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Is a little Christmas gift appropriate for our favorite server?

  • m

My husband and I go to our favorite restaurant once or twice a month and ask for the same server. I'll call her Jane. Once in a while (maybe once every 3 months) if Jane is off, she will seat us with another server (always the same one). I'll call him Steve. Jane very generous with us and always comps us our first drink. Often, she will send out a free dessert or pack a little bag of bread or chocolates for us to take home. Steve usually sends us a drink when he is our server. This is a fine dining restaurant and we always tip on the value of food served, not billed, and usually tip at least 30%. My question is this: Is it appropriate to show our appreciation by bringing Jane a bottle of wine or other token gift when we dine next week? What about Steve?

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  1. I would say that your favorite server would be thrilled with any gift you bring. I'm sure the gesture will be appreciated tremendously.

    1. A bottle of wine may not be the best gift. She may not drink, may not have anywhere appropriate to store it, and/or it may be visible by the management who might not like to see the staff receiving gifts from patrons - it could even be against some kind of policy.

      I would suggest something small and portable - if you don't wish to just give a cash present, what about a gift card? Say, to the local grocery store? Everyone buys groceries. This is something the server could easily put away without fear of it being stolen or disapproved of by management and something just about everyone could use.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rockandroller1

        I would think that far from being against policies, management would be pleased to see servers getting gifts from regular patrons. it's a testament to how happy they have made the customers.

        I realize that not everyone drinks, but in the restaurant business, the number of non-drinkers is pretty low. Restaurants prefer servers who are conversant in food and drink and often give out bottles of wine as incentives.

      2. I would give money (however much you think appropriate) tucked into an elegant card. More for Jane since you see her more often...less but still generous for Steve.

        Guessing someone's taste is tricky...

        1 Reply
        1. re: fauchon

          I think it's a lovely idea. I think a gift card to a generic department store (Walmart, Target?) in your area for an amount that you consider suitable would be quite welcome.

          Depending on your circumstances, I would get one for both Jane and Steve.

          You are very lucky to have a 'regular' place.

        2. jfood has a couple of dozen little bags of truffles in his car that he keeps to bring to all his buddies around this time of year.

          Who doesn't like chocolate?

          1. Cash is king. My bf and I do what we call "Christmas tipping" with our regular servers, delivery drivers etc. I'm sure Jane gets plenty of "token gifts". I'm also sure she'd love a crisp $50 bill.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Oh Robin

              I agree. You have no idea what people's personal proclivities or allergies are. Many people are trying to watch their weight (or have diabetes, or a conflicting medication) and a gift of chocolate might have to be re-gifted and be completely useless to the receiver. And there ARE people who don't like chocolate, I'm married to one of them. And just because servers are supposed to know about wines doesn't mean they drink. I worked with a lot of servers who don't drink but could make good recommendations for guests on alcoholic bevs, as well as vegetarian servers who could recommend tasty meat dishes. I mean, I don't have any children but I can help people find clothes at my job at a department store in the children's department.

              Unless you know the person, it's just a presumptuous gift to give anyone anything that's food or drink related IMO. This is why I suggested the gift card if the OP didn't want to give cash.

              And if the restaurant is a chain, management would definitely not be all smiles about a server receiving something like a bottle of wine or anything else like that. There are in fact company policies about such things.

              1. re: rockandroller1

                I agree, rockandroller1, that's why I also suggested a gift card. But cash is good, too, I guess.

            2. I think a gift for your server is a very considerate gesture. I say give what you feel like giving--I see nothing wrong with giving a nice bottle of wine or chocolates. Although I give money to the people who deliver the mail and newspapers, my cleaning lady, gardners, poolman, etc., I think wine or chocolates are a bit classier than money or a gift card in this situation.

              1. Cash in a card is always good, but a gift card to a gourmet grocery store, or wine shop or even another restaurant that you also like is appropriate too. I would say no to the wine just because it's big and bulky and may get "picked up" by someone else before the servers shift ends if there are no lockers for staff.

                1. I think you should go with either a cash gift or a gift card. I would stay away from food related items because, as a server they might be able to get certain items from the restaurant or distributors at discount (if not free). I would also leave a card with a note to the manager/owners of the establishment about how much you enjoy their restaurant and the exceptional service you receive from Jane and Steve. You never know the management may reward them with a bonus or paid time off.

                  1. Sounds like a gem. I'd go for card, wine, and some bucks.

                    1. I give cash for all service - super, doormen, barber, etc. I get Christmas card money holders and personalize the card with a short handwritten note. I believe wine or food or department store gift cards are not as instantly gratifying as a crisp $ (fill-in amount) bill.

                      1. Cash is always the best. I've been in jobs where well-intentioned and very well-off people gifted me with nice things (good perfumes, wines, chocolates, etc), but since I wasn't earning a lot, many of those things got re-gifted. My sisters always got the nicest Christmas gifts - things that were given to me. I would always prefer cash! Then I can buy what *I* like, versus what you think that I'd like!

                        1. Absolutely. And don't sweat what the gift is as its the thought that counts (but don't be cheap--if money, $50 should be a minimum, if a gift, $20.). Management usually don't mind when servers receive gifts from regulars. I'm sure both servers would be thrilled. (I would however, make their gifts equal. Steve doesn't give you less service than Jane, just serves you less often.)

                          1. Either cash or a gift card. A grocery store giftcard would be great - everyone needs food!

                            1. As a server it would mean a lot to me if someone handed me a generous tip while wishing me a merry xmas.

                              Unless you know that she likes X wine or X candy (per previous discussions you've had with her) I think it's best to skip the presents. Personal presents are the best, but if it's not possible... cash is a great gift. I know a lot of servers have a rough time around xmas, due to shorter working hours, days off, people having their own budget problems and not going out to eat or not tipping as well as they usually do, etc. So, for those reasons alone, cash is thoughtful.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Azizeh Barjesteh

                                Funny this came up. Last night I had a guest leave a $50 on the silver tray we use to drop our checks. I asked him if he needed me to break that (I had already brought his change.) All he said was, "No. Merry Christmas." It was very sweet and a little bit touching, considering this amounted to a 60% tip. Very much appreciated on an otherwise slow night.

                              2. Most certainly, yes. I'd say double-check with the manager to make sure it's OK (I really can't see why it wouldn't be; no place I've worked yet has any sort of policy that it isn't OK to accept gifts). If you're going to get something that doesn't easily disappear into a pocket, make sure you can give it to them when they aren't busy so they can easily go and stash it away. If you chat with her and find out she has a favorite food or beverage, get Jane some sort of gift involving that, and Steve something similar but smaller. Gift cards would certainly work well in this case, but make sure it's a gift card for somewhere really good; i.e. Local Gourmet Grocer > Whole Paycheque > Trader Joe's > Walmart. I think I would include a note with the gift card saying that they aren't allowed to buy regular groceries with it, and must buy something extravagant that they wouldn't normally have.

                                As a waiter, I'd be thrilled with just about anything.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                  it is very nice to get a nice card with some folding money in it from favorite regulars at the holiday times and it really helps out and will be appreciated by your favorite servers during this busy season. the nice thing about cash is that the servers can choose to spend it on their family's holiday, or set it aside for bills during january and february, when many servers' incomes plummet due to the annual post-holiday restaurant slow period. if you'd like to give a gift card instead i would agree with JK to go high end rather than low, and add, specifically: many servers and industry folk boycott walmart.

                                2. A bigger tip? Of course! Cash or a gift card is great. If you know his or her tastes, so much the better. (I gave a few local sushi chefs some real wasabi rhizomes; they seemed to appreciate the appropriateness of the gift. My favorite guy I also brought a bottle of amazing mirin and a couple of unusual vinegars.)