The Truth Behind the Tip™

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Posts Tagged ‘Portland’

Splash…into the “tip pool” we go!

Posted by gratrueities on March 1, 2010

Just last week, the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in favor of restaurants. The court found that restaurants have the right to create a “tip pool” requiring servers to share a percentage of their tips with kitchen staff  as long – and this is the important caveat – as the restaurant pays their servers at least minimum wage.

A Portland, Oregon waitress claimed that the pooling arrangement violated the Fair Labor Standards Act. Misty Cumbie  argued that because the tip pool at the Vita Cafe (sounds like a place to try soon based on Yelp reviews!) included employees who are not “customarily and regularly tipped employees,” it was invalid under the labor act.  The court did not agree.

This can all get a bit complex – but, to simplify, the restaurant owners wanted their servers to share with the “back of the house” and at least one server, Misty, was not happy with this arrangement.  However, because Misty and her fellow servers were paid at least the Oregon minimum wage (which was BTW $2.10 above Federal minimum wage!), the restaurant owners were not eligible for a tax “tip credit.” Hence, the servers were deemed to be compensated fairly  – the opinion of the court was that “Cumbie received a wage that was far greater than the federally prescribed minimum, plus a substantial portion of her tips.”

Tip pooling seems to be a hot litigation trend of late. This past year, Chili’s Grill & Bar servers won a large settlement against the chain’s parent company, which intends to appeal. Dealers at The Wynn Las Vegas are currently suing their employer for 35 million in back pay and penalties, also claiming that the resort’s tip pool violates state labor laws (we shall see how/if the Oregon case impacts this decision). The ruling for the Wynn case has now been delayed until May. If the Wynn employees are victorious, expect a flood rather than a splash! In fact, they may soon be hiring -if interested, you may want to check this out.

Whether or not legal action enters into the picture, there seem to be strong feelings – both pro and con – on tip pooling. We, at GraTRUEities, see both sides of the argument. It’s complicated because the server is ultimately the one with whom we interact (i.e. puts up with the customer), but we also appreciate clean plates, glasses, silver and a full water glass – and of course a delicious meal! We, therefore, feel that the people who make all that happen should be duly rewarded as well. Of course, in an ideal world restaurant owners could/would pay all of their employees enough that they did not depend on tips for wages, but with so many restaurants struggling to stay open, it seems that labor costs are a problem. And all this brings us right back to tipping! We, the customer/patron fills the void. More to follow on this topic…


Posted in Portland, Service, Tip Pool, Tipping, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Chips Ahoy!!!

Posted by gratrueities on November 3, 2009

Where – Oba! Portland, Oregon

What  – Happy Hour

Who – Couple at table for two by window

Food – Delicious!

Value – Excellent

Service – Hmmm…mixed…some great and some lacking.  The first portion of the order was timed and served perfectly! Sadly, the repeated request for chips – coupled with ongoing non-delivery – eventually overshadowed the rest of the service.  (It should be mentioned that this was not a busy night.) However, when the chips finally arrived, they were hot and crispy – and *sold* as such!

One other comment from our party – with all the great margarita specials, has Oba! considered buying a blender?

Missed GraTRUEities – somewhat like a “missed connection” on Craigslist:

– “Without a blender, you’re just a pretender!”

– “A sense of timing is a mark of genius.”

– “Chips ahoy!!!”

Posted in Dining experience, GraTRUEities In Use, Pet Peeves, Pop Culture, Portland, Tipping, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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.

Posted in Chefs and Cooking, Dining experience, Pop Culture, Portland, Tipping, Travel, Wait Staff | Tagged: , , , , , | 7 Comments »

$14,000.00 – the new 15%?

Posted by gratrueities on November 10, 2008

Probably not unless you’re Kristina Downes, the Portland, Oregon waitress who recently received a $14,000.00 tip!

Kristina, who waits tables at Saylors Old Country Kitchen in southeast Portland, got the tip of a lifetime from two regular customers who took an interest in helping her realize her plans for the future.

This story caught my eye. It’s a bit of happy and inspiring news during these days of hearing daily about the greed that has plunged our country into economic turmoil.

Congratulations to Kristina and kudos to her generous patrons!

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

Service with a smile!

Posted by gratrueities on October 29, 2008

My husband and I spend quite a bit of time in Portland OR – a city noted for having the one of the highest number of restaurants per capita in the US. We seem to spend quite a bit of time frequenting those restaurants!

Last weekend we decided to go out for breakfast after working out at our gym located in The Pearl. (My favorite trainer, Seth, says it’s very important to eat within and hour of your workout – one rule I like to follow!)

After a short “debate” we ended up at a restaurant called the Daily Cafe, conveniently located a block from the gym. My husband’s objection that they didn’t have a enough options (translation – the options were too healthy) was dropped after he saw that they were serving brunch – with several selections including bacon and offering an appetizer and entree for only 13.95.

The restaurant was packed – this brunch was clearly no secret! We navigated through the line to get in and we put our names on a waiting list. I noted that the extremely busy hostess was greeting everybody with a smile while juggling a myriad of other duties.

I decided to order coffee while I waited. Again, I couldn’t overlook how cheerful – smiling – the person was who helped me. I was starting to feel a vibe.

Once seated, an equally friendly (dare I say smiling?) and attentive waitress took our order. At this point I had to comment on how happy everyone seemed! And the mood seemed to be infectious. The customers all appeared to be not only content but also in high spirits.

We enjoyed our meal (which was delicious) and, of equal importance, felt uplifted by our experience.  When we received the check, we made sure to show our appreciation…and we left smiling!

Gratuity – 25%, GraTRUEiuty – A smile is worth a thousand words!

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