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Archive for the ‘Dining experience’ Category

“Vacation” is over…

Posted by gratrueities on September 12, 2010

Well…”vacations” may be somewhat more accurate. Let’s just say, for the moment, that we’ve been occupied with things other than GraTRUEities and took a brief (in the big picture) hiatus. That said, our dining and tipping experiences have not gone by the wayside by any means! We’ll soon catch up here on some of that but, for the moment, we’re just going to pick up where we left off…and a few things have caught our attention lately.

For one, the Food Network recently put out this little blurb titled  25 Things Chefs Never Tell You” – you just know this somehow bears a bit of bad news! Besides letting you know which days of the year they most hate to work (warning – don’t eat out on New Years Day) , the fact that they like and eat fast food, cook while sick, etc. we learn that chefs are also discriminating tippers and do tend to punish poor service. Hmmm…interesting. Make of that what you will and be sure to check out the rest of the items on the list. You might be surprised, or at least find your thought affirmed.

More recent news on the restaurant front: Screaming babies not allowed! While, in our opinion, it’s questionable as to whether or not this is discrimination, the concept has apparently been well received by customers. As someone who recently flew seated next to a couple with a baby, I have to say I can see the potential for this idea to catch on. I happen to love babies and can remember when my own children would act out in public so am likely more tolerant and sympathetic in such instances. However, I could see the hackles rising around me as the baby understandably fussed. In any case, we will be watching with interest to see how this trend unfolds or if it is quickly stopped in the legal trenches.

We’ll soon be back to share updates of our dining and/or tipping ventures. In the meantime, tip well and often and “look both ways before crossing the street.” **

** More on this later

Posted in Chefs and Cooking, Dining experience, Fast food, GraTRUEities, Service, Tipping, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Trials and Travails of ‘Splitting the Bill’

Posted by gratrueities on April 14, 2010

You’ve just enjoyed a wonderful (one hopes!) dinner out with friends and then comes the moment of truth…the bill arrives.

Splitting the bill can, too frequently, be an awkward experience. The practice I’m  most comfortable with is adding in the gratuity and splitting the total by the number of people – then each person/couple/family contributes accordingly, per person. My rationale:  if you are dining as a group, you mostly likely are doing so because you want to do so, you enjoy one another’s company and your expectations regarding the experience and expense involved are fairly consistent.

However, it’s recently come to my attention that not everyone is in agreement on this subject!

From the price of the items ordered to the amount of the tip, there seem to be many points open to question. A recent example…I was in the process of dividing a check and adding a 20% gratuity on the total bill, including tax, when someone asked “why are you tipping on the tax – shouldn’t you just double the tax? That’s what I always do.” (a formula that equated to about 16% where we were dining). This did not become a heated discussion by any means, but it highlights one area of confusion that surrounds splitting the bill – every person has different practices. To further complicate things, if the person figuring the bill is a poor tipper, do you speak up or just quietly bump up the tip at your own expense?

Then consider the “small-orderer” – the person who only orders a salad or appetizer (Worse…just a cup of coffee. Worse yet…just drinks the tap water!) while everyone else orders a meal. Or, the person who doesn’t drink alcohol while the rest of the group swills down cocktails and/or wine. In those instances, it may be more sensitive to tell the person who did not partake to “throw in” whatever they think is fair and split the remaining balance . Since I am never that person who doesn’t indulge, I can’t say for sure – but I think I would still be inclined to want to be included in regular split. This is definitely a case where I know (from experience, unfortunately) not everyone agrees!

Let’s not forget to look at the flip side – the person who decides they want to order every appetizer on the menu, an exotic item (think truffles or lobster) or that pricey bottle of wine – at the everyone else’s expense. Not fair…and there should be consequences! Unless they offer to cover their personal indulgence, they may not want to expect to be included the next time!

These are my only my opinions. I, therefore, decided to do a little research to see what it actually considered customary today. I was happy to see that I am somewhat in line with current thinking…or at least half. A recent FoxBusiness article addressing the etiquette of splitting the check offers opposing arguments:

One opinon: “Times are tight, and if a person or couple orders appetizers, dessert and drank alcohol, and you choose not to, it’s OK to discreetly say, ‘I am going to take care of my end,’” said Elaine Swann, lifestyle and etiquette coach. “But be sure to adequately cover what you ordered, plus tip.”

Arguing for the other side: Mirza Grotts, an etiquette and protocol consultant,  said situations regarding money are already awkward enough, and by asking to individually pay will make matters worse.“Asking for separate checks is very passé, it’s too much work for the waiter and if you have lost your job you probably shouldn’t be going out in the first place,” she said. “Asking for separate checks is very passé, it’s too much work for the waiter and if you have lost your job you probably shouldn’t be going out in the first place,” she said.She said it’s much easier to split the bill evenly, particularly if it’s a friend you go out with repeatedly. “It becomes a wash and will even out in the long run,” she said.

So…my conclusion: Let sensitivity and common sense prevail. If you are dining with friends with whom you socialize regularly, it probably will all even out in the end…just split and make it easy. If you are dining with someone in a difficult financial situation who orders frugally, let them pay accordingly (or better yet, treat them if you have the means and it’s comfortable to do so). If dining with a repeat offender – the “big orderer” who burdens you, make a decision. Bottom line, if you resent the bill split, you probably shouldn’t repeat the circumstances.

Side notes:

Make it clear from the beginning that the check will be split, avoiding unpleasant surprises at the end of the meal.

Do not let the check sit on the table at the end of the meal: Grotts also said it’s rude to let the bill sit on the table when it arrives. “Always be the first to grab the bill, it is embarrassing to let it linger.”

Social situations are distinctly different from a business dinner, in which case the person extending the invitation is expected to pick up the bill.

Posted in Dining experience, Etiquette, Paying the bill, Tipping | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Latest Generation” Waiter

Posted by gratrueities on April 6, 2010

I like you! (“You Got Me” by Colbie Caillat)

It was bound to happen one day…introducing robo-waiters that serve not only food, but also cutting edge entertainment.

Hajime, a Japanese restaurant recently opened (to the tune of 30 million baht or $927,600!) in Thailand, brings high-tech dining to a whole new level. Customers order on touchscreens and are then served by imported Japanese “motorised servants” that (oops – almost wrote “who” here!) deliver meals along with some intriguing (and, dare we say, electric “techno”) dance moves!

Striking, that reference in the article to “motorised servants” – not exactly an interchangeable term for waiter…or certainly not an acceptable one. Perhaps more of a cultural reference – note the spelling?

And speaking of being politically correct, would one leave a tip in this case?

(Potential) GraTRUEity #54 – Time to reboot?

Posted in Dining experience, Etiquette, International, Tipping, Uncategorized, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bad Tipper Advisory!

Posted by gratrueities on April 3, 2010

Just last month a Winston-Salem, NC woman was banned from a restaurant for being a bad tipper. So…be forewarned! (You know who you are, if you are at risk.)

Here is the story: Monica Covington, a repeat customer at Kanpai Japanese Steak and Seafood House, was banished from the restaurant for refusing to agree to pay an 18% minimum gratuity.  This is where things get somewhat tricky, because apparently the stated restaurant policy is that 15% will be added for parties of six or more. Therefore, it seems clear that Monica’s previous visits had earned her the reputation of being a poor tipper. The restaurant took measures to address her pattern by tacking 18% onto her bill. She claims she paid the gratuity the first time without argument – even though she was with a party of only three. (Hmm…I wonder what these other people think – have seen no further mention of them). However, upon a return visit (she must have really liked this place), when informed up front that she would be required to pay an 18% gratuity, she struck back. Thus, came Monica’s petition citing discrimination and asking people to boycott the restaurant for unfair business practices. The restaurant next retaliated with a its own cry for support and continued attempts to tell their side of the story. As you might imagine, both parties have their advocates.

Further, there was no consensus on the recent OpenTable discussion regarding the incident. People remain very divided on the subject of patrons vs. servers – and, as we’ve said here before, the opinions are not split straight down the line between customer and server, as one might expect.

This case is also curious in that the customer (Monica) obviously wanted to return to the restaurant. She was not tipping poorly because she was dissatisfied, but because that is her “way” (hate to call her cheap, but it seems that it may be so). Why she wanted to return after being singled out for her tipping habits is somewhat of a mystery – clearly her love of teppanyaki won out over pride!

As of last report, the case seems to be heading toward the courts! So…something to think about – review your tipping habits at your favorite restaurants and make sure you are a welcome repeat customer. Or one day, you too could find yourself banished!

GraTRUEity #53 – “You keep me coming back for more.”  “P.S. And I hope you’ll allow me to continue!”

Posted in Dining experience, Paying the bill, Service, Tipping, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

GraTRUEities in SF – Nob Hill Cafe

Posted by gratrueities on February 13, 2010

After an amazing late afternoon bike ride, a friend and I had dinner at Nob Hill Cafe in San Francisco. This is a classic neighborhood Italian place; small, cozy, crowded, great food and wine at a reasonable price. The portions are large so we shared a classic Cesar Salad and the Pizza special–buffalo mozzarella, tomato and basil. Thin crust and delicious. We opted for a Napa Valley Pinot instead of an Italian wine.

My friend, and all the other neighborhood regulars, know the wait staff on a first name basis. All of the staff, front of the house, bussers and table servers were absolutely delightful, even on a very crowded evening. 

We left a GraTRUEities card to complement our monetary gratuity: “A sense of timing is a mark of genius.”

In addition to great service and good, homestyle Italian cuisine, maybe  it was the invigorating bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin that made this dinner so memorable!

Posted in Dining experience, GraTRUEities In Use, Tipping, Travel, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

So Many Secrets!

Posted by gratrueities on February 7, 2010

Who knew? So so many secrets…and so many waiters who don’t care to share?

This just in:  Meaghan Cameron’s 7 Secrets Waiters Won’t Tell You When Dining Out on Valentine’s Day. This piece continues the theme that began with 30 Secrets Your Waiter Will Never Tell You and 20 Secrets Your Waiter Won’t Tell You “will never” vs. “won’t” both from Michelle Crouch for Readers’s Digest.com.

The seven most recent *revelations* read more like benign suggestions for Valentine’s Day diners – well…any diners, really – while the  previous lists included many “truths not-to-be-revealed” that we candidly wish had not been.

The “7 Secrets” for hopeful romantics include things like “Make reservations early” (not exactly a state secret), “Don’t drink too much” (generally speaking, a wise idea), followed by “Order a bottle of wine if you are both going to have more than one glass” (a value-based hint). Clearly, the list is for the most part common sense, especially for anyone who dines out regularly. However, if a person is considering proposing at Valentine’s Day dinner they may want to check it out! Apparently, not a good idea…and very “cliche.”

Posted in Dining experience, Service, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

You Can Dress it Up…

Posted by gratrueities on February 3, 2010

and take it out…and then what? That’s just one question that crossed our minds when (in our so far fruitless search for dining and/or tipping links to the upcoming New York Fashion Week) we came across the new branding endeavor known as McFancy.

And, what is McFancy? If the name doesn’t give it away, perhaps the pictures do! Yes, it is a ultra-chic repackaging of the familiar fare we all know – and many love – but typically associate with the Golden Arches. Being introduced in temporary venues at Fashion Weeks worldwide, McFancy offers the standard McDonald’s menu in a high-fashion setting and delivers it in an all new way: Burberry burgers, Chanel or Hermes fries and Paul Smith Sundaes will be served formally in private dining areas by tuxedoed waiters, whose gratuities will hopefully reflect the upscale twist!

Will the glamorati in attendance at these fashion events respond and devour the quarter pounders presented in their stylish new plaid-trimmed containers? Will mineral water and salads-sans-dressing be forsaken for french fries and ice cream? It’s difficult – but rather fun – to imagine!

McFancy is created by The Cool Hunter, a popular lifestyle and design website, and its recently launched marketing group, Access Agency – “a dedicated entity that will continue our work of creating highly original, transformational, yet eminently practical and results-oriented strategies for companies to stage the kinds of offline brand experiences that will increase the economic value of their offering.”

In simpler terms, they’re elevating fast food dining to new heights. As of now, this is a novelty for the fashion world. Could it catch on? And, if so, what’s next? *See update below

*Update: In answer to our own question above – Burger King to sell beer at it’s all new Whopper Bar! Here at GraTRUEities, we now note that we can use our Bar cards for fast food…perhaps “Great Service on Tap” – or, even more appropriately, “Service fit for a King!”

 

Posted in Bars, Dining experience, Economy, Fast food, International, Pop Culture, Service, Tipping | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

GraTRUEities Demo: The Standing Tip

Posted by gratrueities on January 3, 2010

Using your tip to create a stand. Demonstrated at Cafe Bernardo, Davis, CA.  Excellent New Year’s Day late breakfast, and friendly, fun service. A must stop if you are in the area.

Posted in Dining experience, GraTRUEities, GraTRUEities In Use, Paying the bill, Service, Travel, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Top Ten Lists

Posted by gratrueities on December 10, 2009

This is not only the season for giving…but also the season for reflection.

We make lists of the year’s best – and worst – movies, songs, fashion trends, restaurants and so forth.  So…along those lines, let’s explore service experiences! What were your most memorable of the year – good, bad or just plain weird?

There must be moments that stand out…one way or another. David Letterman does not hold an exclusive on Top Ten lists – please help us create ours here!

*Update 12/10 – Speaking of Top Ten lists, Open Table has just come out with a December update of “Diners’ Choice” lists.  Sample a few here: San Francisco, New York City, Los Angeles. Be sure to note the links to Best Service.

Posted in Dining experience, Pet Peeves, Pop Culture, Service, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Dueling Celebrity Tippers at Nellos

Posted by gratrueities on November 24, 2009

Regular GraTRUEities readers know that we occasionally  comment on tipping habits of the rich and famous…just because…. And, with the holiday season just about here (we consider the Friday after Thanksgiving the official start) we can expect to hear plenty of reports about the good, the bad and the ugly celebrity tippers.

Well, these famous folk sit squarely in the first category–the good  tippers. And the servers at chi chi Manhattan Italian restaurant, Nellos, were the happy benefactors.

Evidently, as reported in the NY Daily News, earlier in November the power couple of  hip hop, Jay-Z and Byonce,  enjoyed luncheon a deux at the eatery. At the end of what had to have been an amazing lunch, the total tab was  reportedly $1200.00. The tip: $500.00.

A few days later, Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich decided to up the ante, significantly. Abramovich also had lunch at Nello’s but his bill totaled $47,221.09.  The tip:  reportedly $7,328.00. Checkmate. You win.

No word yet on how the servers at Nello’s split up those bonanza-sized tips!

Posted in Dining experience, Economy, Pop Culture, Tipping | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »