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18% gratuity per server?

AmblerGirl Oct 6, 2009 07:08 AM

We are hosting a christening lunch for my daughterr at a local restaurant. It will be fairly large, 70 people, and served buffet style in a private room. I went over contract details with the owner yesterday and they are really giving me a good price. But they are including 18% gratuity, per server. There will be 2 servers. I understand 18% gratuity, but not per server, that is like paying 36%. I questioned the owner and he said its because the servers will be doing everything - bussing tables, clean up etc. He said they do it for all large parties. Still seems odd. Has anyone else heard of this? IfI did not already send out invitations, I'd consider looking elsewhere.....

  1. k
    Kater Oct 6, 2009 08:06 AM

    I have never heard of that and want to know where this has happened because I am in your general area!

    Gratuity should be 18-20% (a lot of places add 20) on the total expenditure to be shared by the servers. It is not at all reasonable to asses the gratuity on the total bill and then apply it to each server particularly for buffet service.

    That said, If you like the place and are getting a great deal then it may make perfect sense to accept this inappropriate way of charging for service because the total bill is still a good value. Take the true total including gratuity, divide it by the number of guests and ask yourself if it is a fair price.

    And tell us where this happened!!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Kater
      AmblerGirl Oct 6, 2009 09:58 AM

      Its From The Boot restaurant.... I'll post this on our local board too......

      1. re: AmblerGirl
        Kater Oct 9, 2009 08:34 AM

        I still have never been there but it has a good buzz here, I think you've written about it before as have others. At this point, you know you're not losing your mind... it is a weird and inappropriate way to assess a labor charge. But since you like the food and the restaurant and the invites are out already, I still think you should just look at the cost per person at the end of the day and if that isn't crazy then focus on the total and pretend they're not being so weird!

    2. iluvcookies Oct 6, 2009 08:42 AM

      Gratuity should be 18-20% of the pre-tax total. Not per server--that is outrageous, especially for a buffet. Using the owner's logic, that would mean you should tip each employee separately at a regular meal? You should consider looking elsewhere anyway and let that be known to this restaurant.

      Personally, I wouldn't have sent invites until I had a firm price on the event.

      1. j
        Janet from Richmond Oct 6, 2009 09:27 AM

        I agree that is inappropriate.

        1. shaogo Oct 6, 2009 09:29 AM

          That's very, very peculiar.

          A "service charge" for buffet servers who're replenishing/clearing and bussing tables should be a one-line item that's 20% at the most.

          If this restaurateur is weird enough to try to varnish a 36% gratuity with the "per server" line, I'd also go as far as to guess that the *entirety* of that amount isn't going to his servers.

          I offer *my* banquet customers a good price -- thus we do a lot of them -- but I don't underestimate their intelligence by making up part of my margin with inflated service charges.

          It's a shame you sent out invitations. Had you not, I'd have recommended you look for another venue. Take the advice of Kater, above, who suggests to examine the bottom-line value of the meal. I hope that even with the gratuity, you're enjoying a good value.

          1. f
            fourunder Oct 6, 2009 09:37 AM

            Cancel and send out new invitations.....it's cheaper and you will feel better in the end. i.e., you will not have to harbor any pent up anger or resentment when you should be enjoying yourself on this special day.

            btw....you should name the restaurant in my opinion for the benfit of others.

            1. jfood Oct 6, 2009 09:53 AM

              Oh Boy, can't make this stuff up.

              First ask them for recommendations for others who have agreed to this policy. After they do the Ralph Kramden "hummana, hummana" tell them 18% of the pre-tax or see if they understand the word "No."

              1. chowser Oct 6, 2009 09:57 AM

                They do it because people accept it. If you go for it, you're enabling it. Also, only two people for bussing, cleaning, etc.? Sounds like the owner is being cheap and not wanting to hire people to do those jobs. I'd be worried about having only two people for 70 people. I would look elsewhere. Contacting 70 people would be a pain but worth it.

                1 Reply
                1. re: chowser
                  rockandroller1 Oct 6, 2009 10:54 AM

                  100% agree with chowser. I would call them back and tell them they are losing a party of freaking 70 people, as well as any future parties you might have booked with this practice, not to mention you will be telling your SEVENTY guests why you had to make a last minute change. Take your business elsewhere. Yes, it's a pain, but I bet when you tell everyone why you had to change venues, they will a) be sympathetic and b) not patronize that place any longer, which is what they deserve. Greedy f*cks.

                2. f
                  fourunder Oct 6, 2009 09:57 AM

                  On another note.....a common trick(or policy) is for a caterer to impose the following fees and charges subtotaling 26% plus your States Sale Tax Rate. e.g.,

                  18% Labor Charge
                  8 % Staff Gratuities
                  7 % State Sales Tax .....for a total of 33%......the staff never gets the gratuity because they are paid a shift rate......the 8% staff gratuities are disguised as the commissions going to the booking manager......

                  1. d
                    DGresh Oct 6, 2009 10:14 AM

                    that's nuts. This means that the service charge goes up as the SQUARE of the number of people you've invited. Think about it-- small group, one server, 18% of the charge for say 20 people. Double the number of people to 40, say that requires 2 servers, now you've got double the service percentage on double the number of dinners, thus 4X the service charge. Does this make sense at all?

                    1. q
                      queencru Oct 6, 2009 02:54 PM

                      By this logic, once you get a 200-person party and need 6 servers, you'll be paying a 108% gratuity? That makes no sense whatsoever. I agree with others that the cost of reprinting the invites is probably going to be cheaper than the extra gratuity for 70 people.

                      1. alanbarnes Oct 6, 2009 03:36 PM

                        >>"I questioned the owner and he said its because the servers will be doing everything - bussing tables, clean up etc. "<<

                        It's a BUFFET, fercryinoutloud. What else are the servers going to be doing? Okay, maybe they're bringing drinks to people. I'm not even sure about an 18% gratuity on a buffet dinner. That's the kind of tip you expect to see for a plated meal - the kind of meal that requires a lot more effort on the servers' part. For self-serve, it seems a little high. But 36%? Put down the crack pipe, already.

                        1. c
                          cinnamon girl Oct 6, 2009 07:53 PM

                          Just say no Ambler Girl. Ridiculous. Sending out a revamped note probably isn't your favourite thing to be doing with a new baby at home, (congratulations btw), but it'll be worth it b/c you'll just feel like a dupe the whole time you're there. Are there quite a few invitees you could just send a group email to? That'll lessen the load a bit. Is there a hall or something that's part of the church where you could cater in? His rationale of the two servers having to do so much, isn't your problem. Why doesn't he organize his business better? Lame all around.

                          1. scuzzo Oct 6, 2009 08:26 PM

                            Just to play devil's advocate, if you're happy with the overall total, who cares how it's broken down? It's just semantics if he only adds one tip fee but then beefs up the labor cost somewhere else. But on the surface, it does appear out of the ordinary.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: scuzzo
                              MikeG Oct 9, 2009 10:09 AM

                              Let's hear it for sanity. ;)

                              1. re: MikeG
                                scuzzo Oct 9, 2009 12:45 PM

                                Thanks Mike!

                            2. h
                              hsk Oct 6, 2009 10:12 PM

                              I've never heard of a per server gratuity.

                              Maybe you should get it clarified (is it 36% if there are 2 servers? 72% if there are 4 servers)? Can you specify how many servers you want?

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: hsk
                                superbossmom Oct 7, 2009 04:05 AM

                                You say he gave you a good price; it seems to me he's making up the difference with this 36% upcharge. If your total is $2,000, for example, you would think $360 is a very decent gratuity. Double that amount is exorbitant.

                                1. re: superbossmom
                                  jfood Oct 7, 2009 04:21 AM

                                  Can't wait for the old, "I really would like to do this job and do it right so i'll give you a 10% discount but we should bring a third server to make it perfect."

                                  PT Barnum lives

                                  1. re: jfood
                                    chowser Oct 7, 2009 05:30 AM

                                    Yes, wait for the "Oh, you want the tables and chairs option? That's extra."

                                    1. re: chowser
                                      iluvcookies Oct 7, 2009 06:46 AM

                                      "Tell you what I'm gonna do... you bring your own plates, forks and napkins, I'll knock $50 off the top. Whaddya say?"

                                      Sorry... just had to say that :)

                              2. Withnail42 Oct 7, 2009 06:49 AM

                                We just had a Christening lunch as well. And had to deal with an overly stubborn rep but I digress.

                                I've held, organized, attended, and worked numerous similar functions and have never heard of such a thing. And servers at these event DO do everything. I can't help but wonder if this guy is new to the business or if he is skimming off the top. If he is this shady up front I would be wary about what will be provided during your event, and not to mentions sudden new additional costs. A pain to be sure but I'd look elsewhere.

                                What every you decide hope your daughters day goes well!

                                1. b
                                  Brandon Nelson Oct 7, 2009 10:44 AM

                                  Your home states labor department regulates how service gratuities are dispersed. They generally tale a VERY dim view of operations that collect "gratuities" and don't disperse every penny to service staff.

                                  I might pass this practice on to the state labor board.

                                  1. Karl S Oct 7, 2009 04:28 PM

                                    Just say no. The customary tip rate for buffet service is 10%, just for point of reference.

                                    1. c oliver Oct 8, 2009 11:24 AM

                                      Let's see if I've got this right. You met with the owner on 10/05 and by 10/06 you'd already sent out the invitations. Does that mean you printed them (or had them printed) ahead of time? Did you book this place BEFORE going over the contract? I know that in some states at least you have 72 hours in which to cancel a contract without penalty. I would do that in a heartbeat and send out a subsequent postcard about a change in venue. If this person is screwing you this much, I shudder to think what else is in store for you. Did you actually check references?

                                      1. KaimukiMan Dec 2, 2012 05:07 PM

                                        Wow, so this happened back in 2009. What was the final outcome.

                                        If I were stuck I would have insisted on issuing the gratuity directly to the servers.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: KaimukiMan
                                          Violatp Dec 2, 2012 05:38 PM

                                          Ha! I need to check dates more. :-)

                                        2. v
                                          Violatp Dec 2, 2012 05:36 PM

                                          Oh wow. Totally inappropriate and pretty shady. I've planned many a corporate meeting and have paid large service charges at hotels but I've never encountered a *per server* fee couched in those terms. I know hotels are a different kettle of fish, but I've also never encountered this when I've put a large party at a restaurant.

                                          Seriously, I would cancel.

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