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A ‘Beastly’ Experience…

Posted by gratrueities on November 19, 2008

in a good way, that is…

After reading that Naomi Pomeroy, chef at Beast (pictured at right) restaurant in Portland OR, was named ‘Chef of Year’ by Portland Monthly Magazine we were anxious to give it a try.

Beast is a small French bistro-style restaurant located in the  Alberta Arts District of Portland.

Let me tell you a little about our dinner and, of course, how it relates to the topic of tipping!

The concept of Beast is simple. The menu is prix fixe, six courses and changes weekly – and it is very meat-centric (an additional attraction for my carnivore husband!). The restaurant seats 24 people at two communal tables, with two seatings per night.

Before making reservations, we checked out the menu online to make sure it was something that appealed to us, as it is clearly spelled out that substitutions are “politely declined!” The day before our dinner, we received a call confirming our reservation and instructing us to arrive promptly at 6:00. The latter struck me as a bit unusual, but I later understood why it was stressed…and they did mean “promptly.”

We arrived in the nick of time, were immediately seated and began chatting with our table mates. It was a festive atmosphere – warm, cozy (i.e. small) with an open kitchen and rustic decor.

The servers greeted us and checked to see if we wanted to order wine (they only order they were responsible for that evening) – carafes of water and a description of the meal were waiting on the on the tables. And with that our meal began!

The courses were nicely paced by the kitchen and the service efficient, pleasant and unobtrusive (actually, it was nearly invisible since the main task was to clear plates and walk approximately 8-10 feet to pick up and deliver the next course). Throughout the meal I considered how this style of dining simplifies the job of the server…no specials to recite, no recommendations to offer, no orders to take, no unusual requests to fulfill, no water to refresh, no attempt to entertain the diners…just service, pure and simple!

We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, as well as exchanging opinions and comparing favorite restuarants with the people around us.  When the checks arrived – en masse – as they prepared to clear the restaurant for the next seating, some discussion arose concerning the gratuity. The consensus reached was that the usual 20% was in order, but It was clear to me that I was not alone in recognizing that this was a different sort of service than the norm.

A little more discussion on tipping ensued…basically when, where and why!

I left both content after the delicious meal and convinced that people are becoming ever more conscious of what exactly they are tipping for…and aware of what their tip dollars are saying.

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7 Responses to “A ‘Beastly’ Experience…”

  1. I’m left a little puzzled by the last three paragraphs of a nice expose. It almost seems you were inferring that maybe a lesser tip was appropriate. I hope I’m wrong. Let’s not forget that the servers are paid virtually nothing by the house. Federal law puts waiters in the same category as migrant workers in regards to the minimum wage laws.
    Just a reminder that your server showered, shaved, washed his uniform, and drove to work early so that your tableware would be polished and the linen fresh. He also gave up an evening with his family so that you could be with yours. Until the house raises food prices so that they can pay their workers a LIVING WAGE, we are stuck with the concept of the TIP.
    Glad you had a nice dinner. Sounds like a wonderful place.
    Peace, mw

  2. gratrueities said

    You’re right…it does sound like I’m questioning the 20% and that isn’t really what I meant to do. I may need to revisit that post and be more clear. Personally, I would never leave less than 20% (and err to high side of that) unless it was truly awful service, in which case I might go with 15%. That is not true for everyone, though, and fair or not perception plays a part in tipping behavior. I guess that’s sort of in line with what you are saying about the whole concept of the TIP – in essence it is a wage paid at the discretion of the diner. If you look at some of our previous posts, we also look at the inconsistencies in tipping – as in tip jar vs. server tips.

    It seems that overall people do tend to think about what goes into the service they experience and tip accordingly. That’s actually how we came up with GraTRUEities…recognizing that we are paying for a service and believe that a monetary tip is not optional, but at the same time often wanted a way to comment on the service. This is not to be mistaken for what I’v heard referred to as the “verbal tip.” (Note our tag line reads “put your mouth where your money is.”) As you liken TIPS to wages, you might liken GraTRUEities to an employee review – glowing praise, constructive advice, needs improvement or look for a new job! Bottom line, you still get paid, you just may not receive a raise.

  3. gratrueities said

    BTW, thank you for your comment, Mike.

  4. point well taken … the tip is actually like an employee review! never thought of it that way … but you’re right.
    peace, mw
    by the way , i like the way they “politely decline” substitutions … i wonder if they get grief very often for that policy … ???

  5. gratrueities said

    Hi Mike the Waiter and Nancy,
    This is an interesting discussion and I wonder what you both think about tipping at buffets. Not that it would be the same as your experience, Nancy, at Beast, which is a higher end restaurant. But, a buffet is a little bit similar in that you typically might have a server helping with drinks, etc., but the diner does some of the work i.e., going up and getting the food, etc. So, there is less required of the server.
    Mike the Waiter, as a waiter, would you still expect a 20% tip in that situation?

  6. Well, I’m not sure you really have a waiter in something like a country buffet… and if you did, I really don’t think I would work there… i don’t mean to be hoity-toity … the waiter will make a living wage around sophisticates… people with lots of cash. Now the one time I do remember working a “buffet style” service is at fine dining places that do a buffet Sunday Brunch…crab legs, scallops, tenderloin carving station, and yes, in those circumstances we were generally tipped on food and beverage. Buffet service is usually easy money in those circumstances, but then again… is it worth it to give up your Sunday morning….maybe not.
    mw

  7. RC said

    Under most circumstances, I tip 20% without even thinking. In a situation like at Beast, I would most definately think about it. And, what would probably enter my mind are a couple things. One, I would look around me and realize it’s not the waiter per se whom we tip, it’s the service, and specifically the wait staff…The waiter, the back servers, the “busboys,” etc. Second, I would think of how much I enjoyed the experience, because that’s what fine dining is about. If I’ve had a great time, I’m going to tip the “standard” 20% or maybe even a little more, because part of it is the “show,” and that’s not listed on the menu. So, I don’t mind paying for exemplary service, especially when I know I’m going to be back. Great comments, great discussion. Gotta go with you to Beast.

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