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Discount tipping on early bird..a nuance

s
Sinicle Mar 6, 2010 07:17 AM

We recently took friends to an upscale restaurant. We ordered a la carte off of the menu. The meal and the service was excellent. When the bill came, the server explained that everyone who orders before 6:30 gets a 25% discount on everything and the amount, indeed, was deducted from the bill total. This was not stated on the menu and I was unaware of it. The question is this: certainly if I have a coupon that deducts from the total bill, or if I am comped in one way or the other, I base my tip on the bill before the discount. In this situation, my opinion was that this was, in effect, an early bird special which everyone is entitled to and I would tip on whatever the early bird special price was, not on the "pre-discount" price. Again, if lunch prices are less, I certainly would not tip based on the dinner menu. The other diners (who are best friends and OK to discuss these things) felt I should tip on the prediscount price. I tend to be a big tipper and feel if I can afford an expensive meal, I can tip well; nonetheless, in this case I felt a tip on the discounted amount was the correct choice. I did, under intense social pressure, including that from my wife, tip on the pre-discount price, but we agreed to see what CH said. If the restaurant policy (stated after the meal) is to deduct 25% for everyone before 6:30 does one tip based on what one actually paid or on the prediscount amount?

  1. s
    smartie Mar 6, 2010 07:42 AM

    we had a similar situation last night, before 7pm drinks and appetizers are half price or 2 for 1and a small discussion ensued as to whether to tip on the before 7pm prices or the full price had we paid it. If a restaurant wants you in for Happy Hour and you specifically go there for that reason and it makes going out affordable then maybe we should tip on the check that arrives at the table not the one you would have got.

    1. goodhealthgourmet Mar 6, 2010 08:09 AM

      i completely understand what both of you are saying, but i think it's important to remember that you're tipping the server, not restaurant management...and management makes the decisions to offer specials/discounts. so while it may not make sense to tip on the entire pre-discounted amount, if service is good i usually round up a bit so the server doesn't lose out too much on a bigger tip simply because i dined early or took advantage of a discount. i tip 20% as a standard for good service, so i might bump it up to 22% or so on a discounted bill.

      1. waitress Mar 6, 2010 08:19 AM

        The smallest amout can make a server's night, let's say 20% is $8. and you leave $10. It is a tiny bit of money that makes the server feel appreciated. I don't want to start a war, of course, I only mean stellar service. In inexpensive places, even if service isn't that great, I always over tip. You know the random acts of kindness stuff.

        Addressing the topic at hand, I think it is expected to tip on the lowest total, not what it would have been.

        1. invinotheresverde Mar 6, 2010 10:03 AM

          I would've tipped on the full amount, and probably then some, since you were prepared to pay the regular price/tip, and were given a discount.

          1 Reply
          1. re: invinotheresverde
            BubblyOne Mar 6, 2010 02:48 PM

            Agree....especially for a self-proclaimed "big tipper". You would still came out ahead tipping 20% on the full amount.

          2. cowboyardee Mar 6, 2010 11:02 AM

            Tip based on the full, pre-discount price. You're still saving money compared to what you expected to spend. Why turn a windfall into something negative and contentious?

            1. ipsedixit Mar 6, 2010 11:44 AM

              Tip on the amount of the bill.

              To those who say you are tipping the server and not the restaurant management, I say more often than not the server turns more tables and/or has more customers than during non-happy hour times and thus volume will make up for any discrepancy caused by the happy hour prices. Also, sometimes (not all) it is the server who chooses to work the happy hour shift, knowing that the total bill will be less. Just like some servers will choose to work more lunch or weekday shifts, than dinner or weekend shifts.

              To take the point even further, what about prix fixe meal specials? OR those restaurant week specials that many cities have? You get 3 courses at a lower price than you would had you ordered each separately. Do you tip based on what you would have paid ordering each item separately? Really? I think most would just go with what the prix fixe price is.

              To those who say that a random act of kindness should be rewarded, yes I agree. But the random act of kindness was on the part of the owner/management, not the server. Maybe you just want to "pay it forward" ... so be it, but that's a life philosophy, not a tipping one.

              Bottom line, I think the server knows full and well that working the happy hour shift will result in a lower total bill -- so there's no harm done.

              21 Replies
              1. re: ipsedixit
                goodhealthgourmet Mar 6, 2010 12:26 PM

                ipse, you raise a very good point with the prix fixe issue, and when i thought about it for a minute i had the most bizarre realization about why i didn't consider that particular situation - aside from the occasional hotel/buffet brunch with limited table service, i can't, for the life of me, recall *ever* dealing with the bill for a prix fixe meal! it's been years since i had a pre-theatre dinner in NYC, and in those days someone else always picked up the check. and i don't do Restaurant Week because either i'm not crazy about the menu choices, or they don't have gluten-free options and i don't want to have to make special requests. how weird!

                anyway, you're certainly right about that one - i would just tip accordingly based on the prix fixe amount.

                i will say, however, having been a server at a place that did a VERY big happy hour/bar business, oftentimes you end up turning *fewer* tables during happy hour because people milk it for all it's worth.

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                  ipsedixit Mar 6, 2010 12:37 PM

                  ghg,

                  I don't think we are disagreeing.

                  I look at it this way. At happy hour (or when a customer orders prix fixe) the server knows that the total bill will be less than the norm. So, when the tip is based on the actual bill (and not the normal amount), you aren't going against the server's expectations. And if the server did expect a tip on the regular amount, then I would think the server should be accused of having misplaced expectations.

                  You're certainly not doing anything wrong by tipping on the actual bill. That said, you certainly also wouldn't be doing anything wrong by tipping based on a hypothetical "regular" amount.

                  As to those customers who "milk" the happy hour prices, I think you raise a separate point. There's tipping based on the total of the bill, then there's the issue of tipping b/c of extraordinary circumstances. Lingering at a table -- be it at Happy Hour or simply b/c you're playing footsie or tongue hockey with your dinner date -- calls for an additional tip above and beyond the normal 20%. Staying extra long not only requires additional attention from the server (refilling drinks, asking the requisite "anything I can get for you") but it also deprives the server the ability to turn tables.

                2. re: ipsedixit
                  cowboyardee Mar 6, 2010 12:45 PM

                  "The server turns more tables and/or has more customers than during non-happy hour times and thus volume will make up for any discrepancy caused by the happy hour prices"

                  This also means more work for the server and less opportunity to provide excellent service. In the server's mind, more work should mean more money, not the same amount.

                  "Maybe you just want to 'pay it forward' ... so be it, but that's a life philosophy, not a tipping one."

                  You're not paying anything forward unless you overtip based on the non-discount amount. When you tip as you normally would based on the original price, you are merely paying the same amount for the same service you normally would, while still saving money on the price of your dinner.

                  "Bottom line, I think the server knows full and well that working the happy hour shift will result in a lower total bill -- so there's no harm done."

                  He/she knows this. That does not imply he expects or wishes to be tipped less. Your server almost always thinks you should tip him based on full price as long as it is within reason that you would know what that price is (okay, I don't think prix fixe counts). If a bunch of servers want to tell me I'm wrong I'll recant, but I don't think I am. You are of course free to tip based on some other amount - plenty of other people do. Your server is then free to think less of you, as are your dining companions. In most situations, I don't think that's a good trade-off.

                  1. re: cowboyardee
                    ipsedixit Mar 6, 2010 12:51 PM

                    "Your server almost always thinks you should tip him based on full price as long as it is within reason that you would know what that price is (okay, I don't think prix fixe counts). If a bunch of servers want to tell me I'm wrong I'll recant, but I don't think I am."

                    __________________________________________________________________

                    Did you see the post by "waitress" above?

                    And why would a server almost always think the tip should be based on the full price? Most of the time when I'm at happy hour, I don't even know the "full" or non-happy hour price of the item I am ordering. If I don't know the price, how and why should the server expect that I tip on the full amount? As gauche as it would be, the only way this would work would be if I were presented and a regular menu with my happy hour bill so that I could make my calculation.

                    And, why doesn't prix fixe count? What's the difference?

                    1. re: ipsedixit
                      cowboyardee Mar 6, 2010 01:03 PM

                      "Did you see the post by "waitress" above?"

                      I missed her last line on a first read. That's one for your column. A few more and I might be convinced.

                      "Most of the time when I'm at happy hour, I don't even know the "full" or non-happy hour price of the item I am ordering. If I don't know the price, how and why should the server expect that I tip on the full amount?"

                      You shouldn't. My post clearly said that it's only your responsibility to tip based on full price if you should reasonably know what full price is - like if it's printed on the receipt with deductions marked. The OP seemed to know.

                      "And, why doesn't prix fixe count? What's the difference?"

                      Hard one to articulate. It feels different in my mind - perhaps because it is an offer that is always in place, it then becomes part of the standard pricing for a restaurant and not an exception to it.

                      Also because, as above, a customer typically won't know what the components of a prix fixe menu would have cost alone when the bill comes around.

                      And finally because someone ordering prix fixe will generally still have to pay a reasonable price for the meal and thus tip a reasonable amount whereas someone getting one of those '1/2 off before___' deals will often pay pretty much half price for full service, leading to stuff like $3 tips on multiple course, multiple refill meals. I guess that's really the only situation that bothers me - when a restaurant offers a steep discount to get people in the door and said people then use the discount as an excuse to stiff their server.

                      1. re: cowboyardee
                        goodhealthgourmet Mar 6, 2010 01:21 PM

                        "That's one for your column. A few more and I might be convinced."
                        ~~~~~~
                        count me as #2. when i served people who were ordering off a happy hour or special menu, i always assumed they would tip based on the bill. i NEVER expected them to calculate it based on the pre-discount price...though i certainly appreciated it when they did. what an interesting development - though i never would have expected it when i worked as a server, now as a customer i always feel compelled to do it. i guess it just comes from knowing what it's like to have to live off tips, and wanting to make it a little easier for those who still have to now that those days are behind me.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet
                          ipsedixit Mar 6, 2010 01:25 PM

                          Not to get off-topic, but I think most servers are just happy with 20% of the total bill in whatever circumstance.

                          I think a good portion of the general dining population don't even tip 20% to begin with. The Chowhound community is probably some of the best (and most polite and generous) tippers around.

                          I mean, seriously, would a non-Chowhound even sweat whether the tip on a happy hour bill should be based on the happy hour prices or the regular prices?

                          Ask around and many servers will say that a good portion of their tables provide substantially less than 20% (sometimes as low as as 10%).

                          1. re: ipsedixit
                            f
                            foodsnob14 Mar 7, 2010 11:57 AM

                            Unfortunately, you are correct.

                          2. re: goodhealthgourmet
                            cowboyardee Mar 6, 2010 01:30 PM

                            Interesting. It must be less common a practice than I thought.

                            I'm wondering if common sense applies here as much as math. If you just enjoyed several plates and numerous drink refills at a nice-ish place and then find yourself (not you personally, goodhealth) tipping 15% of $12, doesn't a bell go off in your head that you're screwing your server?

                            1. re: cowboyardee
                              ipsedixit Mar 6, 2010 07:24 PM

                              cowboy,

                              I don't think the diners are screwing the server.

                              Think about it this way. The price of the entree (or meal) has very little correlation to the effort of the server. Whether the entree is a $50 steak from Ruth's Chris or a $10 steak from Denny's, it takes a comparable amount of the server's time and effort to serve it to the diner.

                              Why, then, should the diner who is tipping on the $10 Denny's steak feel somewhat awkward or sheepish on tipping versus the person who's dining at Ruth's Chris?

                              Should the Denny's patron tip as if he were getting a $50 steak simply because, existentially, there is someone out there who is actually dining on a $50 steak?

                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                PeterL Mar 6, 2010 07:32 PM

                                I would dispute the statement that a server at Denny's puts forth comparable effort as one at Ruth's Chris.

                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                  cowboyardee Mar 6, 2010 09:48 PM

                                  I'm don't think your analogy holds up. The effort at different places is not the same. Neither is the training. Nor the expected pay. We're talking about an individual server's pay for his normal job being decreased because of a deal between his management and customers, not universal pay leveling for waiters.

                                  I think a server's time and effort are reasonable considerations when tipping. Another analogy- you order only a $1.50 coffee, take up a perfectly good seat for an hour and a half, and demand multiple refills. Do you really think your servers are happy with a 30 cent tip? The ones I've spoken to are not.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee
                                    ipsedixit Mar 7, 2010 10:24 AM

                                    cowboy,

                                    I agree with you on the $1.50 coffee example. I've always felt that the total bill was a really bad proxy of what a proper tip should be.

                                    I mean, what if I am at Per Se and my bill comes out to something like $1500. Is a tip of $300 really expected?

                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                      k
                                      kpaxonite Mar 7, 2010 11:06 AM

                                      yes

                                      in fact at per se there is a 20 percent service charge

                                      1. re: kpaxonite
                                        ipsedixit Mar 7, 2010 11:13 AM

                                        Then would the 30 cents tip be appropriate in the $1.50 coffee example, even if you've gotten multiple refills?

                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                          k
                                          kpaxonite Mar 7, 2010 11:54 AM

                                          No
                                          I think as a general rule the min tip should be one dollar

                                          1. re: kpaxonite
                                            ipsedixit Mar 7, 2010 11:57 AM

                                            Um, why?

                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                              k
                                              kpaxonite Mar 7, 2010 12:04 PM

                                              Come to think of it Im not quite sure... Ijust think its cheap to not tip at least a dollar.

                                              Wikipedia: Also called a gratuity, a "service charge" will be automatically applied for situations where the restaurant management imposes this to ensure that the servers working in such situations earn their usual tip income. Such service charges are usually around 18%; an additional voluntary tip is sometimes given. There is some debate in the U.S. whether a "minimum tip" exists as a convention; some argue that 15% or 20% is a minimum tip or that it is extremely rude to not leave at least $1, even if the service was not up to standard. However, some people also believe that a "minimum tip" is a way for employers to shift the responsibility of paying employee wages onto the customer. These issues are regional, cultural, and very subjective.

                                              1. re: kpaxonite
                                                ipsedixit Mar 7, 2010 12:14 PM

                                                Yeah, tipping is definitely something very personal and cultural based, as well as very regional.

                                                I mean there have been times when I've ordered an espresso for something like $2 and left an Abe Lincoln with the tab when I left. Basically a 100% tip (when accounting for tax).

                                                But then there are times when I feel a bit silly tipping 20% when the bill gets into the 4 digits. I do it, but it just doesn't feel right for some reason, even though tipping 100% on the espresso seems more than ok.

                                                [shrug]

                                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                                  k
                                                  kpaxonite Mar 7, 2010 12:22 PM

                                                  I agree more about the expensive restaurants however you have to consider the waiters are probably extensively trained and serve far fewer tables than in a mid prices restaurant.

                                                  1. re: kpaxonite
                                                    ipsedixit Mar 7, 2010 12:28 PM

                                                    I'm also pretty sure that a waiter at Per Se (for example) is paid more as a base wage than a waiter at Denny's (for example).

                    2. amyzan Mar 6, 2010 11:56 AM

                      In this instance, I don't think there's any kind of implied obligation to tip on the full price bill. Of course, if the service is excellent, and it wouldn't be onerous, it's always kind to tip more generously. Certainly, I don't think it's reasonable that a server expect to be tipped on the full price during happy hour or early bird special. He or she can hope, of course, and should serve accordingly under any circumstance. Hopefully, that excellent server will have more tables during that time to make up the difference on those tables who don't have it in their pockets to tip on the full price. Management wouldn't have made the decision to offer happy hour or an early bird unless the restaurant needed to fill seats. Management wants servers to have as many tables as they can serve well at any time, in concept at least.

                      1. h
                        Harters Mar 6, 2010 01:22 PM

                        Where I am, it's not uncommon for restaurants to have BOGOF (Buy one, get one free) "sales" - often in the period when retail shops are having their main sale seasons.

                        I figure that the intent is to attract more customers (and it certainly tends to attract me). I tend to be more generous in tipping in such circumstances but not at the level of full price. That said, my favourite place that does BOGOF adds a service charge so the question of tipping doesnt arise.

                        66 Replies
                        1. re: Harters
                          f
                          foodsnob14 Mar 7, 2010 10:30 AM

                          As a server I will let you know that our hourly wage is LESS than minimum wage. We are the only country in the world that doesn't pay our servers a decent wage. Please keep this in mind when you tip your servers. I tip 15% for bad service and 20-30% for good service. I don't think it is too much to ask to tip on what the normal non sale price would be. Times are tough and if you have the $$ to go out and eat please take care of your server.

                          1. re: foodsnob14
                            h
                            Harters Mar 7, 2010 01:59 PM

                            Yes, I'm aware that where you are "minimum wage" does not mean minimum wage when it comes to servers. It's one of the many cultural differences between our two countries.

                            Here, tipping whilst obviously welcomed isnt regarded as something you *must* do - and many folk don't. Even when a restaurant levies it as service charge, it is still always up to the customer if they want to pay. That said, I have a sense that servers gain more when there's the 10% service charge than when there's the old-fashioned tipping - which, of course, is what the service charge is all about.

                            1. re: foodsnob14
                              k
                              kwjd Mar 10, 2010 06:16 AM

                              The US isn't the only country in the world that pays below minimum wage for servers. There is a different minimum wage for servers in much of (all of?) Canada.

                            2. re: Harters
                              amyzan Mar 7, 2010 10:54 AM

                              I have to disagree here, Harters. In the case of BOGOF, you should be tipping on the full price you would've paid.

                              1. re: amyzan
                                f
                                foodsnob14 Mar 7, 2010 11:14 AM

                                Please keep in mind that your server is doing the EXACT same service regardless of a discounted sale price, why should you feel the need to penalize them? As I said times are tough please keep in min we are trying to make an honest living and support ourselves and in some cases a family. If you don't have the money to pay for a tip please don't go out to eat.

                                1. re: foodsnob14
                                  b
                                  bibi rose Mar 7, 2010 01:58 PM

                                  How about split the difference? Your normal percentage on the bill, then half the percentage on the discounted amount.

                                  1. re: foodsnob14
                                    jfood Mar 7, 2010 02:18 PM

                                    Just out of curiosity on the exact same service comment since you are a server.

                                    Table 1 (2-top) - Orders 2 * $8 salads; 2 * $18 roasted chicken, $8 bottle Pelligrino which you pour. Total tab $60
                                    Table 2 (2-top) - Orders 2 * $12 half pasta appetizers, 2 * $28 steaks, $40 bottle of wine. Total tab = $120

                                    Table 1 leaves 20% tip for $12; table 2 leaves a 10% for $12. Is table 2 considered cheap? Same service, same $Tip..

                                    1. re: jfood
                                      f
                                      foodsnob14 Mar 7, 2010 03:08 PM

                                      Indeed table #2 is considered cheap. Anyone who has no issue with leaving 10% is definitely cheap. I have always said that I wish everyone at some point in their life had the chance to wait tables. It would certainly change the way everyone treated restaurant staff. It is not brain surgery, however it is a tough job.

                                      1. re: foodsnob14
                                        s
                                        small h Mar 7, 2010 03:15 PM

                                        You are strenuously avoiding jfood's point. The server does exactly the same amount of work carrying a $28 steak as s/he does an $18 roast chicken. So why does the server "deserve" more if a customer happens to order the more expensive dish?

                                        1. re: small h
                                          rockandroller1 Mar 8, 2010 11:51 AM

                                          Because it is a SALES job. If you buy the more expensive car, your sales person gets a higher commission than if you bought the cheapest, most basic car on the lot. Waiting tables is a sales job, and the amount of money you make is based on how much you sell. That's why upselling exists.

                                          Tipping whatever % you think is appropriate does not have anything to do with the DOLLARS you spent, it has to do with what's the appropriate PERCENTAGE tip you spent. Whether we like it or not, we live in a country with tipped servers and this is the way it works. If your bill is $5 or $500, if you liked the service and for you, you tip 20% for good service, that's what you leave. It doesn't matter how much effort went into table A vs. table B, or if these people ordered nothing but coffee or those people ordered twice as much food as you, or whether they had good service or not; it matters what happens at YOUR table.

                                          If you don't want to tip the appropriate amount based on what you are ordering, don't eat in a restaurant with servers.

                                          1. re: rockandroller1
                                            s
                                            small h Mar 8, 2010 12:06 PM

                                            This:

                                            "If you don't want to tip the appropriate amount based on what you are ordering, don't eat in a restaurant with servers."

                                            is quite the extrapolation from what I wrote. I don't know what set you off, because nowhere in my post do I advocate any course of action. I just asked a question.

                                            And, um, the PERCENTAGE is a PERCENTAGE of the DOLLAR amount. It has everything to do with the bill's total, and nothing to do with the amount of physical work the server does. If your point is that a server deserves more money (not a higher PERCENTAGE, mind you, just a bigger total tip) for upselling, that sounds like a sort of answer to my question. Albeit a very rant-y one.

                                          2. re: small h
                                            BobB Mar 13, 2010 04:47 AM

                                            "So why does the server "deserve" more if a customer happens to order the more expensive dish?"

                                            That's actually a pretty powerful, existential question. Certainly in one sense the server does not "deserve" more for bringing a $28 vs an $18 entree. But the system we have in the US, like it or not, is that tipping is a percent of the bill.

                                            It could, arguably, be instead based on the amount of time involved (i.e., tip X dollars per hour spent in the restaurant). Or by number of diners, X dollars per head. Or by number of different dishes ordered, X dollars per plate. Or, more complicatedly, by the presumed effort involved - tip more for a dish prepared by the waiter tableside, more when you demand endless refills of drinks, etc. Or, as in many countries, simply pay servers a living wage and don't force them to rely on tips for the bulk of their income at all.

                                            All these approaches are defensible to some degree or other, and some of them on the face of it appear more reasonable than the system we actually have. But we're not about to change the system, so we have to deal with what we've got. Tip as a percent of the bill, and raise or lower the standard percentage as seems appropriate when the service has been significantly better or worse than average, or if in some other way the standard percentage seems inappropriate for any particular circumstance.

                                          3. re: foodsnob14
                                            jfood Mar 7, 2010 03:49 PM

                                            But the point is the server did EXACTLY the same work, and for the efforts received the same pay. As others have stated with the early bird special, that is between the management and the customer. So in this case, management has set the prices, the customer has entered into that relationship and the server, "the employee" to both, has performed the same function for the same pay. Yet as you stated one is OK and the other is cheap. Why? Based on percentages or based on nominal dollars.

                                          4. re: jfood
                                            alanbarnes Mar 7, 2010 03:49 PM

                                            You're right that the server is doing the EXACT same service for both tables. But why shouldn't Table 1 just tip $24, or 40%? The fact that they chose not to order the most expensive item on the menu is no reason to penalize the server, right?

                                            1. re: alanbarnes
                                              jfood Mar 7, 2010 04:05 PM

                                              Totally agree.

                                              Jfood always tips per person = 20% * (the most expensive appetizer + the most expensive salad + the most expensive entree + the most expensive dessert + 1/2 the cost of the most expensive bottle of wine + a double espresso + an after dinner drink of an age at least as old as a little jfood). After all he has never worked in "The Biz" so he does not know how hard it is and the economy was damaging to no one other than servers.

                                              Other than that he normally takes the KISS approach of using the "as billed" versus the theoretical "max amount" as the multiplier. After working 60-80 hours a week and traveling who has time to do the latter math.

                                              Oy

                                              1. re: jfood
                                                alanbarnes Mar 7, 2010 04:27 PM

                                                An easier option is just to ask the server to determine the tip amount.

                                                Actually, that might be an interesting experiment...

                                                1. re: alanbarnes
                                                  jfood Mar 7, 2010 04:46 PM

                                                  neat idea...weren't there threads on how people were infuriated when the receipt told the nominal dollars on 15% 20% and 25% tips?

                                              2. re: alanbarnes
                                                ipsedixit Mar 7, 2010 04:55 PM

                                                "The fact that they chose not to order the most expensive item on the menu is no reason to penalize the server, right?"

                                                ______________________________________________________

                                                How do you figure? How is not tipping 40% a penalty to the server?

                                                Like I mentioned upthread, why should the server expect you tip based on some hypothetical total bill amount just because, existentially speaking, there is some group of diner out there that might have ordered the same (or comparable) meal for a higher total bill?

                                                Tip based on the total bill that you are paying for. Simple.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                                  alanbarnes Mar 7, 2010 06:32 PM

                                                  Obviously you don't understand how hard a server has to work. Just as hard to serve a $9 burger as a $30 steak. So doesn't the server earn a $6 by serving the burger, just the same as s/he's entitled to on the steak?

                                                  In fact, there's no reason to discriminate against servers at less expensive places. So let's set a new benchmark - it's certainly possible to run the tab up to $500 per person at Urusawa or The French Laundry, so a $100 tip is completely reasonable. Let's just make that an across-the-board rule. $100 per person, whether it's at Per Se or the local pho joint.

                                                  If you don't have the money to leave a $100 tip, please don't go out to eat.

                                                  1. re: alanbarnes
                                                    ipsedixit Mar 7, 2010 06:53 PM

                                                    I'll be staying in from now on.

                                                    (And by the way, I used to wait tables as a college student. So, yes, I do know how hard a server has to work.)

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit
                                                      alanbarnes Mar 7, 2010 07:15 PM

                                                      Me too.

                                                      1. re: ipsedixit
                                                        amyzan Mar 7, 2010 09:54 PM

                                                        I'll stay home, too, as long as you guys will come for dinner. Great company.

                                                        1. re: amyzan
                                                          ipsedixit Mar 8, 2010 04:59 AM

                                                          And given alan's and my past occupations ... great service as well! :-)

                                                2. re: jfood
                                                  invinotheresverde Mar 8, 2010 08:35 AM

                                                  Table 2 is considered a bad tipper. Table 1 is considered a bad table.

                                                  Waiters know they'll have both good tables and bad, and, so, while every server wants to maximize their earning potential on every table, they know that just isn't possible. Sometimes you get the non-drinkers/light eaters/etc. That's fine. You just turn them as quickly (non TOO quickly, of course) as possible and hope for a better shot next time.

                                                  As far as leaving a 10% tip, we've gone over the standard tip for standard service schpiel til we're blue in the face. If you leave a bad tip for no reason, then yes, you're cheap.

                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                    jfood Mar 8, 2010 08:44 AM

                                                    yup, yup, yup, yup, deja vu all over again. :-))

                                                    Jfood just can't get his arms around eliminating the simple concept that $12 = $12. And a table that orders 2 apps, 2 entrees and springs for bottled water is now a "bad table."

                                                    This fence just keeps getting higher.

                                                    1. re: jfood
                                                      invinotheresverde Mar 8, 2010 08:51 AM

                                                      At my work, a table of two with a $60 check is definitely considered a bad table. It is not a personal affront on the diners, it simply means they have a far lower check than average. This isn't the case everywhere, of course.

                                                      Also, the server tips out on the total of his check usually, not how much he earns in tips (although this is not the case everywhere, but is the norm since the government has been paying closer attention to how tips are distributed).

                                                      1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                        jfood Mar 8, 2010 09:42 AM

                                                        Oh yeah, the tip-outs. So there is some rational and mathematical basis for not using the "tip per plate" approach. Thanks I.

                                                    2. re: invinotheresverde
                                                      d
                                                      dump123456789 Mar 8, 2010 11:22 AM

                                                      Table 1 is considered a bad table ? I don't drink alcohol or coffee, and as a result, my tab is typically lower. So, aren't you discriminating against me by calling me a bad table ? And if I told you I was Mormon, wouldn't that amount to religious discrimination ? Can I invoke my state anti-discrimination laws against you ?

                                                      On the other hand, I eat out often, I tip 15%-20% of the tab, I eat quickly, I don't linger, and I'm almost never late for my reservations, which means you can turn my table over much faster, and get another seating, another order and another tip in there. So, do you factor that in when you pass judgement on my table ? If so, how ? If not, why not ?

                                                      It seems like the factors that should make a table's "quality" go up include amount of tip as percentage of tab, number of times customer dines out, and average tab. The factors that should make a table's "quality" go down include how long they take to eat, how long they linger after all food has been finished, and how many minutes they make you hold an empty table by being late for their reservation.

                                                      Here's a formula that reflects that:

                                                      Quality of table = (# times per week customer dines out * average tab * amount of tip) / (amount of tab * minutes late per reservation * time required to eat * time lingered)

                                                      Oh look. The average tab cancels right out of the formula. So your criteria for judging table 1 went out the window.

                                                      Frankly, it seems like most of us know to tip 15% minimum, 18%-20% for good-to-decent service, and we base it on the tab unless we're using coupons or gift certificates. And we also know not to monopolize tables. So, if servers set these ever upward drifting standards on when diners should tip more than that to avoid the server's wrath, they should count on us dining out less, and their total tips going down because our tabs just dropped to $0.00. And it's not likely we'll be replaced by other diners who aren't already dining out. After all, are there really people who would be enticed by tipping 25%-30% on their tabs, just because what and when they ordered doesn't meet the server's standard of when 15-20% is enough ?

                                                      1. re: dump123456789
                                                        carolinadawg Mar 8, 2010 11:41 AM

                                                        Relax...you're personalizing something that isn't personal. As invino said, "It is not a personal affront on the diners, it simply means they have a far lower check than average". All places of business have shorthand ways of referring to customers that to an outsider may sound disparaging. Don't personalize it..

                                                        1. re: carolinadawg
                                                          d
                                                          dump123456789 Mar 8, 2010 01:37 PM

                                                          Although it may have come off as if I was taking it personally, I actually don't. I just find the standards espoused for comparing tables to be rather shortsighted and a bit absurd. The best tables should be the ones which generate the most income over an extended period of time, not over small windows of time.

                                                          Also, there's an air of entitlement in what some servers are posting that I am very sensitive to and find obnoxious, because of what I happen to do for a living and the type of people I come across on a daily basis.

                                                        2. re: dump123456789
                                                          invinotheresverde Mar 8, 2010 12:23 PM

                                                          When I was a waiter, the only things I cared about for a good v. bad table were the amount spent and the percentage tipped. Why would I care how often the customers dined out?

                                                          Most tables are a few minutes late and most tables linger for a bit after dining. None of those things are pertinent unless they're extreme.

                                                          You can create all the bogus formulas you want; they're not making one bit of difference. Big spending, normal tipping tables are "good", low spending, normal tipping tables are "bad". As I stated upthread, this isn't about the diner personally, so calm down and stop being irrational. Not everything is all about you.

                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                            d
                                                            dump123456789 Mar 8, 2010 01:41 PM

                                                            "Why would I care how often the customers dined out?"

                                                            Because of the overall money you could make off me. 3 tips of $20 each is better than one $50 tip, no ? Especially when I'm not fussy, and I'm out in less than 45 minutes.

                                                            1. re: dump123456789
                                                              k
                                                              kpaxonite Mar 8, 2010 01:43 PM

                                                              a tip is a percentage so if you are only tipping 20 dollars when you should tip 50 you are damn cheap

                                                              1. re: kpaxonite
                                                                carolinadawg Mar 8, 2010 01:47 PM

                                                                You need to read further upthread before posting.

                                                              2. re: dump123456789
                                                                invinotheresverde Mar 8, 2010 01:48 PM

                                                                How often you eat out doesn't affect me, since you're not likely to be at my restaurant each time. Even if you are, I likely won't wait on you, as my restaurant is extremely busy. Somebody else's butt will be in the seat.

                                                                And no, three $20 tips aren't better than one $50 tip, since that one tip is from one table, at one time, which is all waiters are concerned with. There are too many variables out of their control.

                                                                The good v. bad thing is really pretty simple.

                                                              3. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                d
                                                                dump123456789 Mar 8, 2010 01:55 PM

                                                                "You can create all the bogus formulas you want; they're not making one bit of difference."

                                                                Because you're not looking at all the factors. Earning tips is kind of like packing problems in computer science. Some algorithms try to pack the largest boxes first, other try to pack as many small boxes as possible first. Ultimately, the only thing that should matter is how much gets packed. In business, this would be like balancing off per unit prices against items sold.

                                                                "calm down and stop being irrational. Not everything is all about you."

                                                                As I replied above, I'm not really taking this personally. It's sort of a writing style. I tend to respond to what seems absurd or irrational with the same. (Also, I'm sort of putting my own spin on the sarcasm evident in several posts upthread.)

                                                                1. re: dump123456789
                                                                  invinotheresverde Mar 8, 2010 03:04 PM

                                                                  I am looking at all the "factors". I just don't find them all relevant.

                                                          2. re: jfood
                                                            d
                                                            dump123456789 Mar 8, 2010 11:30 AM

                                                            Let's alter your scenario a bit.

                                                            Table 1 ordered $60, tipped $12, stayed 45 minutes.
                                                            Table 2 ordered $120, tipped $24, stayed 90 minutes.

                                                            Who's the better table ?

                                                            How about this one ?

                                                            Table 1 ordered $60, tipped $12, stayed 45 minutes. After they left, table 3 took over their 2-top, ordered $120, tipped $24, stayed 90 minutes.

                                                            Table 2 ordered $120, tipped $24, stayed 90 minutes. They left with only 45 minutes left until closing, so their table was not used again.

                                                            Now who's the better table, Table 1 or Table 2 ? (Note that all parties left the same percentage tip, but because of Table 1's timely departure, the restaurant and server were able to generate more income.) And how would you or they know this when they were dining ?

                                                            1. re: dump123456789
                                                              cowboyardee Mar 8, 2010 12:02 PM

                                                              The "better" table is always the one that makes things easiest on the server while paying said server the most money. It reflects on the outlook of the server, not the character of the diners. It's not a value judgment.

                                                              Time is a whole new factor and varies by server and restaurant as to what is expected and thus deemed 'good' or 'bad.'

                                                              The "best" table would be one that eats dinner at home and then mails a server money in a box.

                                                              1. re: dump123456789
                                                                invinotheresverde Mar 8, 2010 12:12 PM

                                                                Just because Table 1 has a lower check doesn't mean they had fewer courses, which means they could easily be dining as long, if not longer than Table 2, which renders your example flawed. It's not just based upon the dollars.

                                                                1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                  d
                                                                  dump123456789 Mar 8, 2010 01:28 PM

                                                                  You're avoiding the scenario I posited. I told you exactly how much was spent, how much tip was left ($ = 20% in each case), and how much time they took. I also told you that you would earn less as a result of table 2's lingering.

                                                                  So now, how do you judge these tables against each, and what are your criteria ?

                                                                  1. re: dump123456789
                                                                    invinotheresverde Mar 8, 2010 01:37 PM

                                                                    Your logic is flawed, or inconcurrent, at least. You can't decide whether any table will get sat again, and whether or not said table will be good or bad. The only important thing is the table at hand. Ergo, Table 2 is better, especially since Table 1 is really 1A and 1B.

                                                                    I've already told you my criteria, a few posts above.

                                                                    1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                      d
                                                                      dump123456789 Mar 8, 2010 02:22 PM

                                                                      What does "inconcurrent" mean ?

                                                                      This thread came up with respect to early bird dining, which tends to assume that the table is going to be sat at least one extra time more than if early bird dining had not been offered, no ? Which means the server would make more than if the table had not been sat at that time. So the issue of whether the table will get sat again is not always immaterial.

                                                                      So, if you're willing to consider that, then shouldn't you also consider that a fast diner like myself opens up a table you may be able to get a full seating for from among the people who walked in off the street ? And that, in turn, means more money for the server again.

                                                                      You said your criteria are money spent, and percentage tipped. But how do you balance out the two ? 25% of $200 tab = $50, 20% of $250 tab = $50. Who's the better table and why ? (This is not meant facetiously. I'm really trying to understand the logic here, because it feels inconsistent to me.)

                                                                      By the way, because I eat out as often as I do, I wind up patronizing the same places frequently. This works in the server's favor, because my tips start to increase in percentage, the orders get simpler and faster to take (because of repetition), and the turnover increases.

                                                                      1. re: dump123456789
                                                                        invinotheresverde Mar 8, 2010 03:03 PM

                                                                        Sorry, meant non concurrent.

                                                                        It started with early bird dining, but has morphed into a thread about discounted dinners in general. Also, the good v. bad table post wasn't about the early bird. Again, I'm purely talking about good tables versus bad tables, which you seem to believe don't exist?

                                                                        Both of the tables you mentioned are considered good. There's not so much of a good to the X power table and a bad to the X power table. It's really either, or. Are you really telling me you don't understand the logic behind the good versus bad theory, or are you being intentionally insolent because you most likely fall into the latter category?

                                                                        It's great that you revist the same restaurants often, but I doubt server Jane is saying, "Wow, I really hope dump comes in tonight so I can maximize my revenue". It just doesn't work like that.

                                                                        Anyhow, we've hijacked this thread enough, don't you think? You just don't get what I'm saying, although other posters do.

                                                          3. re: amyzan
                                                            invinotheresverde Mar 8, 2010 08:36 AM

                                                            I'm curious to know how ipsedixit would tip on BOGOF...

                                                            1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                              jfood Mar 8, 2010 08:44 AM

                                                              TOBBO+FO

                                                              1. re: jfood
                                                                invinotheresverde Mar 8, 2010 08:52 AM

                                                                Tamarind onions beets brandy orzo + falafel okra?

                                                                1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                  jfood Mar 8, 2010 09:44 AM

                                                                  Yours is waaaaaay more betterer than:

                                                                  Tip On Both Buy One + Free One

                                                              2. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                ipsedixit Mar 8, 2010 09:43 AM

                                                                Price of the total bill.

                                                                Unless we are going to revamp the total tipping etiquette, I'm just going to tip 20% based on the ACTUAL tab.

                                                                Now, if were to revamp the system, and tip based on something other than a percentage (say, amount of effort), then I would include the free offer entree.

                                                                Otherwise, it's just 20% of total bill. I'm not going to live my dining life with the mantra ... "Tip 20% except when you have X, or Y, or Z, or A, etc. circumstance."

                                                                I like bright line rules, even when they don't always work or not always fair. But then life isn't fair.

                                                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                  invinotheresverde Mar 8, 2010 09:48 AM

                                                                  I think you're in a very small minority WRT BOGOF. Even my cheap mother tips on the before price (and that's saying something!).

                                                                  I just can't rationalize screwing the server. When I waited tables, I always expected to be tipped on the pre-promo offer. I was very, very rarely let down. In my experience, I'd guesstimate that something like 98% of people tip on the original bill.

                                                                  1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                    k
                                                                    kpaxonite Mar 8, 2010 10:00 AM

                                                                    I would only ever tip on the actual bill

                                                                    1. re: kpaxonite
                                                                      invinotheresverde Mar 8, 2010 10:35 AM

                                                                      I just went to the Entertainment Book (a popular resuarant coupon book) website. One of their Rules of Use is to tip on the original, undiscounted bill.

                                                                      " For satisfactory service, the tip should equal 15-20% of the TOTAL BILL before the discount is subtracted."

                                                                      1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                        jfood Mar 8, 2010 10:48 AM

                                                                        Jfood's general rule for all the potential discounts:

                                                                        1 - If everyone is getting the discount, i.e. early-bird or RWs then he probably tips at the higher end of his range on the price on the check.
                                                                        2 - If it is a BOGOF, he would tip on the pre discounted price
                                                                        3 - If it is a coupon, or a comp, he would tip on the pre-coupon and comped amount (assuming that can be determined).

                                                                        Bottom line is he needs to feel comfortable that he did the right thing. Will he always be right? 100% that he will not and make mistakes.

                                                                        1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                          k
                                                                          kpaxonite Mar 8, 2010 11:27 AM

                                                                          coupons are different story than going at happy hour or other promotion the restaurant has on

                                                                          its kind of like how certain ingredients' prices change from seaosn to season.. Im not going to tip according to how much the restaurant charged for lobster when it wasnt in season when I order it during during the lobster season.,...

                                                                          1. re: kpaxonite
                                                                            invinotheresverde Mar 8, 2010 12:13 PM

                                                                            A 25% discount is a discount. I see no difference.

                                                                      2. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                        ipsedixit Mar 8, 2010 12:53 PM

                                                                        Let's look at this situation from another angle.

                                                                        - Policy of restaurant is to apply automatic 20% gratuity.
                                                                        - Customer dines and has a BOGOF offer.

                                                                        Question: Does the restaurant apply the gratuity to the actual bill amount, or what the bill would have been if there was no free offer?

                                                                        1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                          invinotheresverde Mar 8, 2010 01:08 PM

                                                                          All of the Restaurant.com places I've been to apply it before.

                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                            ipsedixit Mar 8, 2010 01:41 PM

                                                                            The restaurants on Restaurant.com has BOGOF offers?

                                                                            I've only seen gift certificates, never BOGOF.

                                                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                              invinotheresverde Mar 8, 2010 01:43 PM

                                                                              Ooops. Messed up promo thingy. Still, all the restaurants I've been to where these were used added the tip on the original total.

                                                                          2. re: ipsedixit
                                                                            h
                                                                            Harters Mar 10, 2010 07:39 AM

                                                                            "Question: Does the restaurant apply the gratuity to the actual bill amount, or what the bill would have been if there was no free offer?"

                                                                            In my experience here in the UK, where the addition of a service charge is commonplace, it is invariably levied on the bill actually presented (not the bill that might have been presented if there was no BOGOF).

                                                                            1. re: Harters
                                                                              ipsedixit Mar 10, 2010 01:51 PM

                                                                              Here, in the States, I think it varies from restaurant to restaurant.

                                                                              For restaurants that do intend to apply the auto gratuity to an amount that does not include the BOGOF, they usu. state that policy up front before you place your order. If they tell me beforehand, then I'm ok with it. But if they just spring it on me when they present the tab, well, then, that's an entirely different story ...

                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                                k
                                                                                kpaxonite Mar 10, 2010 03:19 PM

                                                                                In canada i dont think it is ever done, I have never seen it done at least... and in quebec it might even be illegal

                                                                        2. re: ipsedixit
                                                                          alanbarnes Mar 8, 2010 09:56 AM

                                                                          If the owner comps the meal, do you stiff the server?

                                                                          Bright line rules have their problems, too.

                                                                          1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                            d
                                                                            dump123456789 Mar 8, 2010 11:34 AM

                                                                            What if the owner comped because of a complete server screw-up ?

                                                                            1. re: dump123456789
                                                                              k
                                                                              kpaxonite Mar 8, 2010 11:35 AM

                                                                              If the server screwed up that badly they dont deserve a tip, they should be happy they still have a job

                                                                            2. re: alanbarnes
                                                                              ipsedixit Mar 8, 2010 12:54 PM

                                                                              Yup, bright lines rules are not infallible.

                                                                              But they certainly are easier to follow.

                                                                    2. a
                                                                      aliris Mar 8, 2010 01:22 PM

                                                                      Am I presuming too much that the "total bill" rule means pretax?

                                                                      I know it's crazy but I always feel cheap figuring tip off the pretax amount. I'm always feeling guilty as if no one else knows you're "supposed" to tip from the pretax, not total amount presented, and not wanting to look like a cheapskate, I tip on the total total, including tax....

                                                                      Crazy? Unique?

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: aliris
                                                                        invinotheresverde Mar 8, 2010 01:38 PM

                                                                        Many other threads on this topic.

                                                                        1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                          a
                                                                          aliris Mar 8, 2010 02:00 PM

                                                                          Sorry; I hadn't intended to suggest a discussion on this; I intended to wonder whether I was presuming correctly that ipsedixit meant pretax when s/he said "total". (I lost focus in the short space of my own post?! Geesh...)

                                                                          1. re: invinotheresverde
                                                                            jfood Mar 8, 2010 02:05 PM

                                                                            jfood put himself in the corner for 10 minutes for startingthe nonsense above. Sorry to get you in the middle again.

                                                                            1. re: jfood
                                                                              haggisdragon Mar 18, 2010 12:34 PM

                                                                              That is tremendously funny if you take it literally. If somewhat disturbing.

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