May 30, 2009

Suggested Gratuity or Required Gratuity?

Fellow waitstaff, I request your feedback concerning a situation I found myself in last night.

At the steakhouse we are required to add 15% gratuity for parties of 8 or more. It is written on the menu, and it is told to everyone calling in to make reservations. It is not optional, and therefore is rarely an issue.

Last night when I began my shift I was told I would have a party of 20. I was immediately excited. I was scheduled to be first off, so I knew the large party plus a few additional tables may be all I would have the entire evening, and that with added gratuity I would be leaving with a nice chunk of change.
As I began setting up for the big top, I was approached by my spineless manager. She told me the lady who called in for the large party refused the added gratuity, and threatened to go elsewhere unless we made an exception. So of course my manager fearing the loss of business, complied with her wishes. She apologized to me, and said there was nothing she could do, but said that if they stiffed me, she would "make it up to me."
The excuse that was given for the gratuity refusal was that they didn't want to feel limited on the amount they could tip. Well, isn't that the dumbest thing I've ever heard. If they wanted to tip more then 15% they could easily just leave a few extra bucks on the table. I was not fooled. I know there is only one reason to refuse gratuity and that is because you have no intention of tipping.
Eventually, the 20 top turned into a 10 top and half the people didn't even order, so all the commotion was for nothing. But it left me feeling somewhat uneasy. Our policy is clearly stated on the menu. Why have rules if no one will enforce them? And would it have been better for the manager to let them take there business elsewhere, and keep her dignity knowing she didn't sell herself out? What are other restaurants policy about gratuity, and are they enforced?

Also, as the 10 top left, I couldn't help but laugh as I noticed they did in fact stiff me. And I didn't hesitate to remind my spinless manager that she definitely did "Owe me"


redgirl said...

Great post! I hope she paid you....
I added you to my list :)

Anonymous said...

That's fucked. I have never seen anything like that happen. Why your manager couldn't have explained to the woman that they could tip more if they liked is beyond me. That she made one exception is frightening. What's to stop her from doing that in the future? She completely undermined you, which, as a manager, can backfire greatly later on. How do you suppose she will make it up to you?

G.H. said...

She won't make it up to me. I don't really care if she does at this point, I know she only said it to save face despite the fact that she undermined me, and the restaurant. I don't understand management, because if it were me, 9 times out of 10 I would tell the guest to suck it. No more comping meals because there wasn't enough base in the chili, or the steak just wasn't good enough.
A rule is a rule. Enforce it, or get a new job.
Do you have a gratuity rule at Hooters?

Anonymous said...

If that is house policy there should be no exceptions to the rule. It is what it is and letting them get away with it is bullshit. Unless your restaurant is crying for business and is empty most of the time which it sounds like it isn't they should have paid the 15%. The future of waiting on tables is becoming less of a sure thing to bank on as time goes on.Competition , recession , management worried about bottom line and meeting budget. Soon automatic gratuities unless you are doing banquets will become a thing of the past I fear.

Anonymous said...

If there are eight or more people in a group, their server has the option of adding on an eighteen percent gratuity. It is entirely up to her.

dave said...

In my restaurant (a *very* similar restaurant to yours), we don't do autograts for big tables. We *do* impose a 20% "service charge" on parties booked through our events manager (only 15% of which stays with the servers).

It's actually pretty dicey legally to waive an autograt once it's a stated and published policy. It opens up the possiblity of discrimination (in reverse since you are allowing certain people to avoid the charge while demanding that others comply). It's similar to the concept that if you do an autograt for one, you must do an autograt for all so that you can't cherrypick imposing the charge on people based on their sex, race, appearance, religion or social standing.

Obviously, this doesn't preclude the right of a manager to waive a service charge based know...actual service issues.

I wouldn't have given the manager a pass. I would have at least had her give me a bottle of wine or *something*. After all, you didn't beg for compensation, she freely offered it.

I had that situation recently when someone asks us if we would comp a meal for a guy who had just come back from Iraq and who's wife was suffering from a serious medical condition (note that this person didn't offer to buy their meal :g:, but we were happy to do it anyway). Our floor manager told me to let him know if the guy didn't take care of me. Well, of course he didn't take care of me. Didn't leave me a penny. Yeah, he might have thought that it was already taken care of, and, heck, I'm a vet myself and I was happy to serve him. But, c'mon dude - you got a $130 meal for you and your wife and I fawned over the two of you and made you feel comfortable in a setting that you wouldn't normally have enjoyed as a diner - at least leave a $10 or something! Anyway, I told my manager as he had instructed me to and he said, "Let me get you a nice bottle of wine for your trouble". Even though Chase Bank would prefer cash for my mortgage, I happily agreed. He gave me a $60 bottle from a discontinued offering that he still had in stock, so it was a win/win. It was basically like me getting a $20 tip and he was getting rid of a bottle that he couldn't really do anything with. that's the least that your manager could do.

"So You Want To Be A Waiter"

¸.•*´)ღ¸.•*´Chris said...

We have a gratuity rule and it is me who actually inforces as I am the event cordinator and also bartend my events. The thing that makes it nice for me is that all events are paid in full prior to the day of so I actually get my gratuity before I even bartend the event. If my customers don't agree to the gratuity, they go somewhere else. I just won't deal with them, plain and simple. It is written in the contract, they knew it when they signed it, now pony up!

G.H. said...

Chris, I wish that were the case. Unfortunately management decides everything.

BizTone said...

That's insane... but sounds all too common. At my restaurant, there is no mandatory tip policy for large groups. I personally wish there were. My fellow co-workers argue that it limits their potential for a bigger tip. My outlook is that over time, I'd rather have a constant 15-18% on all large checks, than the occasional 25% or so, and some stiffing here and there. Let's face it, large parties aren't the most dependable tippers.

I side with you, your manager dropped the ball. The manager not only did a disservice to you, but to the restaurant's "House Policies." I feel your pain G.H.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, things like this blow my mind. I could never stiff the waitstaff without feeling guilty even at a cheap buffet where all they do is refill your water.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Gratuity isn't required, however a service charge is, and will hold up in courts. Gratuity is a tip, therefore the waiter/waitress is paid by the customer under what they believe you earned. Gratuity and tip are earned. If you didn't earn the tip, you don't get it - and then it's your word against theirs... which sucks.

Service charge is different, and required, even though it is basically the same thing. :) You should encourage your restaurant to change their wording!