Table for Two?

Now that XUP Jr.’s part-time, after-school job is finished for the summer, she went and got herself a summer job working in a restaurant. Gak!

I guess it’s a rite of passage for pretty much every female on the planet to do some sort of restaurant work at least once in their young lives. Restaurants have a high turn-over in staff, so jobs are not that difficult to get. And once you have some restaurant experience under your belt, you pretty much never need to worry about being out of work anywhere, ever again. So, in that respect, I guess this was a good move on XUP Jr.’s part. That, and the fact that eventually there is some big money to be made in tips if you’re a good, experienced server.

But for now XUP Jr. is just a hostess – learning the biz from the bottom up. And what a learning curve it been!

She comes home exhausted and smelly. Her feet are killing her and she’s starving because she hasn’t been allowed to stop for her entire 6 hour shift to grab a bite to eat. So far she seems to like it, though. She’s even been getting into the restaurant-workers’ tradition of coming in early or staying late after her shift to hang around and socialize with her coworkers.

Perhaps this is why I never really got the allure of  restaurant work – I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there at the end of my shift. I’ve had many friends though who loved being servers and the whole weird other-worldliness of working in a restaurant. They loved it so much they kept taking evening or weekend shifts even after they got real full-time jobs after university.

To me, restaurants are like some sort of prison or Lord of the Flies island society where normal life stuff doesn’t apply and where crazy, quirky things like labour laws just get in the way of running an efficient dining room.

What is it that makes restaurant work so bizarre?

  1. The Customers: Some people get peculiar when they go out to eat. They figure this is their one big chance in life to be prima donnas or something:
    • They are rude and haughty to restaurant staff;
    • They demand unreasonable things like “turning the music off” or asking why, in a seafood restaurant, there is nothing but fish on the menu because they’re allergic to fish;
    • They quibble over the bill acting all outraged that it’s so high when they could have made the same thing at home for a fraction of the cost; and,
    • A surprising number of people just dine and dash, which gets the server in big shit.
  2. The Tipping: Personally, I think the whole tipping thing is outrageous. Restaurant staff get paid next-to-nothing and have to rely on tips to make a living. If it’s not a busy night or customers choose not to tip, they’re screwed. Then servers have to share out their tips with hostesses, bus staff, dishwashers, bartenders, prep crew, etc. Why can’t we just, across the board, add 15% or 20% to the price of the meal and pay restaurant staff a living wage?
  3. The Work: It’s an incredibly hectic work pace. There’s no time or place for breaks in a restaurant, labour laws be damned. Unless there are no customers and nothing else that needs doing, you’re running non-stop from the beginning to the end of your shift. And if the place does clear out, they just send you home and they save a few hours’ pay.
  4. The Coworkers: You learn pretty quickly that there’s a hierarchy of people you have to suck up to in the restaurant business:
    1. Bartender – he or she is kind of the god of the restaurant. If you don’t do serious, serious kissing up and sharing of tips with your bartender, he will not look upon you with favour and will make your life miserable. (NB: I think when I retire, I might take a bartending course and make that my old-age career. I think being a god might suit me.)
    2. Manager – why are restaurant managers all power-mad cretins? They love to throw their weight around in the most demeaning possible ways. They love to devise bizarre little schemes to pit staff against each other. They love to screw with schedules just to keep people on their toes.
    3. Lifers – there’s usually one person who’s been in the same restaurant, in the same job since the place opened in 1953. The manager is afraid of her and the only person she’s chummy with is the bartender. After you’ve worked there a few years and haven’t screwed anything up too badly, she might say something nice to you.
    4. Cooks – I don’t even know what to say about them. They’re pretty much all psychotic in some way from what I’ve been able to gather. They’re allowed to yell and swear and throw things and reduce staff to tears and no one dares object. They’re all “about to open a place of their own that’s run properly,” so everyone walks on eggshells around them so they don’t walk away in a huff in the middle of the dinner rush.

Well, that’s my take on the industry anyway. I was a terrible restaurant employee, which may somewhat colour my view of the business. But, I would love to hear some of your love/hate stories of working in restaurants — and I know almost all of you have some.

Meanwhile, if you’re dining in an Ottawa restaurant this summer, please be nice to the hostess – she might be XUP Jr.

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48 responses to “Table for Two?

  1. Oh, Gawd! Well first off, good luck to XUP Jr. 🙂 My prayers are with her.

    I worked as a counter girl on the midnight shift at Country Style Donuts for about a year. I would have never known how hard those girls worked until then. I mean, how hard can it be serving coffee and donuts, right? Wrong. That was the easy part.

    As for the rest: going home every morning with a uniform that reeked of cigarette smoke, dealing with the morning rush (oooh, those smiling faces), keeping the floors swept and mopped, the ashtrays clean, the tables cleared, the milk and cream dispenser filled, the sugar and napkin dispensers filled, the chili made, the soup made… gasp… pant, pant… washrooms clean, counter windows washed, the coffee made, takeout cups stacked, dishes done, donut boxes stacked and waiting, day-olds bagged… and a smile on my face… argh. No tips (not allowed).

    The best part was around 3 am between the bar rush and the morning rush when we 3 could just goof around. Since then, one of my pet peeves is when I see a napkin dispenser filled with the napkins upside down; you know… when you try to grab a few while delicately balancing a coffee in your other hand and they separate and tear. 😛

  2. I never even notice the hostess unless she is gossiping with a co-worker and ignoring the door.

    I do remember my restaurant days. It was an Italian retaurant and I have a million stories. I guess I should post about that. But I can tell you that if there were more than two people at the table, I was not a happy camper. And a great big table of eight or ten? I sucked.

  3. Good on XUP. Jr. I have never, ever, wanted to be a waitress, or work in a restaurant. Never.
    I have worked behind the counter at various bakeries and bagel shops, serving coffee and making sandwiches. Trying to hear people over the noise of the mall and the fans overhead and having to deal with the items under the counter (seeing what is being pointed at and then trying to reach the exact desired doughnut in the front – no not that one, this one) in the glass case that is so designed to maximize viewing the baked goods to the customer and require the staff to practically crawl into to reach everything, or to clean…
    No thanks.
    I also find it hard to be pleasant to everyone.

  4. Dr. Monkey – So far she seems to be liking it. She’s very social, so I think she can put up with a lot as long as there are lots of people around to chat and goof around with.

    Davina – I worked in a donut shop too for a while. I hated the uniform part, and everything you say is true, but it was still better than working in a restaurant. At least at the donut shop you have your little domain behind the counter which separates you from the unwashed masses (maybe that’s why bartending appeals?? Nice little dark island to work in)

    Geewits – It all looks so easy when you’re just a customer, doesn’t it? Like hostessing – you think “how hard can it be to seat people?” but they have to know the layout of the restaurant backwards and forwards and seat people in rotation through all the servers stations or they get pissed off. You have a little map where you have to keep track of where everyone is and when people move tables or shove tables together it all gets messed up. Then there’s the patio. Adds a whole new dimension to it all. I don’t know why some people like it so much.

    Sean – Post it again!!

    Violetsky – I hear ya. So, I guess that little café in Provence idea to see us through retirement is off the table?

  5. One of the strange things when I was in Australia and in New Zealand was that people don’t tip.

    I don’t fully understand their labour laws, but apparently the servers get paid quite well, and so there’s no need to tip them. I always felt bad and left a small tip, but it was certainly strange.

    I guess that’s why the French have a reputation for being such bad tippers. They just aren’t used to it.

    Funny thing was once I was giving a presentation for French tourists at an old job, and one of them gave me 50 cents. I was insulted, as I thought it was ridiculous…

  6. Good for XUP Jr! I had a restaurant job throughout university. I think everyone should wait tables once in their life…then they wouldn’t be such idiots. You are spot on with all the different quirks/hierarchy stuff. I liked working in a restaurant/bar tending – it was a big party. I only had to work two shifts a week during school and that covered my rent and expenses until the summer. I put myself through university, the work was brutal at times, but it was totally worth it. After grad I got a “real” job (as my parents said) working for a big Bay St. Brokerage. The drop in income was painful. I did meet my husband working at the restaurant though.

  7. “Why can’t we just, across the board, add 15% or 20% to the price of the meal and pay restaurant staff a living wage?”

    Agreed. But what makes restaurant workers so special, that they have to be paid more?

    Why dont’ we also add 15-20% to the price of the stuff we buy in the stores and gas stations, etc…so all the other minimum-wage workers can also make a living wage?

  8. The french are bad tippers because tips are calculated and on the bill – they don’t think about it.
    Then again the waiter that you get in a cafe in France is also a professional waiter – not a student trying to make ends meet.
    As well believe it or not in France you can fight the “service compris” if you have been treated shabbily by the waiter. I did it myself when a waiter gave me attitude and basically threw my dinner on the table as if he was feeding a dog.

  9. >>o They demand unreasonable things like “turning the music off” or asking why, in a seafood restaurant, there is nothing but fish on the menu because they’re allergic to fish;

    That’s not as weird as it may seem on the surface. I know this, because I sort of fall into this category from time to time… I detest seafood. I don’t like the smell, and I usually don’t like the flavour. I am, however, in a relatively smallish minority.

    Because of that, there arise social settings where everyone else wants to go out for seafood. I’m presented with a choice of being anti-social or not, and that means a periodic trip to a seafood restaurant.

    Most good seafood restaurants will have something non-seafood on the menu (a steak, perhaps, or maybe vegetarian). When they do not, and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen one that didn’t, I politely inquire about what the place can do for me.

    I recognize that the problem is mine, but I do feel that a restauranteur who wants to keep his place popular should have a few things on the menu that are outside the “theme”, in order to accommodate social groups where not everyone is exactly the same. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but there should be something.

    I’ve only ever been burned once in my entire life in this regard (in Boston, so no big surprise there), so it’s probably fair to say that the majority of restauranteurs agree with this thinking.

    >>The Tipping

    I think it’s outrageous too. Staff should be subject to the same rules as any other worker and the whole concept of tipping should be kicked to the curb. It’s an anachronistic concept that harkens back to the days of slavery and indentured servants, and it should be stopped as it has been in much of Europe.

    Nor do I want to see a “service charge” as a line item on the bill. I’m buying prepared food, so serving it should be part of the price. If it is to be a separate line item, then I should have a “cafeteria style” option.

    However, boosting the minimum wage will NOT make everyone get paid a living wage. What it will do is boost inflation and reset to a higher level what constitutes the living wage line. It’s a simple fact that, regardless of how noble an occupation may seem, it’s simply not worth very much money. The fact than anyone can get restaurant works is a testament to the large pool of available labour. A large and willing labour pool means the work isn’t going to be worth very much.

    Forcing up the minimum wage will just mean there’s less jobs, not that the people doing that work will be better off. Remember when you could get a job pumping gas? What happened to all those gas station jobs? They all went the way of the dodo when minimum wage laws pushed up the cost of keeping an employee high enough that it was worth building self-serve stations.

    Nevertheless, I’ve never believed that some people should get a LOWER minimum wage and then effectively have to beg for handouts from customers. Nor do I think there should be a “student” minimum wage where young people get paid less. If we’re going to have minimum wage laws at all, it should apply across the board.

  10. Someone I love and who is very good at what he does just left the Ottawa restaurant industry. He worked (read slaved) for one of the ‘Best of’s’ and after witnessing the feudal and brutal way that ‘Best of’ kitchens are run I think I’m going to do a lot more cooking at home.

  11. I have never ever worked in a restaurant and ever ever wanted to.

    Just as a customer, seeing what wait staff puts up with (never mind what we don’t see), I know I’d suck at it and probably dump some idiot customer’s food on his or her lap.

  12. @Evolving Squid

    My point exaxctly…my question about boosting everyone’s wages was somewhat rhetorical.

    As for wait staff getting shitty tips….Wah. I don’t have any pity. Because you know what? Even if it’s only five bucks a shift…well, that’s a lot more than a lot of other people get.

    When I was a student, waiter and waitress jobs were PLUM jobs. That only a very lucky few managed to get.

    Because most of us ended up flipping hamburgers somewhere, sweating our butts off, getting dehydrated, grease burns, and yelled at by power-tripping 20-year old managers. And all for minimum wage.

    Meanwhile, some of my friends who waited tables, would brag about bringing home $50 bucks in tips on a Friday night. (And this was back in the 80’s).

    I think they were doing all right…

  13. I think people who work in restaurants feel too entitled to tips.

    There are plenty of difficult minimum wage jobs out there – including hectic ones that keep you on your feet for eight hours. Those people don’t get tips, whereas people in restaurants and pubs basically seem to see them as an automatic part of their salary.

  14. If anything, the fair thing to do is to tip 15% at places where hardly anybody does (McDonalds, etc) and hardly anything at fancy places where 15% or more is expected.

  15. I loved Europe last summer where the price I saw was the price I paid (with gratuities and tax included). I knew before I ordered what the final price of my meal would be and there were no surprises when the bill came because I’d miscalculated the tax/tip.

    Also, I reeeeeally resent our “tipping” culture because I don’t like being guilted into paying for something that was below a certain standard (and really, mine isn’t very high). Tipping should not be expected! For instance, if you’re an unfriendly or inattentive server, why should I give you any extra? No one gives me extra at my job when I do what I should be doing anyway… If the gratuity were included as in Europe, I could just accept it as a given, rather than being responsible for calculating the worth of the service I received and being despised if I didn’t think it was worth much (or anything!)

    For the record, I think I’ve passed giving a tip once or twice in my restaurant-going career, but there have been an insane number of times where I shouldn’t have tipped.

  16. Justin – In France food is a serious business and for the people who work in the industry, it’s their career, not just something to do for teenagers part-time. So people are paid very well and tips are not expected. Often people will leave the change – if your bill is $9.75 you leave the extra 25 cents for instance, or if you have an extra 50 cents kicking around in your pocket you can leave that on the table, but that’s it. It’s not often done anyway so the whole concept of tipping is foreign to them. So, there’s no need for you to have felt insulted. 50 cents will buy you a nice glass of wine in France!!

    MM – Nice to hear from someone who enjoyed the work, hard as it was. It’s definitely not for everyone and I’ve worried about my poor baby getting all brutalized by the industry, but as long as she seems to be enjoying it, I reckon it will be good for her – even if I never see her again since our schedules are completely opposite.

    Friar – I don’t know what the rules are these days, but for a long time, restaurant servers didn’t even get paid minimum wage – they had a special, lower wage rate because of the expected gratuities. But I agree, everyone should be paid a living wage. Minimum wage isn’t even close to keeping up with the cost of living. A minimum wage worker in Ontario is taking home less than $1500 per month. For a single person, not having to pay rent in a larger city, who doesn’t have a car or any regular prescriptions or dental care or other out-of-the-ordinary expenses, it’s probably manageable.

    Lebanowski – Ya, that’s just what I said to Justin. I found all the waiters in Paris to be excellent. They knew what they were talking about. They knew what they were doing. They were attentive without being obtrusive. And I love that they don’t keep coming back to ask how everything is. They know everything is wonderful and assume you will let them know if it’s not. And they’ll do something about it if something is wrong. Here they ask you and even if you tell them something’s wrong, they just shrug and say “oh” unless you really push it.

    Squid – I’ve been in the same situation when I go to a pub or steak house type place with a group and I’m looking for a vegetarian option. I also regularly ask places to turn the music down. And I complain about stuff in restaurants too. I’m one of those obnoxious customers they don’t want. Also, the only reason there’s a large pool of people wanting restaurant work is because of the money to be made from tips. As has been mentioned before, perhaps working in the food industry SHOULD be worth more. It’s food afterall. But I can see your point about minimum wages. If only the cost of living wasn’t rising so much faster than wages. I do think they take advantage of students. They can get away with a lot because those kids need to make money over the summer. Clothing stores make kids buy and wear clothes from their shop every day if they want to work there. Restaurants sell employees uniforms which change up every month or so. There’s little or no adherence to other labour practices like breaks, lunches, etc. They’re called part-time workers but some are working 50 and 60 hours a week. It ain’t right. But then again, maybe it gives kids an incentive to work a little harder at school so they can get a decent job with some respect when they get older…like us…bwah-ha-ha-ha.

    Grace – I KNOW! They’re really awful places under the surface. I don’t know if the independents are better or worse than the chains. I think it’s a toss up.

    Jazz – I don’t think you make a lot of tips doing stuff like that. I did my best to discourage XUP Jr. from even looking in the food industry, but there aren’t a lot of options for a high school kid who’s only work experience has been in a daycare type setting.

    Friar – Was tipping-out not a practice where you worked? In all restaurants I know of, wait staff have to share out their tips with back of house staff, bar tenders, bus staff, hostesses, etc.??

    Milan – Again, I’m wondering if the special restaurant scale wage thing has been abolished? It used to be significantly lower than regular minimum wage. Tipping is very archaic though, as someone else pointed out. But it’s the only way to get young people to work in restaurants, I think. Without the allure of pocketing $150 cash every night, why would you work there. Even if they raised the wages, they’d never be able to afford to raise them enough to match what some good servers take home every week on tips. Tipping is pretty standard across all service industries these days though. Even the guy who cut my hair last time, who was the owner of a very successful salon, expected a tip – for about 5 minutes work on my hair and for a cut I was already paying a premium price for. I’m not going back there.

    Meagan – I agree 100%. However, until we make service industry work viable careers – with schooling and training and staff that are going to make this their life’s work, we’re not going to get people wanting to work in the fields without the big money tips bring. If we started tipping farm workers with the possibility of earning and extra $500 a week cash, we’d have students lining up to work there. Shitty money + shitty job = no employees.

  17. Minimum wage is pretty demoralizing, when you think of it.

    To paraphrase a stand-up comic I heard once, it’s the boss’s way of saying he’d like to actually pay you less, but the law doesn’t allow it.

  18. I’ve worked in shitty retail and fast food jobs, so I know how hard it is to keep sane serving the public for minimum wage. (and deal with loser coworkers and managers)

    And I agree with you, people need to treat those who work in stores/restaurants, etc with respect. Many work hard for their small income.:)

  19. Line cooks, who are the guys/gals, churning out all that delicious food, are usually working for minimum wage and are paid for 8 hours but expected to show early for prep work before shift and stay until the kitchen is scoured. They almost never receive a share of the tips. Because there are a large number of hours needed to ‘apprentice’ before they can write the Red Seal exams the choice is often to put up and shut up. The person I love had two weekends off in the past year, no vacation time in four and I don’t even want to think about when the last dental visit may have been.

  20. haha “off the table”.
    No, my vision emphasizes little cafe. we would run the place, since neither of us would be good employees and since I don’t speak French, someone else will be hired to serve the customers. We could be the eccentric ones who have our own table and chat everybody up and decide which luscious baked goods will be on hand. And there will be no need for one of those big glass counters, all will be fresh and sold out by afternoon siesta time.

  21. Friar – Well, it’s a good thing you went and got yourself a good education so you could get a good job where your skills and talents are fully utilized and you are esteemed and respected for your contributions and where you are paid commensurate with your value to the company. Right? (Was that a Seinfeld joke, btw? It sounds like Seinfeld)

    Pauline – Okay, so I can ask you – which was shittier: retail or food industry? And why? My daughter was dithering between the two.

    Grace – I worked in prep once and we got some of the tip-out. I thought the line cooks did, too. But yes, you’re right. You get paid for a certain number of hours, but they expect you to put in a few more doing clean up and such for free. I understand the hotel industry is even worse for treating their staff badly.

    Violetsky – We won’t be able to afford a lot of staff. The point of the café was to earn us a bit of money to pay the rent. I guess we’ll just have to stick to nubile young waiters who don’t mind working for free food and a pittance. Sigh…

  22. My experience as a server back when dinosaurs roamed the earth was in a unionized restaurant chain. We got paid reasonably well, and all tips we got did not have to be shared amongst all the staff in the kitchen because they got paid more than we did. DD, on the other hand, once worked at Timmy’s (haven’t most Canadian kids?), and although she earned the minimum wage, nobody tips there, so that was it. She lasted almost two years, though, apparently a record for that particular Timmy’s.

  23. No matter where you work, you are – in your company’s eyes – the best deal they could find, the cheapest person who will do the work they need done.

    If they could find someone even cheaper, then you’d be replaced.

    In return, you’re sort of doing the least amount of work – the bare minimum – for what they’re paying you (or at least, many people are – if you’re working above and beyond, and not getting recognized, then you’re a sucker!)

    It’s just a lot more obvious with minimum wage people.

    I can make a hell of a lot more money as a contractor than I do right now in my day job. I would exchange the *perception* of job security to do that.

    Perception… that’s all it is, you know. There is no security.

    So sometimes I wonder why I’m still here.

    Working on it…

  24. I think everyone if everyone worked in a restaurant at least once in their lives so that they know what hosts, servers, and cooks deal with. Retail, too, for that matter. I spent a fair amount of time working in both when I was younger.

    In both retail and food industries, the key to whether it is fine or unbearable is the boss you end up working for. I worked for several absolutely wonderful people who made it enjoyable to come into work even for the low wages I was earning. I also worked for a couple of absolutely terrible tyrants who were just nasty to everyone. I didn’t stick around long in those situations, but they sure made me appreciate even more the wonderful bosses I had before and after.

    When I was in high school I worked several summers serving food in a chip wagon. I earned minimum wage and smelled like a french fry even after showering and changing. However, I worked with friends and our boss was a total sweetheart. She was maybe 40, tops, and already a grandmother. She made sure that all of us teens got either Friday night or Saturday night off each weekend because she wanted us to go out and have fun. I think she wanted us to have the fun teenage-hood she didn’t get to have. I still remember her as one of the coolest bosses I ever had, and I remember the job being fun.

  25. @XUP

    I’m not complaining about my pay. It’s reasonable.

    As for being “esteemed and respected” for my contributions…

    BWAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

  26. I’ve never worked in a restaurant (unless you count my first day as a counter person at the Tastee Freez, which lasted one day and I was asked not to return). I worked at a gas station pumping gas through high school and university. I can’t carry loaded plates of food without spilling, but I can check all the fluids under the hood. 🙂

  27. @XUP-Without a doubt, the food industry is shittier!

    I had to spend hours cutting up onions, deal with some of the biggest a-holes on the planet, take out the garbage, clean grease traps, etc.

    Honestly, I don’t know why I got involved in it. But I was young and thought that a job is a job. (It really isn’t!)

  28. @ Brett. You’re right — there is no security. Two job layoffs in 5 years for me. Lack of security is more obvious when you’re working for yourself, that’s all. But I can tell you this; you feel more alive and on your toes “out here”.

    Just when I think I’m running out of work another project lands from out of nowhere… and not usually in direct relation to marketing. It has it’s good days and bad days, but that’s the case working for somebody else too. Keep at it… there is life after the cubicle.

  29. I like to be able to make the decision about tipping because it is the one opportunity to tell someone in customer service you did a great job here is 20% – 25% tip depending on the bill or you suck…here is nothing. I have only had to give nothing twice in my life, but I have left 10% tips with a note saying a little kindness and water would have gotten you a lot more. I am a good customer, I don’t ask for a lot of anything and all I expect is a seat, a menu, a full glass of water, a refill on my water and I don’t even need the…so how is your meal? But if you give me attitude and act like I should be grateful to even have you at your station….I get a little …pissy. I also feel it is best not to vocalize any complaints about service because they will be handling my food out of my sight.

  30. Pinklea – Dinosaurs, eh? Were you one of those roller-skating gals that served racks of Brontosaurus ribs the the Flintstones and Rubbles on bowling night?

    Brett – Well, that certainly cheered me up. I can’t wait to go in to work tomorrow!!

    MaryLynn – I’ve often wondered how people can stand to work in those chip wagons. In the middle of summer, the grease and heat and smell must be unbearable. She must have been some awesome boss. You should do a blog post about her some time. How do you feel about deep fried foods these days? French fries?

    Frair – Happy to be able to make you laugh today.

    Alison – You are so damn macho, you’re making my toes curl. Did you wear overalls? Please tell me you wore overalls while pumping, pumping, pumping that gas??

    Pauline – Egads. At least XUP Jr. doesn’t actually have to touch the food. And with no breaks, so doesn’t actually have to eat it, either!!

    Davina – I don’t think I could stand the insecurity of never knowing where my next paycheque was coming from. If I only myself to support I would no doubt feel differently because there is an awful lot I like about the idea of self-employment.

    Cedar – Wow, you tip 25%?? That can get kind of pricey. So your $100 meal with taxes and gratuities will not cost you almost $140. I hope your regular places appreciate you. I usually tip more if I go back to the place a lot. Insurance.

  31. @XUP,

    But you know it’s true. And you only think you know where your next paycheque is coming from. That could end in the blink of an eye tomorrow… 🙂

  32. I hate places that leave a tip dish on the counter! If I have to stand in line to order it less than minimum wage or not. I am NOT going to tip!
    I was a hostess in a HUGE Smitty’s Pancake house back in the Flinstone days . On Sunday morning we saw 250-300 people an hour. In the midafternoon we had whip cream fights.Tips were shared between the waitresses and the “bus boys.” No tips for the Hostess although from time to time someone who got a big tip might toss me a dollar.

  33. No, I tip 25% when you go and have breakfeast and the whole Bill comes to like 8 bucks and I won’t leave like a buck and half tip. If the bill comes to a hundred bucks I will tip 20%, of course I can’t remember the last time I went out to a place when the bill was a hundred bucks.

  34. >>I can make a hell of a lot more money as a contractor than I do right now in my day job. I would exchange the *perception* of job security to do that.

    Don’t be too sure about that.

    I’ve been a consultant for almost 20 years. I’ve had no contracts in the last 13 months.

    Sure, when you’re on the paying end, it seems like contracting is all milk and honey since they get paid a lot of money (my usual daily rate was about $1100). But the guy doing the work doesn’t get that much, even in a 1 or 2-man company. He’d probably top out at 80ish percent if it’s a small company, less than 50% if he’s from a big company. If from a small company, he probably has to weather the no-contract time, sick time, and vacation time out of pocket…

    So, at $1100 a day, if I need a couple days off because some asshat came to work with the flu and now I have it, that’s $1700 out of pocket. When people get a day off work because of the earthquake, that’s $800 out of pocket. Your place of work shuts down for a week over Christmas? $5000-$6000 out of pocket. Government takes an extra 3 weeks to get the contract paperwork done? $12000 out of pocket. Over time? That’s on your own free time. Miss a deadline? Oops, maybe you don’t get paid at all.

    What money the contractor makes has to last through the dry spots… Believe me, being a contractor teaches you how to manage your money to make it last.

    In my field, a contractor can expect to make about 20% more than a civil servant at the same level over time. For that, they get arguably more flexible hours, less benefits, and more time off since they won’t usually have a contract all the time. During that time off, you work as a salesman though (more like a hooker, really), hawking yourself to prospective clients – it’s not really time off.

  35. At restaurants with table service I tip 15% plus or minus depending on the quality of the service. At buffets I tip 10% flat if there’s table service for drinks, simply because there’s a lot less work to do.

    For my 15%, I expect my food in a timely manner, hot, properly prepared according to the order. I expect not to be kept waiting unreasonably for beverages or bread (depending on the place) while the food is being prepared. I expect the server to be cordial and knowledgeable about the menu.

    Failure to do those things gets the tip to drop rapidly. If I feel that I’m going to go below about 10%, I’ll probably as to speak with the manager. I’ve left no tip a few times and I’m always happy to discuss why with your boss.

    On the other hand, being particularly attentive; being able to make tasty recommendations; tolerating and accommodating weird substitutions, etc; these things will raise the tip above 15%. I’ve been known to tip up to 100%.

  36. Brett – I suppose so. I’m pretty sure about the paycheque. I know that could change for any number of reasons, but it seems more secure to me than going out on my own right now. There must be a reason why you’re still slaving for the man at the moment??

    Jay – I think if the hostess is helping you clear your tables and seating the “good” customers in your section and keeping an eye on them for you and letting you know if they look like they need something or are about to leave – you should tip the hostess, too.

    Cedar – A hundred bucks is not difficult to spend in a restaurant if there are two of you and you have dinner, a couple of drinks, an appetizer or maybe desert and coffee. Of course stuff like that is a lot cheaper in the US.

    Squid – Thanks. This is all the stuff that scares me about being self-employed. And holy jumpin’ – what did the server do to deserve a 100% tip? I’d love to know (also where this paragon of dining venues is)

  37. @XUP,

    Yes, still slaving for the man because in spite of my good salary (and it is very good, I must admit), I cannot save enough to “just drop it” with four children.

    Were I single, I would have done that a long time ago. Perhaps that’s not for everyone, but with such a large family, I am so used to living on the low.

    If it were it just me, I could easily bank 75 percent of my annual salary and afford to quit my job and not work for a few years.

    Just before I met my wife, I made about 1/3 what I make today, and I had saved $50,000 on that over a period of about 4 years.

  38. I worked for one summer in the kitchen of a tea room that was only open until around 6:30pm if I remember correctly. I think it was fairly civilized compared to a big restaurant. Still, I absolutely hated it, and I would never work in a restaurant again. The crazy lunchtime rush, the not knowing when you would be able to leave, the dramatic personalities all contributed to a poor working environment.

    Your bartender idea is appealing though. I may consider that too one day.

  39. Brett – That’s exactly what I was saying. On my own I’m brave and reckless and would be game for almost any crazy adventure. But as a responsible parent I force myself to surrender my soul every day in order to provide a stable, secure home for my kiddie. And does she appreciate it?

    Finola – Why does the food services industry have to be so horrible? Dining out can be such a lovely experience for the customer. It doesn’t seem right that it’s at the expense of a bunch of poor, exploited kids.

  40. @Evolving Squid,

    I guess it depends on a) what you do for a living as a contractor and b) what I’d do for a living as a contractor.

    Since we don’t know that, we’re sort of comparing apples and oranges – I don’t get sick very often, and I’d never sign a contract that left me hanging like that if the client is late (if you’re late as my client, I’m still on the clock as far as I’m concerned, and that’s the way it is with the contractors we hire – if we’re late, we pay them for the additional days, even if they are just sitting around) – but if you haven’t had any contracts in 13 months, it’s not good in any case.

    @XUP,

    How old is XUP Jr., I forget – maybe you can get started on that adventure soon.

  41. Brett – She’s 17 and yes, I do believe I can begin some adventuring soon.

    Mudmama – I just calls ’em as I sees ’em

  42. Mudmama – The other professions that have a high proportion of crazy people in my experience are accountants – especially tax accountants and teachers.