By: Jessica Aldred
Having never really worked in the food service industry, I always find myself facing an inner tipping debate whenever we eat out. Is it 15%, 18%, 20%? Is it based on good service or a given? This was more so complicated when we added children to the equation. While eating out happens less and less often with each additional child, majorly due to the pain and suffering involved, I still face this tipping turmoil.
Picture this, as you get up to exit the restaurant you see a family of five seated at a booth across from you. The two older children are quietly enthralled in their video games while the baby munches on crackers and smiles adoringly at you. They look like the picture perfect family right? You even comment on how well behaved the boys are and how cute the little one is. What you didn’t see is when the boys got bored and started tossing food across the table, kicking each other and whining for their dinner. You missed the cute little baby screaming and flailing for no explainable reason. As the meal continued, you’d also miss the mounting pile of food on beneath our feet, the side of me covered in greasy fingerprints while I held down the baby’s plate and quickly tried to shovel something into my mouth when he stopped to catch a breathe. With all this in mind, how do I tip?
I tend to err on the high side for the sake of the extra cleanup involved. I also somehow convince myself that a bigger tip from me may compensate for the lesser one they get from the table next to us as their overall experience has certainly been impacted by the hysteria of my family. Although I generally try to clean up what I can from beneath the table, I’m often stopped-as I crawl halfway under the table- by the server or management who encourage me to leave it alone. I understand that it’s part of their job but that doesn’t really help the terrible feeling of leaving the place in such disarray. As a result, you’ll often find a tip in addition to the original tip spawned from my own guilt and embarrassment.
I honestly don’t even know who the tips go to. Do they pool them and split at the end of the night? Is the poor bus boy at least getting a cut? He’s surely doing the bulk of the clean-up. This has been an ongoing struggle of mine for decades now and while I’m not sure there is a right answer, I’d certainly like to hear how you handle these situations.