After a discussion with my class today, and after my meeting with a consulting client the other day, I realized that I should revisit this topic again. I have written a few of times on this subject before:
But those all had different slants than the one I am going to approach this time.
Tip the kitchen?
So, I am meeting with a consulting client, the General Manager of a soon-to-open restaurant, and the subject of waiter tip-outs comes up. Two of her management team (the bar manager and the assistant dining room manager) are vehemently opposed to having the front-of-the-house tip the kitchen, and her chef (of course) feels just as strongly the other way.
What to do…?
I tell her that if you want to drive a giant wedge between the front-of-the-house and the back-of-the-house, there is no better way to do it. YOU MUST TIP OUT THE KITCHEN. At least in the Portland market.
Let’s take a look at this, because it is kind of like the business millionaire who thinks he did it all on his own. He somehow manages to forget that he would not have been able to make all of that money if he had not had the roads, the fire department, the police department, etc., to support him along the way. I just love this short-sighted, selfish look at the world.
Um…hello mister waitron…
That $200 you are walking out the door with tonight would not be possible without many support roles aiding you throughout the endeavor. That list definitely includes the kitchen. Yes, I understand that you get paid minimum wage, have to deal with often difficult customers, and you do deserve the biggest chunk of that dough. I was a waiter for many years, and I have not lost sight of the challenges a server faces on any given night.
BUT. A big, capital BUT.
Do you honestly think for a second that you could have pulled in that kind of cash without the help of the kitchen? The host? The busser? All of those special orders that you rang in? All of the times you had to ask someone to help bail you out of a situation because you made a mistake, or you were trying to satisfy a customer?
So I say unto you restaurant owners: Figure out a system that is equitable and implement it. Be clear about it. I have many friends in this industry, people who have worked at their jobs for many years, and there is still no clear tip-out policy at their restaurants.
This only leads to trouble
What that leads to is just a whole lot of trouble. Without a clear policy in place, you have some servers who don’t tip out generously, and you have other servers who tip out too generously, trying to make up for the cheap guy. Besides all of that chaos you have created by not having a clear policy in place, you wind up with people in various roles showing favoritism to those who slip them the most money, which is nice in one way, but without that guidance for the servers it ends up making it so other customers suffer because they are not getting the same ‘special’ treatment.
You want to leave a little room for improvisation. Sometimes co-workers go that extra mile, and you want to have space for that to be recognized. Create a system that works for your place, make sure the policy is clear to everyone and FOLLOW THROUGH with it.