Having spent the first half of my adult life waiting tables for a living it has made me both a critic, and a defender at each restaurant I eat at. If I had my way I would make it mandatory for every U.S. citizen to wait tables for a minimum of one month before they turn 25. Not only would this experience help everyone be more understanding when they go out to eat, but it would help them be more patient, considerate, and appreciative of every service position.
Not only did I spend my young adult years waiting tables as a single parent, but most of the women in my family raised their children by serving other people. It continually surprises me that a lot of people still do not know how to tip! Allow me to educate the masses. A basic tip for a restaurant server/bartender is 20% of your entire bill. This is VERY easy to calculate! It's simply $2.00 for every $10.00 on your bill. If your bill is $60.00 then your tip is $12.00. I know some people think this is ridiculous and the restaurants should pay their servers a higher hourly wage so they don't have to tip, but this is not the reality of the restaurant industry and it is highly unlikely that it will change any time soon. The bottom line is, if you don't want to tip a server for busting their butt waiting on you, then stay home!
If you happen to be with a large party, and only have one server, again please be patient. Trying to service each persons needs (drinks, appetizers, meals, sides, extra needs, etc.) can be extremely demanding of your servers time, and if they do a great job, then your tip should reflect your appreciation! It is a lot harder to serve a party then it is a table of two. I should also point out that being responsible for your mess is applicable to more than just the public restroom. If you do happen to leave a huge mess that you, for whatever reason, are unable to clean yourself, then again, you should compensate your server for having to clean up your mess for you.
Some people are lingerers. Maybe you are having a business lunch/dinner, or a "getting to know you" date, or just want to take your time and have a nice relaxing meal. Whatever the reason, the longer you sit at your table, the less money your server is going to make unless you compensate them for the extra time you sit there! If you and a friend sit and have drinks for several hours after your meal, you should add a minimum of $5.00 extra to your tip for every half hour you stay after your meal. Your server has bills to pay just like everyone else does, and by you occupying their means to make money for long periods of time, you jeopardize their ability to meet the financial needs in their life. If you don't want to tip your server more, then go sit at the bar. BUT, if you order more drinks at the bar, then you have to tip the bartender by the same 20% rule. Furthermore, being mindful of your servers time, especially if they are busy, is the courteous thing to do. Talking or texting on your cell phone when you should be ready to order is extremely rude. At a bare minimum, put your cell phone away until you have placed your order...keeping it tucked away all night is even better!
Waiting tables is a very demanding job, but with the right attitude you can make their job easier, and a lot of times even quite enjoyable! And, with any service job, the more your server feels appreciated, the better their service will be the next time you see them. Tip your server well, and they will serve you even better!
What standards do you have when it comes to tipping? Do you have a "bad tipper" story to share? What is the best/worst service you have ever had? I would love to hear your stories!