Sunday, December 16, 2012

Your Waiter Tips You Part 2

It's back! I have had more some thoughts since the first instalment and even some requests for my views on certain things. I might even make this a semi-regular feature, if people want it.

I realised, after re-reading the last post, I make it sound like these tips are foolproof. Maybe I was wrong. These tips are my thoughts, things that make me happy or annoyed and my experiences from working for a year in two different stores (of the same chain) and talking to other staff. These tips may not work with everyone, but I can only offer my take on things.

Before we start with the new tips, I'd like to make an addition to #4 on the last post. I was talking about children making a mess and how the worst thing a parent can do is apologise for a mess but leave it. I have found a crime that’s even worse! Yesterday, I walked past a table where the toddler had just dropped a £2 coin-sized piece of pizza into one of the walkways, and the Mum said to the Dad 'Just sweep that bit under the table.' Not only do they know there is a mess, but they actively move the mess, using the same energy that could have picked that up... Grrr...

Anyway here we go: some new tips in a nice systematic order.

#7 Where to sit

This one is a bit more specific to the operating procedures  of the company for which I work, but I would expect similar systems operate elsewhere. When you arrive, the Host will greet you, and show you to a table. They may direct you to a certain table or area, or they may offer you the choice. I'll take these scenarios separately. But first a little background. We divide the restaurant up into different sections, and each Waiter looks after a certain section. This is done for ease; I don't need to keep a track of where the tables I'm looking after are; they are in one place. It is also done so a table should have the same Waiter for the duration of the visit, which helps if there are problems, and also helps build a good relationship.

If you are directed to a certain area, there is probably a good reason why. A good Host will spread tables out among the sections, rather than sitting three in one area in the space of five minutes. This makes the waiter's job easier, and means you should get quicker service. You can ask to move, or sit at a certain table, and we will do our best to accommodate that. But I often advise customers that if they sit there, they may have more of a wait, because the server is quite busy. Then it is their choice.
If you are given the option of where to sit, please think about your server. If there are three tables at one end of the restaurant, and none at the other, where should you sit? I'd prefer if you sat near the others, it means everything is in one place, and can save a lot of walking. Also, if there are two of you, please don't sit on the table of six, unless there is nowhere else. We have very few places where we can seat a table of six, so we might have to turn customers away or make them wait because you are taking up a valuable table.

#8 - Unlimited drinks/food is limited

We sell 'unlimited' drinks, ice cream, and we even give free salad all day. We also offer an unlimited lunch buffet. But unlimited doesn't mean unlimited. It is for one person. If there are two of you, that means buying two drinks, not getting one and sharing it. If you have a small child (officially, if they are 2 or under) then they can share with their parent. But that is it. I had a table of two the other day who ordered two (different) unlimited drinks. After taking the order I did my usual 'If you'd like a free refill, just let me know.' I was a little busy, so one of the other staff took the drinks over, and came back to tell me that they had 'only ordered one drink', and had sent one back. I know that they ordered two, they were different. Then it clicked that they we going to share it, after I had told them it was unlimited. In these cases, it's too much hassle to argue, so we took one drink off the menu.  But it winds me up, especially as they were obviously playing staff off against each other.

#9 Splitting the bill

Spilling the bill is fine, our till even lets us split it equally between everyone or actually break it down so each person pays for what they had. If you can do the maths yourself, sort the money amongst yourselves and pay in one go, then that is great, please do! But the other day we had a table of 14 who each wanted to pay for their bit, and each pay individually on cards or with cash that needed lots of change. This is a nightmare, each card transaction takes around a minute to complete. You can see the problem here. This means my other tables have to wait for service, and other tables can't pay (we only have two card machines, but they don't like both working at the same time). If you are all paying cash, maybe work the money out amongst you so that you can leave whatever change there is as a tip (see below), maybe even use things like Pingit from Barclays, which allows you to transfer money quickly via internet banking.

#10 Tips on Tipping

A few people have asked me what my view is on tipping. This is a tricky one, and this is very much my opinion. I never expect a tip as Customers are paying for food and I get paid (admittedly minimum wage) to give it to them. I find it strange that, in the UK, we tip some people and not others. We don't often tip bartenders, we never tip checkout staff at the supermarket even they are providing you with food you are paying for (I have been a till boy as well). That doesn't mean I don't like getting tips. And since being a waiter, I have become a better tipper myself. My view is 10% as a good mark, but would never tip less than £1. I don't know why, but 78p seems a bit low, even if it was a £7.80 bill. I don't know why. And leaving 2p on the table, well that's just irritating. I think I would rather have nothing that that.

If you are a big table (10+) then I am more likely to expect a tip. Large tables are hard work, especially when I have a few other tables. Getting 10 drinks and running 10 pizzas takes a lot longer than 3 or 4 do (obviously). On the other hand, it may be that I only have your table, in which case you will be my sole tipper.

I won't hold it against you if you don't tip, but I will certainly remember if you tip well.
Also, know what the tip policy is at the restaurant. Some places share the tips equally between all staff, some (like mine) let servers keep 100% of the tips they earn, some more dodgy places take a commission from the tips, or use tips to top up wages so the worker still only gets minimum wage. If in doubt, ask.

So there we go. A few more hints for good service and a happy waiter. Anything else you'd like me to talk about in the next one?

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