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May 12, 2010 01:00 PM

Tip: Can you separate the waiter/waitress service from the overall experience?

In theory, the restaurant tip is for the waiter and waitress, but I wonder if we follow that guideline. Last week, I went to Famous Dave's and my waitress was nice. She gave me a basket of free BBQ chips for sampling the BBQ sauces :) She probably thinks I am a first timer because I looked confused, but I have been there several times.

The barbecue, on the other hand, was not so great, worse than my average experience at Famous Dave's. At the end, I gave her a tip at 15% for my lunch, which I think is the average.

Now I wonder if I should have tipped her more because she was nice to me or should I have tipped less because my overall experience at the restaurant was not so great.

Imagine these:
If you have one of the best tasting and best enviromental dinner with an average waitress, would you pay her a big tip?

If you have bad tasting dinner but with a good waitress, would pay her a big tip?

What do you think?

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  1. For me personally, the tip is all about the service and or server...
    So if the food is bad, but the server tried hard - I will still tip big.

    In fact, even if the service was bad, (Ie - a long wait or a forgotten drink) but I feel the server still tried hard and was genuinely nice and apologetic - I still tip big.

    If the service is fantastic but from a server with a lousy disposition- I still tip big, but maybe not AS big as I would for someone I liked!

    1. I tip for the service, not the food, but there are a few ways those factors affect one another. If I'm unhappy with my entree, does the server try to make things right? Does she keep me posted on my order if the kitchen is running behind? Is she receptive to requests to turn down the music or the air conditioning? If yes to all, then even if I'm ultimately unsatisfied with the food or the pace of the meal or the atmosphere in the restaurant, I'll know that the server was still doing a good job, and tip as if everything were perfect.

      1. NYC waitress here.

        I can't answer your question for you since what you do with your money is your choice, but I can tell you how tips work.

        The people working in the kitchen- dishwashers, prep cooks and line cooks, are paid an hourly salary and are not tipped.

        In NYC, front of house service staff make below minimum wage, so our income is based on tips, not on our low hourly wage. Most restaurants pool their tips. That means at the end of the night, every server and bartender's tips are added up. Each front of house employee gets a percentage of the pool- servers and bartenders get the highest percentage, followed by runners and bussers.

        The thing is, if your food tastes bad, a low tip won't make it to the kitchen at all. Same hold for a great food experience. We don't regularly talk to the kitchen staff about what we earn in tips.

        1. I absolutely tip on the level of service and not on the quality of the food. If I have a terrible meal but a good server, they get a good tip. The server isn't responsible for crappy food, the server is responsible for making sure I get good service. Likewise, if I have a great meal (or a bad meal, for that matter) and crappy service, they won't be getting the same tip as the quality server.

          1. The waitress had nothing to do with how your food was prepared or how it tasted. If she gave you what you felt was great customer service, then it is always nice to acknowledge that by throwing in extra on the tip. If the food was not up to par, letting her or the manager know so that they could try to make it right would have been the way to go.