Do It Tonight! Be Kind to the Waitstaff

waiterphoto by independentman

On a dinner date, always be courteous to the waitstaff. Never snap, clap, cry “Waiter,” or worse, “Garcon!” to get your attendant’s attention; wait until you catch your server’s eye, then simply nod, gently raise your eyebrows, or, as a last resort, raise your hand. Say please and thank you — never say “Give me the steak frites…” If the food’s taking a long time, consider it an opportunity to get to know your date without worrying whether you have spinach in your teeth. And if you must complain about something — perhaps you’re vegan and the waiter brings you steak tartare, or perhaps there really is a fly in your soup — then do it nicely. It’s probably not the waiter’s fault, after all. Finally, if you’re responsible for the tip, make it 20%. We don’t care if your standard policy is 10% (or “whatever change is in my pocket”); on a date, you make it 20, you cheap bastard. Why? Well, if human decency isn’t enough to compel you, then consider this: If you are in any way rude and obnoxious to the service industry professionals, it will suggest to your date that you have the potential to be rude and obnoxious to anyone. And that, our friend, does not get you laid.


  1. I go out to eat a lot and I always make sure I am polite to the waitstaff and leave a decent tip. In the UK tipping isn’t really that much of a big deal because as far as I’m aware all waitstaff are paid the national minimum wage. I do take issue that in the US waistaff’s wages are the responsibility of customers whilst the owners of the restaurant are creaming the profit off the top. It seems completely out of line. Service tips should not be used to supplement a wage they should be there on top of that. If I’m paying £15 for pasta you could at least pay your staff a decent salary!

  2. ^ Yeah, really… if common courtesy and decency isn’t reason for you to be nice to waitstaff, how bout self-preservation? You really want to piss off someone who handles your food where you can’t see it?

    Same thing with the mail man. Don’t piss him off either, even if he does a crappy job.

  3. My mom taught me never to be mean to people giving you food. I really do not get how people can be mean to waitstaff.

    I tip better now that my child has been a waitstaff. People tend to say the worse thing when they are hungry. In my state Waitstaff gets 2 something an hour.

  4. If you put the meal and tip on your credit card your date should not know how much the tip was. This advice sounds like a sure way to attract opportunistic golddiggers.

  5. I don’t go out to each much anymore because of the recession and I don’t make a lot of money, so hence, I give what I can afford for a tip when served even by the best waitstaff. I give 15% and if that makes me a jerk so be it. The money I earn comes hard to me too. I enjoy the cuisine, the polite waitstaff, and treat them with respect, caring attitude. So stop preaching and do what you can afford so go and have a happy life!

  6. I’ve heard this argument that Dennis is making before and it is nonsense. Yes, restaurants would have to raise prices. This would not effectively increase the amount a consumer pays when dining out because the difference is reflected in the lack of tip. Further, waitstaff would probably be paid a low starting wage, true, but with regular pay raises for jobs well done. (I worked for the same restaurant chain for 5 years and actually took a pay cut when transferring to NJ from MI because they weren’t willing to give me even that 50 cents extra.) The current tipping system is set up so that a waitress must serve two masters: her “boss” the manager or owner of the restaurant, and her customers, who actually pay her wages. This is a bad set up for obvious reasons.

    But hey, you don’t need to take my word for *any* of this. Ask a waitress in Australia how it works, if she’s happy. Ask a restaurant owner in Australia, or someplace outside the US.

    And, Dennis, hostesses are not waitstaff and are not tipped. If you’re paying them $2.17 an hour you’re getting away with paying even less than minimum wage, and that’s horrible.

  7. I would just like to point out what would happen to the restaurant industry IF the wait staff would be paid only buy the hour, the wait staff would probably be paid less then the cooks which in most restaurants would be a pay cut for the wait staff the restaurant it’s self would have to do a combination of three things raise menu prices, cut back on food quality and cut back on wait staff which will do two things to the consumer higher prices low quality of service and food. which you can say well if they where paid more then we wouldn’t have to tip them which yes that is true but look at it in a servers perspective, my top performers in my wait staff make 25-30 dollars an hour (thats more then twice that of my lead cook) on a busy weekend night, I have 6 very skilled cooks, 3 utility crew and 20 people on the wait staff which includes servers, hosts, bartenders and food runners (all of the positions that are paid a base of 2.17 plus tips) even if they where paid what the cooks are being paid my labor cost would almost triple so keep in mind that no favors would be done to a waiter, restaurant owner, or even the consumer if laws were passed to make all wait staff positions paid by the hour

  8. Yes, be nice to the waitstaff. I once went on a date that went all right – no sparks, but maybe I would have gone out with him again – until we went to a coffee shop. My date (whose behavior toward the waitress in the Thai restaurant earlier was fine) was quite rude to the barista with regards to whether or not certain items were decaf. He may have thought he was being funny, but she was annoyed and so was I.

  9. What is wrong with paying a reasonable wage up front? Or is that considered a short step away from Communism in the Land Of The Free-To-Be-Fired-At-Will?

  10. I’ve started tipping 33% (or thereabouts), if the service is decent. In this economy I feel like a tip should be generous enough to change somebody’s day.

    Of course, because of this I now have ninety cents in my checking account, so the occasions for said day-changing are henceforth going to be few and far between.

  11. Since it was never answered: 20% is a good tip, 25% (or more) if he or she was outstanding, 15% if not so much, 10% if it was really terrible, because leaving nothing at all makes you the jerk.

    Oh, and by the way, personal experience: Michigan minimum wage for tipped employees: $2.65. Ohio: $2.13 New Jersey: $2.17.

    Yes, tip your waiter or waitress! And if you see legislation to give them a fair wage, please vote for it! I don’t like this tipping system anymore than you do.

  12. Clearly what I was saying wasn’t taken well and I apologize, I knew I would get some flack but it wasn’t meant to offend anyone. I do believe that everyone deserves respect and I have no problem with the article whatsoever…I guess just the title, I understand it was geared at the whole “when your on a date” thing but for me maybe it should have been “when you’re out in public (alone or with someone) be kind to those who serve you”.

    Furthermore, I was just pointing out that our culture has a bad wrap for respect already so lets maybe start with the parents and teachers who shape you into the person you are. Maybe the nurses and doctors who save the lives of loved ones. Soldiers who give up their limbs and lives for our society. More of a trickle down…if you respect these people and show it then you would know to respect everyone….if that makes sense to anyone but me.

    My comment truly wasn’t meant to be a stab at the waitstaff and I probably should have focused what I think the article should have been titled instead, my mistake.

    Erin, no, I didn’t spend my summers hanging out living off mom and dad. I’ve worked since I was 14, and for 2 summers worked in the food service industry. I have worked my way through a private university (not cheap by any means) and am about to graduate w/ a BSN. I’ve worked in a hospital for 3 years as a PCT doing the “dirty work” and have actually been through the wringer from patients….called every name in the book and have had patients swing at me and through things at my head. I’ve seen patients threaten to kill nurses and doctors etc. So please do not assume you know my background based on a paragraph.

  13. I agree whole-heartedly with the statement that “If you are in any way rude and obnoxious to the service industry professionals, it will suggest to your date that you have the potential to be rude and obnoxious to anyone.”

    I definitely tend to have a lower opinion of people who are rude to waiters or who tip poorly. I feel like showing a level a respect and consideration for the people who service you is tantamount to showing respect and consideration to people you know personally.

  14. Tiffany,

    I worked as a waitress and bartender for seven years while paying my way through college to become a teacher. I have been a teacher for seven years as well (and I make nearly the same money in both jobs, WTF.) Both are high-pressure jobs that require people skills and waiting tables is not as simple as you think. I sometimes even miss waiting tables because when it is done at a high level it is about doing your best to make people happy, whereas most of my interactions with parents is breaking bad news. But still, my faith in humanity was challenged more often in the service industry than it has been as a teacher. People are still generally more polite to teachers than waitresses.

    The advantage of being involved in the teaching community and waiting tables was that I was the first to know when the teachers convention was coming to town. I would always put in for those days off first. Teachers are one of the worst groups to wait on and some of my current colleagues have made for some pretty cringe worthy dining experiences. It’s pretty sad that when one group feels disrespected that they need to find a ‘lesser’ group to abuse.

    To end on a positive note, to the plumbers, electricians and gay conventions that I waited on, you were great groups. I have a bit less student loan debt thanks to them.

  15. i am not your typical waitress. i am 47 years old and work full time in the mental health industry (low pay, my choice, very rewarding). i supplement my income by waitressing five evenings a week. i know it’s not rocket science… but i can assure you that i am charming, delightful, know the menu inside out, can help with your allergies or gluten issues, know the wine list like my own child, and make the meanest mojito in town. your food will be delivered as you ordered it…i tolerate no mistakes from the kitchen. i sooooo appreciate diners who are courteous to me…really i am! we all get what we want and need (in a dining situation, at least) with a little kindness…from all parties. and i am very, very fortunate to average about 20% in tips per shift…so a special thank you to all those great tippers out there! it’s karma…really…

  16. It’s also worth pointing out that in many states, it’s legal for businesses to pay waiters less than minimum wage, since it’s assumed they’ll be bringing in tips.

  17. Um Tiffany I would like to point out to you that most people do not just chose to be waiters, I respect you comment and agree with what you said about other careers, but just because you work in the service industry does not mean you should just buck up. I have worked in the service industry, I didn’t chose it, I needed a job and it’s either that nothing for many people, especially students. Maybe you were educated enough or mom and dad never made you get a summer job, that you could trot off from college and land your dream job in a new city or got to play with your friends all summer. But many of those wait staff are students, not everyone there is going to stay forever. Yes the job is not that hard, but it’s the people you serve, next time lets see how you feel when people call you an idiot to your face and belittle you in public.

  18. I’m going to say this as nicely as possible, but if we are going to start respecting people in this culture I don’t believe it’s with the waitstaff we need to begin. How about the teachers and nurses and those who are truly in the service business receiving a please and a thank you for all that they do. While I know many waiters etc and respect that they do deal w/ rude people, I feel as though they believe their job far more difficult than it is. No, you take an order write it down and carry food to a table, parents do this job all the time and go w/out pleases and thank yous a lot. By no means is it a glamorous job, but it’s what you chose for yourself….

  19. What’s tipping properly?
    If the waiter isn’t bad, I generally throw a couple dollars (Whatever change is in my pocket) on top of the general tip. Especially if it’s a crappy job with a cheap menu…. The wait staff at the golden griddle love when my room mate and I go there lol


    although i refuse to tip by sales tax anymore. there were 9 or so people at a table with me at IHOP and the tax would have given the dude a 20 dollar tip!! for doing NOTHING. all he did was take orders quickly, bring our food (three people had endless pancakes but never really got the endless part because the waiter almost NEVER came back around) and then bring the tab.
    that didn’t deserve a 20 dollar tip i’m sorry.

  21. Please, for the love of God, do NOT tip 20% if you go on a date in Australia!!!!

    We pay our waitstaff properly here. Don’t ruin our culture!!!!

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