Tip-Out Rundown

Lunch shift today. It’s a 30 minute drive to the restaurant. I usually down a cup of coffee, read the news on the net (or the paper if it’s Thurs or Fri), and head off. I don’t mind the drive time. Traffic has been excellent the last couple years – 80 mph the whole way. I spend the time thinking about the day to come, somewhat meditating, listening to the iPod. It’s actually relaxing.

Slow day. Just two tables for me. Walked with $42.

“Walk with” is the operable phrase for servers. It indicates what you had in your pocket in tips at the end of the day, after tipping out. Tip-outs vary everywhere. I’ve worked places where you tipped five (!) people (busser, bartender, cooks, hostess, pantry/salad guy). Additionally, some places you tip a wine captain, maitre’d, manager (illegal but that doesn’t stop them), banquet coordinator, even the corporation (I’ll tell you about that another time).

Michael’s, my lunch job, has a small tip out for lunch, large for dinner. At lunch we only tip 10% to the busser, 5% to the bar.

One irritation more serious servers have is the neophyte (or maybe he’s just an idiot) who, when you ask how much he made, tells you, “Two hundred twenty dollars.”

“Wow! After tipping out?”

“Oh. No. After tip-out I made $170.”

Who cares how much you made before tipping out? All that matters is how much you have at the end. If you’re going to look at it that way, you might as well include all the cash checks you banked. Then you could say, “I had $750 bucks in my pocket tonight before I cashed out.”

Big deal.

Got a bad tip on one table. Four people, they ordered pretty solid and the check was $236. The guy tipped $34.

It depends on the restaurant, and perhaps the part of the country, but around here, in fine dining, we expect 20% when things go well. And we’re thrilled to get it. I’d say I get 20% on about half my tables, 15% is about one in seven, with the rest falling at 17-18%. Yes, you do get 10%’ed or worse, but that probably only happens about once a week or less.

The other table was pleasant and uneventful. Though it was a little interesting to hear the guy say he didn’t want to have more than one glass of wine because he had to go back and teach. I assume he taught college, as prep school hours would be over by the time he got out of there and back to the school. Nevertheless, after his glass of Zinfandel, he finished off the meal with a cognac. He’s probably a fun professor.

The drive home takes 10-15 minutes longer. And, still, I mostly enjoy it, despite the heavier traffic. After working five or so hours, it’s nice to decompress and let your mind and body relax.

Did some shopping on the way home. Bought a micro-fiber miracle cloth for polishing the fancy red wine glasses at both jobs. You should get some for yourself if you have decent glasses. They just wipe out spots without no effort at all, leaving zero lint. I also bought a pedometer. I’ve been wondering my whole career how many miles I log walking at my job. Now I’ll know.

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