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Jul 29, 2013 12:10 PM

Tipping FOH/BOH


Not intending to get in to a debate about percentages and what not - but a simple question.

Can anyone see a valid reason that our tips shouldn't be split equally between FOH and BOH?

I've thought about it long, and hard, and I cannot. It seems this inequity between FOH and BOH has no basis in sound practice; both share equally in providing us with a good meal and experience.

BOH generally requires more education as well, and yet they go on to earn just barely above minimum wage, while the FOH earns perhaps 200-300% more per hour - but for what? Are they really that much more valuable to our experience than the food itself? For me, it's 50/50. Both have to be good in order for me to enjoy my meal - so I give no great value to FOH over what BOH contributes.

I've thought about trying to enforce this principal on restaurants that I dine in - but it would be a great hassle to them unless it was standard policy.

I'm not sure what the answer is, but to me, this is an issue.

Anyone else feel the same? Differently?

  1. I can't say they should be split evenly, unless the BOH is willing to take a pay cut and earn what the servers do per hour, but the servers SHOULD tip their cooks and busboys.

    2 Replies
    1. re: PotatoHouse

      You don't think they'd give up $3-4/hour to gain $15-25/hour? (just using approximations)

      And in my experience, yes, they do tip out - but it's fairly inadequate. FOH makes a lopsided amount of money compared to BOH.

      1. re: justxpete

        You apparently have a lopsided view of what waitstaff make in tips.

    2. I agree that kitchen staff should have the same sort of pay structure as waitstaff: base wage + percentage of food sales. If a server turns lots of tables, they deserve to make more in tips, but they're also sending more orders to the kitchen, so the BOH is working harder, too.

      I disagree that any of this is of concern to the diner, however. I'm there to eat my meal and pay for it, not to play owner/manager and decide how much everyone gets paid.

      2 Replies
      1. re: DeppityDawg

        In Toronto we are apparently having a shortage of good talent for our kitchens. It may be caused by many factors, but it stands to reason that it will not fix itself, and if we as consumers don't act, we will eventually suffer. Who in their right mind wants to work 14 hours a day in a hot kitchen for minimum wage?

        But more than that, we're the ones with the power, and have the ability to affect change. And it's the right thing to do.

        1. re: justxpete

          You should certainly make inquiries and suggestions at the restaurants you go to, since this is an important issue for you. I just don't see this becoming a consumer-driven movement. Tipping is awkward and fraught enough as it is; people don't want to think about it any more than they have to, and they definitely don't want to initiate a conversation about it with their servers or with the management.

          If there is a shortage of BOH talent, then the wages offered for BOH jobs will increase, and menu prices will go up to cover this. In that sense, the problem will fix itself with no direct action from consumers. We do have the power collectively to accept or reject this change, but we can't dictate the details of day-to-day restaurant operation.

      2. I have problems with your supposition that the BOH requires more education than the FOH. These are very broad terms, and while a chef du cuisine shoudl have received more education than a server, he may not have as much education as a sommelier. A pot washer needs little or nop education, which is why it is a typical job for new immigrants who don't speak the language or have no ability to read or write.
        A don't think chefs (not line cooks) readilly work for a wage barely above minimum.
        BOH is guaranteed their wage for hours worked no matter how many tables sit that evening. Last week my daughter worked serving one evening when there were terrible thunderstorms. Her 5 hour shift had no patrons. She was the only server plus one bartender, the rest were sent home, but as the establishment was open, she was paid $20 for her shift and no tips. The dishwasher, who speaks no English and had no dishes to wash collected $8.25 hr CT minimum wage.

        Bluntly put, when I dine, I tip for service rendered diorectly to me. I tip the server and have no objection to her tipping out the busboy/runner/barback/hostess. BUT there si no reason to share that tip with BOH, especially those who provided nothing for my order. If I ordered a fish and chips, why should the grillman, salad chef and potwasher share in my tip? Only the frycook and dishwasher are directly involved.

        Late Saturday night we stopped in at the establishment where daughter serves (on the weekend) for a drink and light food. All 4 orders were incorrectly cooked or plated by the BOH. Daughter said it had been that way all night. When she took back a wrap that had been ordered with sliced oranges instead if fries (a choice on the menu) the cook said, you want orange slices, you slice it and serve it yourself. So daughter went to the bar, grabbed an orange (they keep them there for the Blue Moon), sliced it up and placed it on a plate and delivered it to the table. And you think she should share her tip with the BOH? Not a chance.

        BTW>>>I've worked BOH and FOH, tips are for service personnel.

        11 Replies
        1. re: bagelman01

          It was a general statement. Sure, cooks often aren't more educated than a sommelier or maitre'd, but schooling is mostly required to become a cook, while none is required to be a server - and they typically make much more than any BOH worker.

          If your daughter works in a place that scoffs at her requests, then that's a management issue, not a philosophical one.

          All those people are partly responsible for you food. It's not an individual effort and experience.

          And the upsides of shared pool far exceed an occasional night where they don't make as much money as normal.

          1. re: justxpete

            You are making assumptions. Schooling in not "mostly required" to become a cook. Go into any restaurant kitchen and you will see for yourself.
            Chefs that run the kitchen may certainly have more education, but the cooks in their employ usually learn on the line.
            FOH staff is crucial to the success of the business, and yes, so is the food. But how many threads have we seen where there is a diner upset over lack of service, and they will never return?

            1. re: wyogal

              I'm not making any assumptions. It depends entirely on the locale. In Ontario, it's difficult for a cook to get hired without experience unless they've went to college.

              To your last point, for me it's 50/50. I can be upset over food or service, and either one will dictate that I not return.

          2. re: bagelman01

            by law, employers must make up the difference for any employee receiving differential wage (below minimum on the expectation that s/he earns tips) who does not earn enough tips in a shift to equal minimum wage.

            in other words, if your employer pays you below minimum wage, and for any reason in a given shift your wage + tips are less than minimum, your employer must pay the difference.

            1. re: chartreauxx

              Labor/wage laws vary by jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions the employer only has to make up the difference when the server is short for the pay period. So if my daughter worked 4 5 hours shifts (THURS, FRI, SAT SUN) with the week ending on Sunday and averaged $25 per hour (including tips) on 3 nights and bombed one night due to weather, the employer might not have to make up the difference for the one night.

            2. re: bagelman01

              If she was only paid $20 for her shift then her employer is breaking the law. He is REQUIRED to make up the difference if her tip average does not bring her up to the federal/state minimum wage, which as you state in your post is $8.25 an hour.

              1. re: PotatoHouse

                The tip credit is not determined on an hour-by-hour or shift-by-shift basis. It's usually based on tips earned over an entire pay period (2 weeks or whatever). I'm pretty sure that if bagelman01's daughter's employer were breaking the law, we'd know about it…

                  1. re: PotatoHouse

                    bagelman01 has stated elsewhere that his daughter averages $200 per shift. I don't think her employer has to worry about making up any difference to bring her up to minimum wage. Unless she actually receives a paycheck for each shift, which is doubtful.

                  2. re: DeppityDawg

                    It is calculated by pay period which is a 7 day week. Which I believe is reasonable. If the employer was not following state laws, I'd be happy to represent all the employees pro bono (even if I don't generally practice labor law).

                    It is too onerous to expect employers to calculate averages on a per shift basis. This is expecially so, when servers enter their own earned/received tip amounts into the POS/payroll system. The establishment can only really track tips received via credit card, and have no way to know the net tip after a server tips out other emplyees.
                    Saturday night, daughter had a pre-batchelor party table drinking for 4 hours. $800 check of which $600 was liquor. She tipped the bar back almost 40% of the tip received, since the bar back did so much of the work. If a check was $600 food and $200 liqour, daughter might have kept 85% of the tip.

                  3. re: PotatoHouse

                    see my above reply.....the average is not calculated by shift, but pay period

                1. I can't fix inequities in pay scales, but at a restaurant where I went often, I would regularly buy beer for the kitchen (good beer, not swill). They appreciated it.

                  11 Replies
                    1. re: JonParker

                      This is the most honest and common sense comment in this thread.

                      1. re: jrvedivici

                        Alcohol doesn't help pay their rent or buy their children clothing. Sure, it's nice to do once in a while, but doesn't really accomplish anything. Additionally, not all owners appreciate their employees drinking on-site, even if it is after their shifts.

                        1. re: justxpete

                          Just send the tip to the kitchen, with directions that you'd like it split among the BoH. Beyond that, not sure what else one can do. Some things are beyond our control.

                            1. re: justxpete

                              I have. My point is to just send the $ to the BoH and be done with it, let it go. One can't always control everything. One can only make an effort.

                              1. re: wyogal

                                Point being that you'd annoy the proprietor if done on a regular basis - distributing $1.70 (for example) to 15-20 different employees would be annoying and time consuming.

                                1. re: justxpete

                                  One can't have it both ways. Either tip them, and let them deal with it, or don't, and know that they are getting paid for their jobs.

                                  1. re: wyogal

                                    One of the reasons I started this thread was because I thought someone would come up with something brilliant I hadn't thought of before.

                          1. re: justxpete

                            You're absolutely right. What it does do is show them materially that their contribution to customer satisfaction is appreciated.

                            As for the owner issue, I never knew one that objected. On the contrary, they appreciated it so much that I had to stop posting on Chowhound about them, since I had crossed over into insider territory.

                            Another true story: I was moving and ended up with about a week between giving up the old place and moving into the new one. Since moving is in itself expensive, I posted to Facebook asking my friends if any of them could stand to take me in for a few days rather than pay for a hotel.

                            The only one who responded and gladly took me in was a waitress at that establishment. She didn't know me except as a customer, but she knew I'd treated her and her coworkers well. Not only did she take me in, but she was on vacation at the time and had to arrange for me to get a key from a neighbor. Yeah, she gave me her house while she was out of town, and all she knew about me was that I tipped well and bought beer for her coworkers.

                            Being decent to people is its own reward, but sometimes it pays off in other ways.

                            1. re: JonParker

                              No doubt. Good karma is good karma.

                              Unfortunately, one of the places I frequent doesn't allow their staff to drink on-site (often), but I still don't regard this as a solution.

                      2. FoH and BoH have always been two completely different beasts. George Orwell described it in his 1933 book "Down and Out in Paris and London" based on his experience as a low-end employee at a hotel in Paris. To quote:

                        "Undoubtedly the most workmanlike class, and the least servile, are the
                        cooks. They do not earn quite so much as waiters, but their prestige is
                        higher and their employment steadier. The cook does not look upon himself
                        as a servant, but as a skilled workman; he is generally called '_un ouvrier_'
                        which a waiter never is. He knows his power--knows that he alone makes or
                        mars a restaurant, and that if he is five minutes late everything is out of
                        gear. He despises the whole non-cooking staff, and makes it a point of
                        honour to insult everyone below the head waiter. And he takes a genuine
                        artistic pride in his work, which demands very great skill. It is not the
                        cooking that is so difficult, but the doing everything to time."


                        Now it is certainly true that there are problems with wage discrepancies between FoH and BoH staff, particularly in states where the minimum-wage laws don't have tip credits, but introducing tip credits might be a better way to address that issue. And there is always the option for a restaurant to have a mandatory service charge that it can distribute as it wants. For instance, two-Michelin-star Coi in San Francisco, where there is no tip credit, has a mandatory service charge that is shared among the entire staff.