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Captain comp'd the drinks, asked for cash

Not really food-related, just curious about something. In a nice midtown neighborhood restaurant last week, myself and 3 co-workers, at end of meal the captain whispered to my boss he comp'd the wine & drinks, could you throw in some extra cash.

Sort of related - with my wife in New York over Christmas, at two different places the waiter left a cocktail/glass of wine off my bill. The second time I actually pointed it out to a secondary waiter who said, oh he knows what he's doing, its ok. Of course I took that to mean, throw in some extra $$$.

Just wondering how common this is and whether anyone has any opinions. And what do you do in this situation - ie if waiter omits a $15 cocktail, do you leave $15 in cash ?

Appreciate any insight.

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  1. I am sorry, but I would contact the management. It sounds to me like they have found a way to rip off the restaurant.

    2 Replies
    1. re: NE_Elaine

      Years ago, we frequented a local restaurant/bar and the bartender was fired for this reason. She would comp our drinks (and other regulars) all night. Top shelf stuff.

      We would leave her a substantial tip in appreciation. Cash of course. I can't remember how she worked the receipt thing.

      This went on for some time. Eventually, the owners discovered the massive amounts of liquor sales missing so, adios to her.

      At the time, we had no idea this sort of thing went on, so was surprised when she was gone. Until it was explained to us why. Can't understand how she figured she wouldn't get caught.

    2. Perhaps more benignly, the suggestion is that a tip should be based on full value? Similar to when you use a Groupon, tip should be based on bill without discount?

      1. i think it's fairly common to get comp'd a drink and be expected to tip more, but definitely not upwards of the same value.

        the situation you mentioned sounds fishy and i agree with Elaine. in no circumstance should anyone be asking you to throw in extra cash. it's one thing to be bought a drink and be made aware of it. it's unacceptable for a server to ask to be compensated for it.

        1. Elisa your point is appreciated and understood but if that were the practice the waiter would not omit the item from the bill, since the tip would be the same with the item on the bill or without. It follows, s/he is expecting *more* than the 15% (or 20%) tip.

          Elaine I agree there is theft going on, I guess I'm just wondering if anyone else has experienced this, how common a practice it might be (a first for me), etc.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ChillEDog

            Back in the 1980s, a friend's father owned a bunch of restaurants. The friend and her sister worked in one of them. Bartender told them about the scam they were running. Friend and sister wondered how the bartender thought they wouldn't tell their father. Bartender fired.

            Yeah, it happens.

          2. Comping a drink or two on a sizable bar bill is common is common and gets a server 20% or better... the situation you describe is theft... tell management.

            1. Well, while you certainly don't leave the full value of the omitted item, it is accepted practice to tip on the full value of whatever you've consumed.

              I eat a lot of comped meals as my SO works in the industry, so we usually do end up leaving about the cost of the meal in a tip, but that's our personal preference—not something that any captain, somm, backwaiter, or anyone else FOH has ever blatantly asked us to do.

              While I think the captain was not out line by mentioning that he'd comped the items, asking for additional tip is WAY out of line. The only, only, and 100% only reason I can think of him doing that is so that your server wouldn't get tipped a lesser amount.

              1. Some places have a system in place to reward their regulars or big spenders with a little something extra. So I wouldn't automatically think it's fraudulent. In your case with the NYC over Christmas, it may be part of how the restaurant managed things.

                But in the instance with your co-workers that sounds a bit fishy. I've been comped things from time to time but nobody has ever hinted that I needed to leave more money. I've always left extra but that was without their prompting.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Miss Needle

                  Agree. I'm a regular at my local watering hole. Bartenders regularly comp us regulars with a bar chip. The owners are fully aware and have no problem with it as it keeps us happy and they make the most money from the regulars. I tip on the chip the same as if I had bought the drink.

                  Yes, the instance with the Captain was wrong.

                2. If a restaurant or server is "comping" you something it should appear on the check, and then it should show it being comped, and deducted from the check. All POS systems have an ability to comp items and that would be completely legitimate. If I'm comped something I would normally tip an additional amount to roughly 50% of the value of the comped item. If you comp me $20 in drinks, and I'm going to leave a 20% tip, the tip becomes 20% + $10.

                  If what you are describing is nothing mentioned on the check at all, that's a lil more shady and could be the employee deceiving the house. One drink? I'm not going to say anything, $50 worth of drinks, yeah I might mention that to management.

                  17 Replies
                  1. re: jrvedivici

                    I agree with everything you said here..... When i've been comped items it has always been listed on the check just without a charge.

                    1. re: jrvedivici

                      I have to disagree—I've never seen comped items sent from the kitchen appear on the check, nor drinks.

                      1. re: loratliff

                        Disagree all you want, it's a fact. I've been embarassed at times when, in checking the bill, I noticed a charge for something that I was told was comped, only to have the server point out the credit farther down on the bill.

                        1. re: loratliff

                          All POS systems have this feature and most if not all restaurants monitor their comp percentages.

                          1. re: jrvedivici

                            I'm not doubting that they have the feature—I'm just doubting that they use it. Like I said though, most of my comps are at restaurants where I'm friends with the kitchen, somms, bartenders, or some combination of the three, so things get sent and then comped without going through POS. I know of which I speak, even if my experience is different than yours. ;)

                            1. re: loratliff

                              So what is your point? You admit your experience may be different from ours, yet you still say you doubt that restaurants do this. Well, they do. We are not making this up.

                              1. re: rrems

                                I don't think there is a really a correct answer, as it seems to happen both ways--I know I've had things show up on my bill marked as comped and I know I've not seen them listed on the bill. rrems and jred are probably correct in saying that the system is set up to be used in a certain way, but it doesn't always seem to get done that way.

                                The other important thing to remember is that not all restaurants use a POS system.

                                1. re: loratliff

                                  I have seen the POS way of comping and I have seen where the server/bartender doesn't ring up the comp at all. It all depends on the restaurant and who is doing the comping, in my experience. Neither one of these practices is foreign to me. I am in the NYC metro area if that counts for anything.

                            2. re: loratliff

                              i'm with loratiff: i've been comped many times and have not seen it show up on the bill at all.
                              when my dog died, the manager at my most favored restaurant on my regular rotation comped the entire meal as well as my drinks as the restaurant's sign of condolence. in addition, all the servers who knew me stopped by to offer their sympathy. this was a completely orchestrated thing done by everyone there because i had been such a supportive customer for years and had sent business their way for years. it was a show of appreciation that went above and beyond.
                              no bill at all arrived.
                              no tip was accepted.

                              also, at a happier time, when the pastry chef reconfigured the dessert menu, and i was there with a group of friends, all the "new" pastry offerings were brought to my group compliments of the chef.
                              also, none of this showed up on the tab, but this time they did accept my normal tip amounts to the runners/servers.

                              1. re: westsidegal

                                In your first example if everything is being comped there is no reason to hand you a check with $0.00 as the total.

                                Your second example sounds as if it was a complimentary tasting of something new than a comp, while perhaps the same net affect its not really the same from the houses perspective.

                            3. re: jrvedivici

                              Every restaurant and bar I have ever been comped in the past ten years, or consulted to, places that have a POS system and hand you a itemized bill, has the item listed on the bill as comped.

                              Done any other way in a POS run place means the server is basically stealing from the establishment, comping without the managers approval.

                              1. re: JMF

                                "Done any other way in a POS run place means the server is basically stealing from the establishment, comping without the managers approval."

                                Not true, especially when it's the manager (or in some cases, the owner) issuing the comps.

                                1. re: loratliff

                                  If an owner chooses to over ride his own system so be it. If a manager does it without the owners permission it's theft.

                                  1. re: loratliff

                                    In a POS system the comps. are recorded and on the bill because they are business records of lost profits.

                                    If they aren't recorded then there is no way to account for the loss in sales. Only a very poor business person who has a POS systen wouldn't put the comp on the bill. Also having the comp on the bill lets the customer know they were legally comped.

                                    1. re: JMF

                                      I'm not really sure why it's such a difficult concept for people to understand. Lol Do people always follow the rules? No, but that doesn't change the fact the rule does exist.

                                2. re: jrvedivici

                                  My comped drinks have never appeared on my check. As for food, I never get comped food unless something is fucked up and I send it back and the restaurant decides to comp it. I can't even remember the last time this has happened though, so I can't remember whether its ever been on my check or not either.

                                  1. re: SaraAshley

                                    You have made it fairly clear in other posts the bartenders are your friends and are in fact giving you free drinks, not with the houses permission. Your "free" drinks are 100% employee theft. Lol

                                3. It seems pretty clear that the first situation you describe is theft. The proper response is to tell the captain to put the items on the bill, tip on the full amount of the bill (in order not to penalize other servers who share in the tips, though the captain does not deserve anything), and then to notify the owner/manager of what occurred.

                                  The second one is not so clear. It could be that management has given the waiters some discretion to comp a drink to promote customer satisfaction (maybe someone with knowledge of the restaurant business could give an opinion on this). In that case I would tip on what the bill would have been if the item had not been comped. In some restaurants, comped items are charged and then reversed on the bill, so that there is a record of it and it is clearly legitimate.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: rrems

                                    I agree with rems. First situation is more clear that something is wrong, based mostly on captain explicitly asking for money. Of course, I would also say that if the captain just said there was a round on the house and nothing more, then that might be kinda okay.

                                    Which is what your second situation sounds like. Lots of places give some discretion to the waitstaff, and sometimes the waitstaff forgets and don't want to be rude by adding it back if you do notice it. Not sure about waitstaff, but it's common for bartenders to comp 3rd or 4th drink (forgot which one).

                                    1. re: rrems

                                      I am also in 100% agreement with rrems. That first situation is pure theft by the captain from the owner(s).

                                      The 2nd situation is something I'm very familiar with and I do exactly as described by rrems (& add to the tip) unless I'm sure that this is not sanctioned. Then I say to the waiter or bartender "you missed xxx" and, if I'm told its okay, I don't leave more tip so as to ensure that there's no motive for it to happen again. They remember.

                                      1. re: Steve R

                                        >> 'That first situation is pure theft by the captain from the owner(s).'

                                        Exactly !! If the waitstaff continues to comp w/o the owners knowledge, eventally the business *could* fail. Comps should be made judiciously. The waitstaff should NOT be extended that liberty. They would abuse it just so that they could augment their tips.

                                        1. re: Cheese Boy

                                          some bars give their bartenders very limited discretion over one or two drinks per shift.

                                          1. re: westsidegal

                                            Exactly and based on this theory is why it should be logged into the POS for monitoring. The restaurant business is not run on the honor system.

                                            Now again I'm not saying this is how it's done, but in a vast majority of restaurants it is suppose to show on the check, then discounted or comped on the check as well.

                                    2. Restaurant Stakeout star Willie Degel can best comment on this subject. (FN)
                                      The waitstaff should be tipped based on their SERVICE. The waitstaff aren't the ones comping anything, so why should *they* be the ones rewarded? Plus what freakin' value does a comp hold if a customer has to pay a portion of it back?

                                      Willie Degel would fire somebody for sure.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Cheese Boy

                                        I thought of that same thing reading the original post! Get some cameras in there.

                                        I think that show is staged, but it does offer some education regarding how front/back of house works, etc.

                                        1. re: breadchick

                                          Yeah, a good portion of the show is staged/scripted, but when I read this thread, I immediately thought of the Brooklyn Beso / Bed Stuy episode. That one episode was very genuine and it fits in perfectly within this thread. (One waitress there comped a four-top with a birthday round, IIRC).

                                      2. Restaurant employees trying to skim off the top from the owners?

                                        What's the world coming to?

                                        Next thing you know we'll be driving electric cars.

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          What a coincidence: I know a waiter who bought an electric car that he paid for with money he made by skimming checks!

                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                            Restaurant owners basically factor in employee theft when pricing their menus, esp. if it's a restaurant with an active bar.

                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                              Yes they do. And, if I report theft maybe, in some small way, I can contribute to keeping their costs down, their business open and their prices reasonable. Besides, maybe the owner will comp me something for ratting out the captain. :-)

                                              1. re: Steve R

                                                Heck yeah !!
                                                I'd kick out the frickin' captain AND Tennille too (if she were there).

                                                1. re: Cheese Boy

                                                  They're getting divorced after almost 40 years of marriage!

                                        2. i worked in restaurants almost 20 years and still know plenty of folks who serve, tend bar and own all over town. have always gotten lots of drinks and food comped, in various ways. sometimes it shows on the bill, sometimes not.

                                          either way? i have NEVER had anybody blatantly ask me to throw in extra cash. that is the tackiest thing i have heard in a while. in that instance, yes, i would have mentioned it to the manager as an "oh, by the way" kind of thing. all thieves get caught eventually, but might as well make it sooner rather than later. especially if it's in a place that provides captains as part of their service tier.

                                          1. Did the drinks show up on the bill as having been comped? If so, he's just horrifically tacky and should be reported to the owner/manager.

                                            Did he not record the drinks on the bill as having been served? if so, that's just plain thievery and should be reported to the owner/manager.