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Question about tipping at Per Se

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We're heading to NYC in November for an anniversary blowout weekend, and we have the great luck of having secured a table at Per Se, and are going to enjoy an extended tasting menu no less. I am aware that the price includes a service fee. I also know my DH can never *not* leave a tip. So can anyone advise me, would it be completely inappropriate to leave an additional cash tip at Per Se?

Also, can anyone offer a strategy for preparing for such a marathon eating session?

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Per Se
10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

  1. It's not at all inappropriate to leave an additional tip, but I would only do so if you were exceptionally impressed by the service (and you probably will be!) and want to show it.

    Hopefully somebody else can help you train for the massive feast!

    11 Replies
    1. re: ryansm

      the last couple of times I was there, I handed our main server cash....appropriate and advisable, frankly...

      1. re: Cpalms

        I'm curious what "advisable, frankly" means?

        1. re: c oliver

          I don't see how it is advisable unless you are a regular and if you are a regular at Per Se additional tipping is not a problem.

          Back to the original question, if you want to tip more go for it. The service has been fantastic every time I have been there. That said I don't tip extra as I really enjoy a place where it is written into the cost of the meal.

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          Per Se
          10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

          1. re: MVNYC

            it's advisable because Per Se does an amazing job tracking it's customers...everything goes into a database. If you are known as a good customer that they like, extra courses, gifts from the kitchen will soon follow. Getting an extended tasting meal just cause they like you at Per Se is pretty much he holy grail imo....

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            Per Se
            10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

            1. re: Cpalms

              Two questions about this. Do they really give surprise extended tastings (as opposed to just adding a few extra courses) to "regular" regulars, not just VIPs? They seem really unpredictable with things like this...does anyone know?

              Also, how much of them liking you is related to you being interested in food, engaging with the servers, and asking questions as opposed to giving an extra tip? Obviously they're more likely to remember big tippers who are also there for the food, but I'm not sure that's what gets you remembered. Any thoughts? Or is it all about the money?

              1. re: ryansm

                I believe there is a difference between their VIP canapes (which can't be requested and is a "surprise") and extended tasting (which can be requested and "bought" but is also given to some VIPs) - if I'm wrong I'm sure someone more familiar with Per Se will correct me.

                1. re: uwsister

                  Right, there is definitely a difference between the two. I know it's pretty common for regulars to get extra canapes, but Cpalms seemed to suggest that they also "upgrade" regulars to an extended tasting on occasion for whatever reason. Perhaps he meant extra canapes or desserts rather than an extended tasting as we're thinking of it? Or maybe these people were VIPs?

                  I know an extended menu upgrade is common for VIPs, but not so much for non-VIP regulars. They probably have multiple levels of VIPs, and I have no idea what gives one his distinction (maybe extra tipping as Cpalms suggested?). Cpalms, can you (or anyone else familiar with their workings) clarify?

                  1. re: ryansm

                    I can't imagine Per Se does a surprise extended tasting (as we're thinking of it, not a few extra canapes) for non-VIPs too often. I don't doubt tipping extra helps them to remember you (general you, obviously) but you gotta remember there are regulars who dine there like a neighborhood restaurant, spend tens of thousands of dollars on a monthly basis and get to skip the reservation queue. So it's kind of like, how much of a regular am I? If someone did receive an extended tasting without a request though, I would love to hear about it, of course.

                    1. re: uwsister

                      I just read an article published in the SF Gate a few days ago about The French Laundry that relates to this topic:

                      ""Minimum" VIPs might be people who have visited many times - they receive a few extra courses in addition to the regular menu. Maximum VIPs, Hollingsworth said, "might be a chef coming in, or someone who is well regarded in their industry, someone we have a relationship with." If the kitchen has the time, these special guests get a completely off-the-menu menu, created that day especially for them."

                      So it looks like you and I are correct about this being reserved for super VIPs. Though I'd also be interested in hearing about any exceptions.

                      1. re: ryansm

                        Let me clarify my statements...there are real VIP's Mick Jagger, Joel Robuchon, Derek Jeter, President Clinton..they get the VIP treatment at Per Se. The ultra wealthy hedgefund/ wall street/ socialites that gargle with 82 Bordeauxs and money grows on trees for them...they get VIP/ extended menus at Per Se.

                        I am not one of them...

                        I wouldn't call me a regular either, I have dinned at Per Se several times since it opened and French Laundry once. I have only two meals that were remarkable for things other than the food (although the food was remarkable) The first was when they first opened, Per Se's kitchen burned down. They had to reschedule my reservation. Then they called again and had to reschedule it again. While expressing my disappoint, I said no problem and they promised to make up to me. Oh did they. We had what they called a 2 by 2 meal. Meaning i had a completely different tasting than my companion, each us having near 20 courses( ~ 40 total) with pairings. TOTAL FREAKING INSANITY. They didn't know me from a hole in the wall. clearly the meal of my life. The second meal of note is when I arranged a meal for 12 at FL, the final bill had 30 bottles of wine on it (a few bottles were gifts to the staff). More insanity. Other than that I'm a nobody that get treated well at Per Se.

                        I have been to Per Se 4 or 5 times since. I tip well but nothing extreme. I have a friend who calls me a great dinner party guest. I Iove great food, good conversation, know my wines and just love for everybody to have a good time and think that what gets me treated well at Per Se. The staff treats me like a friend because they know I love food and wine, but don't annoy them with things like photographing each course, innane questions or pain in the ass requests. I just sit back and have fun and make sure the front of the house crew is having as much fun as I do. Do I tip well, yes. but I also make gestures that they appreciate. If I order an exception bottle of wine, I send a glass to the chef. A few days before my meal, I call ahead to make any special requests, and the day after I send a thank you note. I believe the staff enjoys blowing minds and having their customers walk out there babbling about the meal of their lives. Therefore, I treat them as friends they treat me as a friend. It's as simple as that.

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                        Per Se
                        10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                        1. re: Cpalms

                          Thanks so much for the clarification. I think what you described really is the best way to enjoy a meal like that. The staff does a great job of reading the temperament of tables and interacting accordingly. For me, it's so much more fun to have a lighthearted meal with servers who make jokes and seem to enjoy themselves. Last time I was there, at the adjacent table was a very...well, let's say stern couple who only engaged the staff to make demands. The change in demeanor when servers moved from their table to ours was almost comical because it was a complete 180 degree change!

    2. Last year I had a wonderful dinner at Per Se and left an additional 10% on my credit card receipt.

      1. The original comment has been removed
        1. Interesting question as I only recently posted a query on these boards about appropriate tipping in NYC! I was at Per Se in May - had a great meal/experience and was confronted by a bill that said service was included but not tax. It further said that if we felt the service was extraordinary the servers would certainly appreciate any further tips (I expected the service to be extraordinary). From this information I didn't know if Per Se were paying their servers 10, 15, 20% or even more! I thought this was somewhat ingenuous of Per Se - something I've never experienced in any 3 star anywhere else in the world. As good as the night was I paid the "bottom line" and added nothing further. Hope this helps.

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          Per Se
          10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

          18 Replies
          1. re: tony_brisbane

            I have had this exact same question. It seems that you are supposed to leave something extra, but exactly what that is, I have no idea.

            1. re: pizzajunkie

              It seems outrageous to be expected to give an extra tip when service is explicitly included. It seems perfectly fair to only add a tip if you'd like to show appreciation for impeccable service. I think they say you can add extra tips to make it easy for people to do so or let people (like he original poster) know it's appropriate.

              Also, when they increased their price a couple of years ago and began including gratuity, the increase was well above 20%. Not that this means servers are getting the equivalent of a 20% tip from the built-in gratuity. But in either case, their salaries aren't dependent on tips, so you shouldn't feel pressure to add extra gratuity.

              1. re: ryansm

                Service is included. This of course does not mean that once shouldn't add extra if one wants to, but for them to say something about adding extra, in writing, is reprehensible in my opinion.

                1. re: gutsofsteel

                  I don't recall there being anything in writing suggesting an additional tip is expected or desired. I know the handwritten bill you receive says "Service Included" at the bottom, and the line on the credit card receipt says "Additional Gratuity," but I don't remember anything saying servers would appreciate additional tips. I could be wrong, but that's what I remember.

                  1. re: ryansm

                    Tony Brisbane posted above:

                    "I was at Per Se in May - had a great meal/experience and was confronted by a bill that said service was included but not tax. It further said that if we felt the service was extraordinary the servers would certainly appreciate any further tips"

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                    Per Se
                    10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                    1. re: gutsofsteel

                      As I said, I don't remember that being on the bill. But if it is, I agree that it could convey too much pressure or an expectation to tip additionally. Rarely is the service not extraordinary at Per Se, so I can see how reading that could make you feel like you're cheap or are cheating the wait staff if you don't add an extra tip. However, how one interprets that likely depends on one's familiarity with built-in service charges.

                      I think part of the problem is that we're not accustomed to service-included menus in America, so people are often confused about "what percentage" of a tip is built in, not knowing the staffers are already paid a (hopefully) sufficient salary, and additional gratuity is just a bonus. It's not required for them to make a living wage (again, hopefully), and not knowing this may make someone feel more pressured to tip.

                      tony_brisbane mentioned that Per Se is the only 3* restaurant in the world where he's encountered this, but I'm guessing that's because other 3* restaurants don't include service (in the US) or people are so familiar with this system that everything is understood (pretty much everywhere outside the US). What are your thoughts on that, tony_brisbane?

                      I can see the restaurant's predicament when they have customers who aren't familiar with this system. They have to balance making customers feel comfortable simply paying the built-in service costs with not discouraging people who want to add an additional tip. The original poster's husband seems like a good example of this. If someone is unsure whether leaving an additional tip is appropriate, they may not ask about it at the restaurant (talking about tips with a server is usually awkward for everyone), so there is a legitimate reason to explicitly say additional gratuity is welcomed.

                      1. re: ryansm

                        "I can see the restaurant's predicament when they have customers who aren't familiar with this system."

                        Anyone who's been to Europe is thoroughly familiar with this practice. Considering that Per Se caters to a well heeled crowd who presumably travel I'm not sure why the concept of "service included" would be mysterious in any way.

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                        Per Se
                        10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                        1. re: ryansm

                          It is always appropriate to leave extra if one wants to. That is obvious. What is not appropriate is for the restaurant to say so explicitly, when service is already included.

                          I am very familiar with service being included in many restaurants all over the world, but those restaurants don't ever suggest that additional tipping is "welcome" - that's obvious. It's always appropriate - you think someone would ever wonder "gee, I wonder if it would be okay to leave extra?"

                          1. re: gutsofsteel

                            gutsofsteel asked: "You think someone would ever wonder 'gee, I wonder if it would be okay to leave extra?'"

                            lisavf (original poster) asked: "So can anyone advise me, would it be completely inappropriate to leave an additional cash tip at Per Se?"

                            So yes, yes I do think someone would ever ask that. Very much so :)

                            1. re: ryansm

                              I suppose it is truly beyond me how anyone could wonder if it is appropriate to leave MORE money....to show extra appreciation for excellent service.

                              1. re: gutsofsteel

                                Could be that the OP is Asian - just a wild guess, of course. My mother always says "only hookers and politicians get tips."

                          2. re: ryansm

                            Hi ryansm - my experience with 3 stars in the USA is limited, in Europe and the UK however I have contributed some serious pounds, francs, liras and euros to a large number of 3 star establishments and the term "service compris" is well-recognised and commonly (though not always) used. The adage in these instances is always "pay the bottom line"

                      2. re: gutsofsteel

                        I have eaten at Per Se many many times, and not once has there been a bill that said anything about "appreciating further tips".

                        In fact, as seen here, the only thing the bill says is "Service Included" and perhaps some form of thank you/congratulations/etc...:

                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/amooseab...
                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/22260359...
                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/checkest...

                        So what tony_brisbane said: "It further said that if we felt the service was extraordinary the servers would certainly appreciate any further tips" - is just completely false.

                        What IS there (to answer the original question): when you go to sign your credit card payment, there is a space for "Additional Gratuity" beneath where you sign. It is completely optional. If you wish to add more, that's where you would do it (or just leave cash along with your signed slip if you prefer).

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                        Per Se
                        10 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10019

                        1. re: theOGbigguy

                          Because I didn't remember any such statement either, I dug up an old Per Se bill and credit card receipt. The handwritten bill looks exactly like the ones theOGbigguy posted. The credit card receipt has lines for "Additional Gratuity" and "Signature," and printed below that is "Service Included." Nothing else.

                          So I can also confirm that there is nothing even close to resembling what tony_brisbane said on any bill or receipt I've ever gotten from Per Se.

                          1. re: theOGbigguy

                            Perhaps it was my broad Australian accent and my dining partner's obvious English accent and the reputation our countrymen have for tipping - however I can assure you what appeared on our bill was as previously stated and caused some surprised conversation between the two of us at the time. As far as making a "false statement" - I guess you wouldn't know unless you were there to see our bill - as I said previously the night was extraordinary, I have no axe to grind and certainly no reason to make a "false statement".

                            1. re: tony_brisbane

                              That's really interesting. In that case, it appears they've either added that since my last visit or they only give that message to certain parties. Was this on the printed receipt/credit card slip?

                              1. re: ryansm

                                It was at the bottom of our bill - which we subsequently paid by credit card

                  2. It would be my assumption that the reason the restaurant includes service is so that neither the customer nor the waitstaff need to think about it and the customer can expect fantastic service. Unless a server does something for me that totally bowls me over (ie. drives my wife to the hospital to give birth if my car fails) why would I tip more than is included...that *is* the tip. (It's bad enough we even have to tip in this country). To suggest that leaving extra is advisable because the restaurant will note that and cash you in at another time is the most cynical and self-serving thing I can think of . Frankly, if you are treated to extended experiences at Per Se because you dine there so often, no one is going to be thinking about whether you add on gratuity.