Food Jobs Tipping Points

Waiter RantMany people think that servers are transient folk who would much prefer to be occupying themselves with more desirable work. However, as the status of the chef has become more elevated, the role of the server or waiter has begun to change too.

It may be disheartening to toilers in the hot kitchen to discover that more folk go to restaurants because the service is good than because the food is fabulous. Guests want to be served, not merely fed.

Now and again there is anguished talk about elevating the public’s perception of servers by including gratuities in the check and, offering a decent salary with benefits and paid vacations. As sensible as this proposal seems on the surface, it continues to face implacable opposition from almost everyone:

Management Says “No”

Managers claim that if the gratuities were added to checks, the public would be shocked (shocked!), at their total bills. This way of thinking seems to suggest that you can fool all the people all the time and that the notion of the expectation of a server’s eager anticipation of a tip will always come as a complete surprise. You might think that the restaurant industry, a cornerstone of the American economy, could figure a way out of this quagmire.

Servers Say “No”

Many servers don’t want to change the system. Minimum wage is $7.25 an hour for everyone else, and although many weary servers make only $2.13 per hour in wages, in some exalted palaces of gastronomy—particularly those with grand banquet facilities—they can count on very large gratuities indeed.

Guests say “No.”

There is a notion, too, that guests like to exert their power by grading server performance and deciding whether to leave a gratuity of the customary 20 percent. The total is rarely more. Sometimes it amounts to considerably less.

In most other civilized countries, France included, service is included in the check so that no one need engage in arithmetical speculation.

What do you think? Should gratuities be included in the bill?