, AllenMI, Andy M. et al.

I would like to hear what our professionals think of this.
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Old 08-19-2005, 01:38 PM   #5
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GB, I agree with the whole tip should go aways thing. I don't think it's fair. Everyone should just get a straight wage, behind the kitchen and in front. I hate to think that there is such a gap between who gets the tip.

There is one Vietnamese restaurant I used to to to eat pho and I NEVER tipped there. That is because I had heard that the house took the tip and didn't give it to the wait staff. The server even told us this. Not sure if that's legal or not...I've stopped eating there, better places around now.
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Old 08-19-2005, 01:57 PM   #6
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Part of the problem with tipping is it required the waitstaff to be mindreaders to a certain degree.

pdswife listed a number of things that come into play when she is deciding on the tip amount (I'm not picking on your here pdswife, just using you list as an example).

For instance, for her she would decrease the tip if the waiter sits down to chat while taking the order. Another person might actually enjoy waiters who do this. With our current tipping system the waiter needs to be a mind reader and know what type of person they are currently serving.
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Old 08-19-2005, 02:27 PM   #7
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I've never had a waitperson sit down and talk to me. I like to have one who is friendly but not personal, whom I don't have to hear what happened last night, last week, or will take place tomorrow, who doesn't try to up the tip by telling me her grandmother was just lifeflighted to the trauma center, or her boyfriend is in jail (bad examples). I don't want to cozy up to me or ignore me and cozy up to my dh or whoever they think may be the one to pay the bill. Is this too much to ask?
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Old 08-19-2005, 02:31 PM   #8
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The only place I've seen the servers sit down at your table to take your order (on a regular basis) is Hooters. I think they must be required to do that or something...
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Old 08-19-2005, 02:33 PM   #9
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At a place like Hooters I bet that increases their tips
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Old 08-19-2005, 03:10 PM   #10
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Well. I have been on both sides of the coin. Waitstaff only make more than kitchen staff if the tips are there. If the kitchen staff screws up the order, the wait staff typically gets the blame, resulting in a lesser tip. Kitchen staff may also be getting benefits the wait staff does not, i.e vaction, sick pay, etc.


Now from the employers side. Food and labor costs are 2 of the biggest reasons a restaurant will go out of business. With tips, that lowers the employers labor costs.

Right now, our girls are making $10-13 an hour (counting their tips). There is no way as a start up buisness that we could afford to pay them that. So, would you rather make that $10-13 an hour, or an hourly wage of 5.15 (min) to maybe $6-8 an hour? Tips also may help improve the quality of service. A person may give better service to insure a better tip, whereas an hourly employee may develop the attitude of what the hey, I get paid by the hour, not by the service I give.

Not sure I agree with a 20% tip added to every bill. I think the patron should have the choice to tip according to the service they receive.

Some people don't tip, because they don't know that the wait staff is working for $2.15 an hour.
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