GraTRUEities™

The Truth Behind the Tip™

  • Order GraTRUEities here:

  • Subscribe

  • Archives

  • GraTRUEities Admin

Posts Tagged ‘dining out’

“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 »

15% Tipper and Proud of It?

Posted by gratrueities on April 1, 2010

Well…that is the impression one gets when scrolling to the bottom of the recent New York Times City Room blog post by David Sax. The disclaimer at the end of the post states that he is a “journalist and the author of “Save the Deli” (Houghton Mifflin), lives in Park Slope and always tips 15 percent.”

Note – Mr. Sax does not claim to tip “at least” 15% – but, rather, “15 percent,” period. Hmmm…is that really what he means to say? If so, that is curious, considering he has written a book on dining (even if it is deli dining) from which he has, in theory, profited! See him in action doing research at right!

That said, the post, titled Hey, Waiter! Just How Much Extra Do You Really Expect? raises some valid points and, despite the title and surly tone, does not truly take an anti-server stance. For instance, Mr. Sax takes issue with the less-than-minimum wages servers are paid. He challenges the gratuitous tip, but supports rewarding a job well done. Not surprisingly, the article incited both the ire and support of many NYT readers and has, to date, generated well over 1200 comments.

Obviously, tipping remains a controversial subject  – who, when, how much and for what? Interestingly, the comments generated from the article did not divide straight down the line between customers and servers. Some of the most intriguing comments are featured in a follow-up piece – Readers Split the Difference on Tipping.

We’re always interested in the many points of view that surround the custom of the tip and these are particularly insightful comments.

Also, it makes us wonder what GraTRUEity might be appropriate for someone such as Mr. Sax: “I always tip 15% no matter what…so read nothing into this tip.”  “Underpaid workers unite!” ?? We’re open to suggestions!

Posted in Etiquette, GraTRUEities, Pet Peeves, Pop Culture, 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 »

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 »

Do You Believe in “Tip Coordination?”

Posted by gratrueities on November 6, 2009

You can even order a t-shirt that poses this very question! In the first ‘Seinfeld reunion‘ episode of ‘Curb Your Enthusiam,’ Larry David shares with Jason Alexander his feelings on the subject. What is “tip coordination” you may ask?  Basically, it is an agreement, when splitting a restaurant bill, that all will tip the same amount or percentage – price fixing, if you wish!  Here is an interesting commentary on the psychology of tipping and the subject of “tip coordination” from the blog cheeptalk.wordpress.com:

“Economists have often wondered why people tip.  We have lots of sophisticated explanations for why rational (i.e. selfish)    people pretend to be altruistic.  A leading explanation, the reputation model, relies on some repeated game concern but how would that apply in a one shot waiter game?  The puzzle is, of course, easily resolved if one allows homo economicus to have a heart. Warm, mushy feelings for waiters can easily explain tipping, even if you both know your relationship is the restaurant equivalent of the one night stand.

As our well-educated and well-read readers know, the heart is a complicated thing and often responds to incentives in odd ways.  Larry David is the dark Jane Austen of our cynical time and his (second!) magnum opus, Curb Your Enthusiasm, is the warped Sense and Sensibility.  I enjoyed the Seinfeld non-Reunion episode.  There were so many treasures in one half hour but the business lunch between Larry and Jason Alexander was my favorite bit. Larry and Alexander go dutch and Larry suggests they coordinate the tip.  He wishes to avoid the embarrassment of under-tipping.  It is just obvious to Larry that other people’s opinion matters so he must tip.  Note it is not morality but image and hence self-image that guide Larry.  He certainly does not want to tip low when his Dutch partner tips high.  But if your partner tips low, there is still an incentive to tip high, because it is quite natural that you want your image to be better than your partner’s.  In other words, there is a dominant strategy to tip high…a Prisoner’s Dilemma of tipping. Once we open up the heart of homo economicus, not only is there an incentive to tip, but toovertip.  No wonder Larry wants to collude and coordinate tips.”


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

Required Reading? 50 Rules for Wait Staff

Posted by gratrueities on November 4, 2009

Even we were taken aback by this list of 50 rules for wait staff posted in the New York Times  by Long Island restaurateur Bruce Buschel. And, these 50 are only Part 1. It sounds like there will be another 50 in an upcoming post for a total of 100 rules.

Not to say that these rules aren’t relevant, and useful, they are. But…pity the poor server who is handed a list of these rules on their first day on the job. It does seem a bit overwhelming.

Some of the rules are common  sense and virtually all of them touch on something that  could easily turn into an aggravation for the guest.

Here are some of GraTRUEities favorites, with our comments.

3. Never refuse to seat three guests because a fourth has not yet arrived.

 —Yes! It would be awesome if all restaurants were more relaxed about seating partial parties.

8. Do not interrupt a conversation. For any reason. Especially not to recite specials. Wait for the right moment.

—So true.

11. Do not hustle the lobsters. That is, do not say, “We only have two lobsters left.” Even if there are only two lobsters left.

—Thank-you for this one, Bruce.

12. Do not touch the rim of a water-glass. Or any other glass.

—Eeeck! We hope not.

And finally, saving the best for last,

50. Do not turn on the charm when it’s tip time. Be consistent throughout.

Posted in Dining experience, Etiquette, Pet Peeves, Tipping, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Happy Hour…the New “Early Bird” Special?

Posted by gratrueities on November 3, 2009

Could it be?  Is the  *Happy Hour* menu, popular and hip in many  locales, becoming the new “early bird” special? As someone who has always had a problem with some aspects of the “early bird” connotation, I find myself more and more drawn to the happy hour format. Does it simply sound younger, more festive?  Is the economy popularizing this concept further?  How do servers and restaurants feel about the Happy Hour in terms of tips and business?

Posted in Bars, Dining experience, Economy, Pop Culture, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »