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Renaissance Cafe / Restaurants that add the tip to the bill

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Zev Sero Jan 7, 2004 12:33 AM

I had dinner at Renaissance Cafe tonight. The food was delicious, but the service was pretty bad. Not so bad that I wouldn't have tipped at all, but in normal circumstances I'd have left $1 or $1.50, no more. I mean, they did bring my food to me, I did get everything that I ordered, and my bill was calculated correctly, so they deserve something. But that's about all the service I got - about the level that I would expect from a cheap diner - and I don't see why I should pay 15% of a not-cheap meal for that. But Renaissance adds 15% to the bill for service; they call it a 'Gratuity tax', and that's exactly what it is - a tax, something you have to pay, whether the service was worth it or not. I knew this going in, because it is on the menu, so I had no grounds for complaint on that score, but I'm taking the opportunity to whinge about it here.

Has anyone else had a similar experience at Renaissance? Is the service always bad, or was I just unlucky?

  1. h
    Himishgal Jan 8, 2004 11:55 AM

    What irks me the most is when service is added and its not known to you (i.e., unclear bill, small notation)and you leave an 'additional' tip. AND they don't tell you the tip has been automatically added.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Himishgal
      The Chowhound Team Jan 11, 2004 03:26 PM

      Not to Himishgal in particular, but to the thread as a whole- please help us keep this board focused on finding great kosher chow and use the Not About food board for any further discussion of tipping practices. Thanks very much!

      Link: http://www.chowhound.com/boards/notfo...

      1. re: The Chowhound Team
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        Himishgal Jan 11, 2004 05:36 PM

        But isn't this part of the total dining experience; a factor that should be included in deciding if a restaurant warrants our business?

        1. re: Himishgal
          The Chowhound Team Jan 11, 2004 06:32 PM

          We know where you're coming from, but the discussion of tipping is not an issue that's specific or unique to kosher restaurants, so it would belong on one of our general use boards. And since it's not really about food, we ask participants on all of our boards to have that discussion on the Not About Food board.

          Again, folks are welcome to move the tipping discussion to the Not About Food board, but we'll be deleting any further posts on that topic on this board in order to keep this board focused on finding great Kosher chow.

          1. re: The Chowhound Team
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            bloviator Jan 11, 2004 11:37 PM

            I guess, as Malcom Gladwell might say, we've reached The Tipping Point here.

            1. re: bloviator
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              uncle moishy Jan 12, 2004 12:11 AM

              To paraphrase the Chowhound Team:

              Please....no gratuitous comments!

    2. b
      baruch Jan 8, 2004 07:56 AM

      I agree with the comments expressed in the other posts but want to point out that:

      a. Kosher restaurants almost never have the same level of service that non-kosher places do. I don't know why, but they just don't. My number two peeve about kosher establishments after the fact that 99 percent of kosher restaurants are delis, chinese, or mid-eastern.

      b. 15% had been the standard for too long now. 18-20 is the new 15%. If they are charging you 15% consider it a gift, because you really should be tipping more than that.

      1 Reply
      1. re: baruch
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        Zev Sero Jan 10, 2004 06:21 PM

        > 15% had been the standard for too long now. 18-20 is the new 15%.
        > If they are charging you 15% consider it a gift, because you
        > really should be tipping more than that.

        Why on earth? Has the standard or value of the service gone up recently? The price of food goes up with the cost of living, so it's not as if 15% of the bill now is the same as it was 10 years ago. But why should the value of service go up *faster* than the value of the food?

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        uncle moishy Jan 7, 2004 02:18 PM

        You don't actually tell us what the problem was with the service. Your only description is: "They did bring my food to me, I did get everything that I ordered, and my bill was calculated correctly." Unless there was something specifically wrong (e.g., ignored for a long time, had to ask over and over for water or bread, bad attitude, etc.) what you described is adequate service, and adequate service warrants more than $1 or $1.50 (assuming your meal cost more than $5-$10). In metro NYC in this day and age, 15% is the norm for adequate service. The wait staff depends on it, because they aren't getting paid by the house. In other words, you may have explained why the house feels compelled to add the service charge rather than leave it to the discretion of customers.

        Having said that (and I may be all wrong, you might've just left out the details), I admit that it galls me when a service charge is added and service is poor. It leaves you no way to express your displeasure. I also don't like it that some places add more than 15%. In the same part of Brooklyn as Renaissance, I know that Bella Luna adds a svce charge and so do some of the Israeli steakhouses. And you never really know if the service charges collected by management really make their way to the workers.

        5 Replies
        1. re: uncle moishy
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          Zev Sero Jan 8, 2004 02:50 AM

          I have long wondered why the tip should depend on the value of the food; if I'm getting the same service for a $10 meal and for a $40 meal, why tip more? I have been told that, well, a more expensive meal comes in a more expensive restaurant, and in a more expensive restaurant you get better service. Supposedly in the sort of place where you eat a $40 meal there are fewer customers per waiter, so the waiter gives you a greater percentage of his time, and actually pays attention to you, makes sure your water is filled, that you're not left waiting, etc.

          Well, the service I got at Renaissance last night was no more than I'd expect from an < $10 meal at a diner or fast food joint. Uncle Moishy, I already said what the service I got was: "They did bring my food to me, I did get everything that I ordered, and my bill was calculated correctly". And that is *all* the service I got. That's what I get at Subsational. That's less than I get at Olympic Pita, which is saying something. It's rather less than I get at Dougies. Why should I pay more for giving me the food I ordered and not screwing up my bill on a $40 meal than on a $10 meal?

          For a bigger tip I expect a waiter to show up within a short time of my showing signs that I might be ready to order, not 10 minutes later; when, having sat ignored for 10 minutes I finally get a waiter and I ask to be reseated out of the draught from the door, I expect the waiter to realise that I've already seen the menu, and come back to my new table in a minute or two to take my order, rather than ignoring me for another 10 minutes; I expect bread to come while I'm still looking at the menu, not 25+ minutes after I first sat down, with my soup already there; I expect my water glass to be refilled when it's empty, or a jug to be left on my table; I expect my next course to come *after* I've finished this course (not too long after, but definitely not before); when I've finished the main course I expect a waiter to show up within 10 minutes to offer dessert or the bill; and I expect the waiter to know what desserts are available, especially if she doesn't bother to bring an actual menu. None of the above happened. Now for a $1-$1.50 tip I don't expect all of the above; actually giving me my food, not screwing up the order, and not screwing up the bill, is enough. But for a $6 tip I do expect all of the above.

          I have on occasion had worse service than this - but when that has happened I did not tip at all; for instance, there was the time when, after sitting with an empty plate in front of me for *45 minutes*, and having finished the entire paper and a few chapters of a book, I gave up on the idea of dessert and went to the counter to pay my bill, and when asked where my waiter was I said that was a good question, I'd been wondering that myself for half an hour or so.

          1. re: Zev Sero
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            uncle moishy Jan 8, 2004 11:41 AM

            Was the service at Cafe Renaissance really equivalent to a <$10 fast food joint? Did you have to stand on line to order, then stand and wait for your food to be ready, then walk with your tray to scout out a table, which you might've had to clean yourself (and/or flag down the help to wipe off the sticky parts? If you wanted water, did you have to get up again and serve yourself in a teeny tiny cup designed to discourage water drinkers? That's a fast-food experience, for which you tip nothing. It's not the adequate if unexceptional service your first post described at Cafe Renaissance.

            Your analogy to Olympic Pita is probably more realistic, but note that at Olympic and similar places, the price structure for table service is different and more expensive than for take-out (or sitting at the stools, if you prefer). For example, you can't order one skewer, but must get two. In any case, I hope you don't leave a sub-15% tip there under normal circumstances either. As for Dougie's, my last time at one of their locations (the dairy restaurant on 72 St), the service was lousy (although the food was good) and it was easy to see why: there weren't enough waiters out there. We pared our tip down accordingly.

            Finally, I noticed a number of Britishisms in your last post (draught for draft, realise, jug for pitcher). I had thought that including service charges in the cost of meals was much more common in Europe than here (or is it just on the continent itself?).

            1. re: uncle moishy
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              Zev Sero Jan 10, 2004 06:16 PM

              > Was the service at Cafe Renaissance really equivalent
              > to an under $10 fast food joint? Did you have to stand on
              > line to order, then stand and wait for your food to be
              > ready, then walk with your tray to scout out a table,
              > which you might've had to clean yourself (and/or flag
              > down the help to wipe off the sticky parts? If you
              > wanted water, did you have to get up again and serve
              > yourself in a teeny tiny cup designed to discourage
              > water drinkers? That's a fast-food experience, for
              > which you tip nothing. It's not the adequate if
              > unexceptional service your first post described at
              > Cafe Renaissance.

              As I said, the service I got wasn't worth nothing at all, it was worth $1 or $1.50. I did get to sit at a table and get my order taken, I did get the things that I ordered (which isn't always a given), and the waiter didn't screw up my bill (also not always a given); so she deserved something. But I would expect the same for a ~$10 meal at a diner-type place; even at Subsational, after you've ordered and paid, you can sit down and they'll bring your meal to the table.

              I'm Australian; over there there is no explicit service charge - it's part of the overhead of the restaurant, like rent or electricity, and is built in to the price of the food. But adding a tip of 10% or so is not uncommon, if the service was more than simply adequate. Back in Oz, I would not tip 5 cents for the service I got at Renaissance.

              BTW, at Olympic and Dougies I tip $2 no matter how big or small the bill; that's the value I put on the adequate-but-not-outstanding service I get there. If they do something more than the usual, they get $3. If the service is less than adequate I don't tip at all. I don't see why how much I eat, or how much it cost, should affect the price of the service.

              1. re: Zev Sero
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                bloviator Jan 10, 2004 09:39 PM

                Zev,

                Do you really go into Dougie's and give $2-3 no matter what you get? Somehow I doubt that if you went in for an order of tempura or wings (about $6) that you would actually give $1, let alone $2.

                To paraphrase Dorothy, you're not in Oz anymore. As one who probably travels a lot, you should appreciate the value of respecting local customs. As you yourself indicated, service is generally *not* embedded in the price of food in American restaurants. Paying your waiter is done on the honor system here and is customarily based on the size of your check, like it or not. Don't be dishonorable, and don't be cheap. If you can't abide this system, then take your food to go.

                1. re: bloviator
                  The Chowhound Team Mar 11, 2004 02:14 AM

                  Hi-

                  Please continue this discussion on the Not About Food board where restaurant practices and dining customs are discussed. This board is about Kosher food. We will be removing the off topic discussion on this board.

                  Thanks.

        2. s
          Sharon Lebewohl Jan 7, 2004 02:10 PM

          Restaurants often add the tip for parties of 6 or more. I can understand this since when large groups go out and people pay individually, the waitstaff often don't get what they deserve. But the practice of doing this for smaller groups really annoys me. I would tell the owner that the service wasn't worthy of that tip. Any good restauranteur who cares about the clientele should tell you to leave what you want. I am finding the practice of adding tipping to the bill occuring more and more often in Kosher restaurants.

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