How do I convince all servers to be consistent with their good service? Regular good tippers sometimes get better service than new or occasional diners.
Mike Fisher, Owner, Country Gardens Restaurant, Parkesburg, PA
Published: May 9, 2012
Remnants of the history of tipping, adding a little extra “to insure promptitude” are clearly evident in your restaurant. Known good tippers get extra good service. Even now, when tipping at least fifteen percent on every check is the norm, we have all seen servers fighting to avoid tables seating notoriously poorly-tipping guests and angling to get generous regulars in their sections.
In many ways, servers narrowly focused on tips create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Servers size up new guests, perhaps expecting that they will not be generous tippers and, sure enough, after receiving indifferent service, they aren’t. This is well known as a problem among servers assigned to tables of African American guests and European visitors.
I would suggest three strategies for handling this problem:
- Cash out at the end. Some operations have servers taking their tips after each check is paid. So if a guest pays a $33 with $40 and tells the server to “keep the change,” the server immediately calculates the tip and pockets the difference, matching the size of the tip to the guest. If management or a designated cashier collects the checks throughout the shift and cashes out servers at the end of the night, easy thanks to your POS system, servers focus less on individual guests.
- Share. Restaurants that pool tips among all servers have less in-fighting over who serves which table. Generous regulars will get good service anyway, regardless of the section where they sit.
- Train. Teach servers to abide by an uncompromising standard of service and call them out for any deviations, no matter the guest affected.
Ultimately, the problem of known good tippers getting better service than other guests isn’t a bad problem to have. But focus on raising the bottom rather than leveling the top so that servers treat all guests the way they treat their favorites.
Jonathan Deutsch, Ph.D. is one of our Advice Guys and Director of Culinary Arts at Kingsborough Community College, CUNY. He is the author of six books including They Eat That? A Cultural Encyclopedia of “Weird” Foods(ABC-CLIO, 2012).
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