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Jan 22, 2012 05:12 PM

How to thank the Maitre D

Last nite, when we arrived without a reservation at an upscale resto here in the Bay Area, the lovely maitre d smiled but informed us that she had no tables available. Disappointed, but not forlorn, we chatted a bit with her, as we contemplated whether or not to avail ourselves of the 2 seats at the bar.

Ultimately, she did a little noodling in the reservation book, and then came over and told us we could have the small table on the far side of the room. We were thrilled. And also very much enjoyed our meal -- my first time at that particular emporium.

My Question:
Should we have tipped the Maitre D?
What's the appropriate way of expressing our appreciation -- other than the big smiles and huge thanks?

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    1. re: ttoommyy

      How much?
      And when? As you're seated? As you're leaving?

      1. re: escargot3

        As we are leaving. I would tip $10 or so.

    2. No need to tip. She found the table for you because you were nice and respectful, didn't lash out at her, and conversed with her. In short, she liked you and wanted to get you in. She didn't do it for money. A genuine, heartfelt thank you really does help make it worthwhile. A little bit of conversation as you left could have been nice, too. Honestly though, in all my years of working the door, I have always felt uncomfortable taking money, either before,(would never do it. I cannot be bribed), or after.

      1 Reply
      1. re: hilltowner

        Indeed, en route to the door, I took her aside, thanked her profusely, and told her it was my first time there, but not my last.

        Thanks for the feedback, HT. Gratefully appreciated.

      2. I am not of a mind to "bribe" any FOH person, BUT, have no problem tipping them individually, when they do something nice. Same for the sommelier. A $20 is not too much to add, when things work out well. Same for bussers, when they do extra. I tip on the bill, but then pull them aside, and say "thank you."

        I often freely tip, but shun bribes. The line can be gray, but I often have to draw it, based on the circumstances.

        In the stated instance, I would probably have graced the FOH with $10 - 20, and a heartfelt "thank you." The amount would have been predicated on the restaurant (maybe not the fairest way to do it?).

        If I did not tip them, then I would definitely e-mail the management, with a big thank you, and a compliment for that person.


        1. You mean the guy who the restaurant pays to book tables and generate revenue found a way for you to give his employers your money? No way, give that man an award.

          If you really felt thankful I would go with an email to mgmt, like Bill Hunt said.

          5 Replies
          1. re: joonjoon

            If only it were as simple as you seem to think. A good restaurant does not want to overbook or cram as many people in at any time. This creates huge problems that snowball all night. The ill will produced by such a maneuver makes it simply not worth it most of the time to squeeze people in. Sometimes though, we take a chance, such as in the instance the OP has described.

            1. re: hilltowner

              Right, but are you suggesting you're taking the chance purely based on doing something nice for the couple, or are you also considering things like goodwill and revenue?

              At the end of the day, the MD needs to do what's in the best interest of the restaurant, and that's his/her job.

              1. re: joonjoon

                Indeed, the MD does need to do what's in the best interest of the restaurant. That is my point. Often times that means not being able to squeeze people in. In the short run, the restaurant may make more money, but in the long run, they become known for harried service, long wait times for meals, and not honoring reservations in a timely manner. All of these factors can easily contribute to a decreased customer base.

                Obviously, this doesn't apply to all restaurant models, but at "an upscale resto" in the Bay Area, it would certainly apply.

                I take chances on lovely people who treat me on the same level and don't try to bribe/manipulate me. I can't always do it, but when I can, I know that they will appreciate it and hopefully remember it, thus promoting goodwill and happy feelings. While revenue is clearly the end game; in the front of the house in the hospitality business, you have to look at it as goodwill and graciousness, that will hopefully translate into revenue by repeat, happy customers.

                1. re: hilltowner

                  You've articulated what I intuited., HT.
                  So I was surprised when my friend asked if we should tip the MD.
                  Glad to have it clarified.

                  In the end, not only was it goodwill, but also good food and a very fun evening. We both will be back at that resto again.

                  1. re: hilltowner

                    You know, appreciation is something that is too often lost nowadays.

                    Often, it's the same for "goodwill," that seldom goes unpunished.

                    Though in a totally different business, I felt some of the same pressures, regarding scheduling. Some made it easy, and some did not. The latter fell from my client list, and pretty quickly.

                    Thanks for commenting. Nice to hear from "the other side."


            2. I once palmed a $20 and tried to hand it to the MD at a famous place in NY. I was cooly rebuffed. I still cringe a little when I think about it. I had arrived w/ a third person for a 2 person reservation. Maybe he thought it was crossing the line from appreciation to bribe, or maybe he thought a tip was demeaning to his stature. Whatever, it kinda cured me of tipping MDs.