Monday, June 26, 2006 by Ospite.


Cops aren't the only ones who use it. Waiters do too. There are certain assumptions made about a table long before the waiter greets them. They read you like a potential boss would, as soon as you walk in the door for an interview. Clothes, hair, attractive features, conversation styles, body language, and skin color.

Now, I am a firm believer that, for the most part, the attitude with which you approach a table is the attitude that will be returned to you. Waiting tables, or anything in the service industry, is a constant sales opportunity. Sales involves reading the customer, learning their needs first, then their wants, and then convincing them they need just a little more than they need, and the cost is justified.

There is still the initial part of meeting the customer's needs. Most people can see when they're being played and will get defensive. A good salesman helps the customer get the best thing for them. A happy customer or client is an instant advertisement, and the best kind, a testimonial.

So why is it that most waiters see certain tables and immediately approach them with bad attitudes? Stereotypes. Sadly, most stereotypes stem from some sort of truth. Based on my experiences and those of my colleagues, I have decided recently to approach the possibly poor tipping tables with confidance, poise, and congeniality. I am pleased to announce that among non-caucasian customers and non-American customers, I have proved that a little kindness goes a long way...at least in my restaurant.

My study over the past month has displayed an increase in the aforementioned ethnic groups tips based solely on my behavior. It goes to show that things like this are completely unacceptable:

  • A waiter is sat a 3top in his section. They are clearly of Indian heritage and are speaking Hindi upon listening in. This waiter, having issues with Indian and Asian customers, approaches the table saying, "So does anyone here not drink alcohol or consider themselves a vegetarian?" The male gives the waiter the most ferocious look I've ever seen. The tip ends up 4%. With an introduction like that and service along the same suit, how could he expect anything more?
  • 10 Comments:

    Blogger jenni said...

    That actually makes sense. while i *always* tip 20% i ALWAYS get seated by the bathroom, in EVERY restaurant. i'm not an idiot; i know "near the bathroom" is the absolute worst location in a restaurant. i mean yea, i look young, but im sick and tired of hostesses assuming i wont spend enough money or tip accordingly enough to deserve a decent table. any suggestions to keep this from happening to me?

    5:39 AM  
    Blogger Janet & Seth said...

    Well. I can agree to some extent. Courtesy can go a long way, but so does "common sense". People can be short on both. My husband and I were recently at a restaurant where the hostess offered an invite for an special event to our dinner guests and not to us.
    * We eat there at least once a week and always bring guests with us (& we always pick up the tab). My husband spoke up and said, Uh, we'd like an invite to please. She looked embarrassed and handed one to him.* I think she thought we couldn't afford the $100 evening.. dumb move lady. Our guests were a bit better dressed than us, but they have no money. We dressed more casual than they to make them feel more comfortable. It's an English style pub , not the Four Seasons! I didn't know it was a fashion contest to eat there. Now I do. - Janet

    7:20 AM  
    Blogger KristieD said...

    I know from experience that servers do "size up a table" before they get to the customer. I have made it a habit to ignore any thoughts or feelings i have about a table and just treat them all as if they are all leaving me the same big-fat tip. And sometimes it pays off. Sometimes it doesnt. Now, after i have taken the order or brought the food, if the table is being rude to me, i will be less inclined to go that extra mile, but if they are nice, then i take that as part of my tip. I would rather serve nice, easy going bad tippers than jack ass good tippers anyday. just less stressful. And my fav table is these 3 teenage boys who come in and leave me 40% every time. No one else wants em b/c they think they wont tip. Its my secret!!

    9:28 AM  
    Blogger pretty in punk said...

    I hate the way the hostess gives us a bad seat and the way waiters provide poor service to my friends and I whenever we go out to eat. Are we young? Yes. Do we look it? Oh yes. Most importantly, do we understand the concept of tipping? YES.
    Just because we are teenagers does not mean that we don't tip. My friends and I are never the loud, wild, distracting table and we tip rather well (20%) when the waiter treats us the same way he would if we were out with our families. We may be young, but we aren't so naive as to not know what good service is. If you treat us like the stereotypical teenagers (cheap and poor tippers), then you get just that; we will not hesitate to empty our pockets of spare change and call it a tip. Of course, we still actually leave paper money on the table, but no one wants half of their tip to be in pennies and nickels.

    11:39 AM  
    Blogger Lobster Boy said...

    Those times though (and in our store it's all too frequent, especially after 9:00pm) where your table comes in, never puts thier cell phone down and orders shots of Hennesey in the middle of your greeting you know it's not going to be a good table. It goes far beyond racial profiling though, as any experienced waiter will know. I intentionally suggest different things (of equal value for the most part) in my table approach because my years of experience tells me this particular demographic prefers this item at a significantly higher rate. I know that little old ladies love Coconut Shrimp. I have no idea why that is, but I use it to my advantage by always suggesting them. Stereotypes are certainly not always true. But what I do know is that if you work in a particular place long enough you discover local trends that may or may not match stereotypes, but are yet true for your region. This can be used to your advantage as a server.

    Lobster Boy

    8:21 AM  
    Blogger Insensible said...

    WTF is up with slimbim?

    I have yet to profile a table that I had not already personally served. Although I have made it a point to remember anyone who has given me a shit tip on more then one occasion.

    Everyone gets one chance.

    9:30 PM  
    Blogger Maitre G' said...

    It is a FACT that on average, blacks tip less than whites. Cornell University has done several studies on the subject:

    http://www.latimes.com/travel/printedition/la-tr-insider26mar26,1,3161040.column?page=1&coll=la-headlines-travel


    Now, notice that the headline gives a prepared excuse: "but they may have a good reason", and goes on to cite factors like poverty and ignorance of tipping guidelines. Talk about the "soft bigotry of low expectations".

    It's not until you get to the end of the article that you get to what I believe are the real reasons for the tipping disparity:

    1). The humongous chip your average black diner carries on their shoulder. They're so anxious to believe that they're going to be mistreated because of their race that any service hiccup, no matter how slight, is perceived as "racism" and is punished with a low (or no) tip.

    2). "The restaurant should pay the servers more, not me". I've actually HEARD this from black customers, always with a pissy, "fuck you" expression on their face.

    Does EVERY black customer act like this? Of course not, just like not all white customers tip well.
    But ON AVERAGE, black customers are bad tippers, and most people will never admit what is a proven fact because they're afraid of being labeled a racist.

    Well guess what? Your heart and lungs will still continue to function after being called the "R" word. We continue to provide excellent service to everyone regardless of race, because we are professionals. But let's not pretend that there isn't any validity to this common perception.

    7:46 AM  
    Blogger espie joans said...

    I was just trying to add a little color.

    7:51 PM  
    Blogger cinnamongurl said...

    And now, a comment from a customer..I've been dealing with this dilemma for a while. When my friends and I get seated, some servers see a table full of demands, and low on tip. At first sight. From across the room. It's funny, because generally one or two folks in my party will predict bad attitude and poor service from our designated waiter/waitress. Again, from across the room and prior to any real interaction between customer and server. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy for both sides. I kind of floated into the following habits, which have decreased my "incident" levels, though by no means eliminated them.

    1. I'm a regular at at least one cheap eat, one mid tier, and one fine dining establishment in every city I dine in. I tip well, and have a reputation for it. It's nice to have servers ask for you in their section, no matter how many guests you have with you.

    2. I ask the name of my server if they don't introduce themselves. It's hard to be a douchebag to the person who just indicated an interest in you

    3. I avoid dining with jerks. Quiet as it's kept, tension between the server and someone at the table screws with my restaurant experience. I can't enjoy myself with all that stress. So, my friends know that everyone gets one chance. But if she's the type to be nasty to the server because "this salad is nasty", I'm not eating with her again. It's not worth the hassle. Ditto with people pre-rationalizing on why they're not going to leave a tip. If you knew you only had $20, why are you ordering a $17 entree?

    4. I know how snooty this next one is going to sound, so I'm apologizing for it now. I haven't been to a chain (think Darden restaurants) in over a year. I've honestly dealt with more pre-judging servers at places that serve fried combos than anywhere else. And as much as I like the lemon cream cake at Olive Garden, I'll take a pass if it comes with a side of funk from my 18-yr old server.

    11:42 AM  
    Blogger Morven said...

    I do find that the stereotyping is worse in chain restaurants, yes. The one I find the most common is the assumption that because my wife and I don't order alcohol, we won't tip well. Yes, I know that a drinking party might well spend double per person than our two-top, but if a waitperson decides that's their cue to ignore us for the rest of the night, not only is the tip going to be poor, I'm not going to be going back; clearly my business isn't wanted.

    Smaller, privately owned places do much better.

    I'd note that if I'm not drinking, I'm not drinking the money that might be the tip, for one thing!

    11:32 PM  

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    At your service, Ospite

    I am not in the restaurant business, I am in the people business. I use every opportunity to people watch, because to me, even the most mundane is fascinating.

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