Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Tips, please

IS it customary to always leave a tip at the end of a meal, or should it only be a reflection on good service?
This was the question facing my friend and I at the end of a meal at Bella Italia in Solihull's Touchwood shopping centre last night.
The meal itself was very pleasant. My heaving bowl of spaghetti was just the tonic for a hungry tum on a winter's night, while my pal's pizza looked fresh and generously topped with veggies.
But the service really missed the mark.
I had that sinking feeling as soon as we arrived at the restaurant. Staff ignored us for a good few minutes as they chaotically dashed around tables. No greeting, no eye contact, no welcome.
Had I been with my other half he'd have said 'let's go elsewhere'. But, seeing as it was a pre-Christmas outing (and absolutely nothing to do with the fact that we were brandishing a two-for-one main course voucher), we continued to smile and eventually we were spotted and shown to a table.
Our waiter was friendly but struggling to attend to the tables in his small quarters.
Food and drinks arrived in satisfactory time, although at no point were we checked upon, or offered more drinks. I guess a parched mouth means a fuller wallet, so I shouldn't complain.
But then we made the mistake of ordering coffees; a regular white coffee and one laced with Baileys.
Safe to say it'd have been quicker to fly off to Costa Rica and bring back the coffee beans myself.
After a 20 minute wait we looked, rather urgently, at our waiter - there's only so long a girl can wait for a cup of coffee.
'Two minutes,' he said, acknowledging that other tables had enjoyed three courses in the same time it was taking to fetch us a brew. He disappeared for another 10 minutes.
'That's his tip gone,' said my friend. And there our quandary began.
I nearly always tip. I've worked waiting tables, and behind a bar, and appreciate that tips boost a minimal wage and provide a sense of satisfaction in a sometimes thankless job.
But on this occasion service had been disappointing and careless.
So we declined to leave to leave a tip, but as we walked away I wondered if we had been mean.
What do you think? Do you always leave a tip, or only when service has met - or surpassed - expectation?
Let me know what you think please...


Claire said...

Your meal should definitely have been a 'no tip' exercise.
Without a doubt.
But they do have a way of making you feel guilty when you don't leave a couple of quid for the pleasure of dining out with them.
I've also been a waitress and barperson for longer than is probably healthy and so always do try and make an effort to leave something, but they should have to work for it. Just because you go into a restaurant shouldn't automatically mean they can have a tip because they have simply brought the food to your table.
It is much more than that. It's about the experience and trying to deliver the food well and in a friendly and polite manner.
But I will always remember my first ever day being trained in my local pub by the very scary owner. She told me "tips have to be earned" and at the time I remember thinking that was rubbish. If someone wants to tip they will tip! But I soon found out that if you were patient with customers, listened to them and, even if there was problems in the kitchen, at least be honest with them and show you were doing what you could to give them an enjoyable evening, then your pockets would soon be a little heavier with change and a couple of notes.
So, in future, I think we should all just take note of the service, and make sure the waiter or waitress have worked for their tip.

Emily said...

Thanks for your comment Claire. I agree that tips should be earned and feel that, like you said, many waiting staff just seem to expect them even if the service provided is below par. Sounds like your scary boss trained you correctly, and I expect that you have earned more than your weight in tips in your tips because of your positive attitude. I really enjoyed that kind of work and get a real satisfaction from providing a service which exceeds expectations.

Jim said...

I agree with Claire,

Tips should be earned, but it can be difficult these days as you don't always get the same person waiting on, especially in Busy pubs. We are off to Cafe Rouge in Brindley Place tonight, last time I was there we had 4 different people wait on, then of course you pay by card so? I used to leave some cash on the table, but again who knows who is going to get that?.

I will tip for personal service, good personal service, but not when there is more than one serving you.

Emily said...

Thanks Jim. How was Cafe Rouge? Was the service good there? I walk past that branch of Cafe Rouge every evening on my way home and I am always surprised just how busy it is, especially recently, with more and more people watching their pennies. I walked past last Tuesday and it was heaving - I guess it must be Christmas shoppers grabbing a bite to eat. Hope you enjoyed it, anyway! Emily

Jim said...

Ah, Senior moment here Emily, it's actually tonight. Sorry, I'll post and tell you on Monday. :)

Emily said...

Ha! Well enjoy yourself. I might peer in through the glass on my way to the German Market...!