Wednesday, April 19, 2006

How to get good service?

A commenter on this blog asked how she (and others) might assure themselves good service when frequenting a restaurant. There are some simple and some complex answers that could be given to this question, and I invite the readers of this blog to suggest in the comments some ways beyond my few initial ideas.

1) Develop a relationship. Our commenter eats out regularly. While she likely frequents quite a number of locations, they undoubtedly are repeat guests with some regularity to some establishments. If you get a server you like, leave them a good tip, and then request them the next time you are in. That might mean waiting 10 minutes until they have a table open, but for the right server it's more than worth the wait. In most larger places there are a couple of people who likely would fit this bill on any given night, so you might ask your favorite waiter who they would reccommend if they aren't available or there that night the next time you visit. I'd gladly suggest a couple of my co-workers to my regulars, and have done so previously. I know they'll come back to me the next time most likely, so it's not costing me anything to pass you off to someone else you will be pleased with. Regulars who tip well are always well taken care of. We will take the known for the unknown generally as waiters.

2) Tip up front. Sounds contrary, but it works. If you know roughly what your bill will be, give a significant percentage up front. If your bill is going to be $100, and you know that most likely you will tip more than 15%, give the server the 15% up front. Hand them $15 and say this is for the service you are going to provide us. We'll give you more at the end if you have earned it. There is a bit of risk to this if the server doesn't provide that level of service, but I would bet 95% of the time you'll get GREAT service. Again, the principle of servers choosing what they know over what they don't know. Now the above percentage is scalable according to type of establishment and area you live. There are places where standard tips are more than others. I've eaten at places where I wouldn't think of leaving less than 30%, but I also know that the level of service I will receive will warrent that type of tip. I've had guest walk in and shake my hand and hand me a $20 and just say "take care of us". That is something I can readily understand, it's money in the hand. I have used this method myself, and always gotten great service. I NEVER use it in high end establishments. I have often used it in busy bars, and the bartender always seems to notice when we need more drinks or when I approach the bar.

There are other ways, and I'll let the readers of this blog suggest some more ideas. Should be interesting to see what ideas come from this.

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Anonymous said...

I always have the same server, because I most offten frequent the same place at the same time of day. I have become a regular and if my server moves to Saturday nights, then I'll still show up friday night. But I'll also be around on Saturday.

Anonymous said...

The tipping up front?


I used to waitress at Embers plus a few other restaurants that shall remain nameless, and never was I tipped up front. If I had, I'd have been there, come heck or high water.

Nowadays when I go out to eat, if my waiter/waitress is good, I tip above 25% only because I been there I suppose.

I realize as a former waitress, I'm a bit harsher on my servers, but only in a silent way. I watch as they go along the deal, and 95% of the time, I am very happy, and my server will attest to that.

The thing that bugs me to no end is when I go out to eat with a group. Now keep in mind, this group has all the special this that and the other thing and keeps our server hopping. Said group's bill is broken up by individuals and some individual's leave a frickin' buck as the tip to a 13 buck tab.

I always try to make up for that, when I can anyway.

But I do appreciate my server's ordeal.

I hang out with a different bunch of people. We shall leave it at that.

But I do try to tip a bit above the service I get.

Which is usually above and beyond.

Anonymous said...

Let me see if I undrstand this. You give your waiter $20 up front, but not at high end establishments? So when you go to Applebee's or TGIFriday's you just fork over a 70% tip before you're even served? Forgive me if I don't get on that program.

Anonymous said...

And what if the service is bad? Ask for the tip back? No way.

Lobster Boy said...

To the commenter who thinks I give 70% to TGIFriday's, did you not actually read what I wrote? Scaling your tip is not complex math. If you are spending $30 put a fiver in the waiter's hand and tell him there will be more to come if he does his job, it's a warm up.

I ate at TGIF last night, and I knew my tab would be at least $50 for my wife and I. I gave my waiter "Derek" $8 up front. Not for a moment did I have an empty glass. We never had dirty plates on our tables. Our food was hot, our special request was met. He got more mone at the end of the meal added into the total. He made 20%+.

Lobster Boy

Lobster Boy said...

What if the service is bad you ask? It won't be. And if it is, that is just part of the risk, and why you give a signifcant amount up front, but not all you are willing to give. I start around 15%. If my service then does not warrent a 10% tip, I let a manager know, but I never ask for my money back. It's not all that much money honestly. Now if you are spending $2000 on a meal, that would be different, but we're talking $50-100 here in most cases.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post.

To make sure you get a table with the server you like you can always book in advance and request you be seated where your server is waiting.

Never thought about the whole "Tip up upfront" thing. - If someone did that to me, I'd be going the extra mile as much as I could for them!!

As for my tips... Hmmm..

Customers should be patient! - It makes everything so much easier for the server. I wish customers realised I *can't* always make everything happen *exactly* when they want it do.

If there is something wrong with the food - That's fine, we can sort it out.. Just don't blame me for it - I'm not the Chef!"

Simply Lauren. said...

I was a server in college and for a year or so afterwards and I would love when customers knew what it was like to be in the weeds. They'd say something like, "can you get me an extra glass with ice?" or "can i have more coffee?" but then end it with, "no rush, get to it when you can." b/c it shows that they are sympathetic to all the things I'm doing. When they say things like that---it makes me want to hurry and get their refill or new fork or whatever just to show them that I can still get to them even though I'm busy.