Okay, here’s the deal. My dad is perpetually in awe of the fact that I am able to calculate tips in my head. It is apparently an act of rare mathematical acrobatics. The fact that I can get the right answer before he can get it from the calculator in his cell phone, apparently, worthy of a Nobel prize. Some people give a 20% tip, not out of generosity, but because the math is easier. Still others don’t give any tip at all, which I admit is the easiest math of all. I do the traditional 15%, but I’m beginning to question why. Not because I don’t believe in tipping. On the contrary. I’ve seen quite a few people who seem to think that the whole world is Medieval Times (TM), and as such abusing and berating the serving staff is not only allowed but encouraged. This is not Victorian London, and that man’s name isn’t Jeeves, so give him a break, and a tip, thank you.
I’ve got one friend, and I use the term mostly out of habit at this point, that is somewhat cheap, and doesn’t tip. This is fine. Some people don’t tip and say so. Fair enough. The thing is, this guy doesn’t tip, ever, but gives a reason each time. A carefully chosen, completely arbitrary and ridiculous reason. Example? Well, once, when he ordered the food, there was no ketchup on the table. He requested some. Actually, what he requested was “A lot of ketchup.” She came back with two bottles. Then a few minutes later, she brought out the food. The time to tip comes along, and he says, “I don’t think she should get anything, because she didn’t get the ketchup out here fast enough.” It got there BEFORE THE FOOD! What was he planning to do, drink it? (Actually, this was a distinct possibility.) Other people won’t pay the tip because, “If they can’t make enough money on this job they should just get a better one.” This is a great theory, except that if getting a better job was just a matter wanting it, chances are that you’d be making enough money that you wouldn’t be pinching pennies about 15% of that BLT.
So if I support the tip, then what is the problem with the 15%? Simple. Because the cost of the meal has nothing to do with the quality or difficulty of service. Realistically, all a waiter has to do, typically, is get the food to the table. In 90% of the cases, this consists of carrying it and putting it down roughly in the right place. Maybe there is some beverage refilling as well. Note that I have not mentioned food cost. That’s because it is irrelevant. If one table ordered 15 salads at a three bucks a piece, and another ordered one steak for $45, that’s the same tip. Does that make sense? Worse, some restaurants put the waiting staff to work. Things like Banana’s Foster involve pyrotechnics, for crying out loud, and I’m pretty sure cherries Jubilee involves plasma fireworks and yellow raincoats. Picture a restaurant that’s has a four for a dollar banana’s Foster special, and a super deluxe luxury cheese cake for $50, the person playing with fire gets 15 cents for his trouble, while that cake placer gets a whopping $7.50. Fair? NO!
So how do we solve this? Simple. Degrees of difficulty. You put together a menu that grades the food on how hard it is to serve. Then you keep a tally. Is it a one star meal? A buck for each plate, and another buck for every refill… fifty cents if they just bring the pitcher over. I think anything that involves a performance, like singing happy birthday or some other demeaning song gets you 3 stars, three bucks per plate. A costume or some ridiculous uniform gets you a bonus star. If you have to make something at the table? 4 stars, 4 bucks a plate? If you are risking life and limb? That’s a five star. So there you are, already it is a better system because it rewards the server for the effort put in, and it only involves addition, no percents. But there is one MORE reason why this is a good policy. What did I just get up to, 6 stars for setting fire to a crepe while dressed like a pirate? That leaves plenty of room for personal improvement, because MY scale doesn’t stop at ten. Steak juggling? That’ll get you 8 stars, easy. Blind folded flaming Kabob delivery via trapeze? Heck, that’s a good 15 stars. Long distance beverage refill? I’ll give you a star for every yard, but you’d better be darn accurate. Just think how much those Benihana chefs would be racking up. So let’s see some initiative, restaurants. Put a degree of difficulty on that menu and open the door for high difficulty, competition bus-boying and high velocity, precision appetizers. DINNER AND A SHOW, PEOPLE! DINNER AND A SHOW!