Why You Don’t Deserve A Tip

I’ve seen a number of blogs and posts lately about the various types of customers that servers hate. There’s even a Facebook Page dedicated to the pet peeves of bar and restaurant staff. Having worked front-of-house in bars or restaurants from the ages 14 until 22, I get it. I’ve seen every type of shitty customer mentioned in those “Why Servers Hate You” posts, and yes, I hated each and every one of them.  I highly recommend that every person work a service industry job for a while, if only long enough for them to learn how not to be an asshole when they’re back on the consumer side of the counter.

However, just because you work in an industry where tipping is often customary, that does not make you entitled to receive a tip. You must actually do your job, and you must do it well. I worked very hard as a server, and I earned all the tips I got. I expect you to do the same. If you can’t handle the stress, and you can’t manipulate a bad situation to work in your benefit, then perhaps serving isn’t for you. It’s certainly not for everyone. So, from a former server, to the tip-entitled generation, here’s Why You Don’t Deserve A Tip: 


You’re not an Ethiopian child in a commercial with a Sarah McLaughlin soundtrack. There is a great deal of acting involved in serving, and if you can’t leave your problems at the door and muster a smile, then you shouldn’t be here. If it’s a tragedy, tell your boss you can’t maintain composure enough to work. If he won’t accept that, he’s not the kind of manager you want to work for. If it’s not a tragedy, you need to suck it up.


Don’t just read me what the menu says, I can do that myself. You should have tried most of the items on the menu and be able to say what they taste like, how spicy/sweet/etc. they are, and what alterations or accompaniments you recommend (a great chance to upsell!). A really great server knows everything about the restaurant– all the ingredients and cooking methods, the rarely-used bar stock, and even things about the company history, building and local attractions. Most servers will have to outsource to the kitchen staff or management for information like this, and that’s okay. However, if you have to go to the back to confirm what type of salad dressing you have, then you need to reconsider your employment.


Within 5 minutes or less (and that’s generous), you need to greet your new tables. Longer than that, and they get fidgety. But hey, sometimes shit hits that fan and your section gets really slammed. It sucks, but sometimes it happens. Say it with me servers: “Hey guys, I’ll be right with you!” It only takes a second to swing by, put a hand on the table, smile, make eye-contact, and say that phrase.  It’s actually best done while you’ve got your hands full. That way they know you’re aware of them, and they can see that you’re busy, not texting your friends from the break-room. Typically, this phrase will get you a response of “Oh, no worries!” and will actually grant you a little extra time. When you return, apologize, and start your usual welcome spiel.


This is especially true if my glass is empty, or I have some sort of request. If you have nothing to do, do not stand around and chit-chat unless you have already swung by every table and checked to see if they need anything. You’re still working. Do your job before you socialize. When you walk, walk briskly. Look like you’re awake, perhaps even energetic! And hey, if your section is calm and another is busy, would it kill you to clear some plates for your coworkers? Maybe fill a water or two?


Don’t walk around with your head in the sand! Always be scanning your section, in case someone is trying to get your attention. If a guests’ eyes are wandering around the room instead of looking at their companions, there’s a good chance they’re looking for you. If you’re busy, just catch their eye, smile, and nod. Then at least they know you’re aware that they need something, and will be with them as soon as you can.


When something goes wrong, you will inevitably be the messenger that gets shot over it. Accept that ignorant customers blaming you for things that are out of your control is just part of the package. Learn to apologize gracefully and sincerely, regardless of fault. Don’t try to point fingers at the kitchen or the hostess, even when they’re to blame. You just look immature. If you can’t handle customer complaints gracefully, maybe you should be in the kitchen. 

 If you avoid all the above things, you’ll probably do well as a server. As a customer, I’ll usually give 20% or higher for great service (or if my table was a hassle), 15% for average-good service, 10% for sub-par, and it goes down from there. You don’t get tips just for putting on the name tag– you get tips for doing a good job. If you’re a server who gets shitty tips as often as you complain about getting shitty tips, perhaps it’s a sign that you’re a shitty server…