Waiter and tips

One of my favourite blogs of all times, Waiter Rant, written by someone under the username, waiter (!!!), is getting better and better.  No, not necessarily  because the blog entries are getting better and better but mostly because there’s a community of readers who all comment and talk to each other.

For instance, I asked this below question a week ago – left it as a comment on this entry.

There’s something I’m a bit confused about: tips. When waiters get a
tip, do they take the me for themselves or do they all put the money
together and share it equally afterwards?

Comment by NotScientific — June 8, 2006 @ 1:06 am

I was always a little bit confused about that.  You know, when I have this feeling that a waiter is doing his best, I really want to leave a good tip.  It should be noted however that until present time, I have never ever tipped a waiter, not because I never thought they were doing their best, but mostly because up till now, it’s my dad who pays the bill and consequently tips.  Not too good of an excuse but anyway, back to my question.  I was kind of curious to get an answer to this one – and I did.

NotScientific–depends a little bit on the place, but nearly all places that have full table service, the waiter/waitress gets some proportion of their own earnings. Somewhere like a deli that has a tip jar on the counter, or perhaps a coffee shop that serves a few food items, the staff usually has a set hourly salary over minimum wage, and tips are “extras” that get split by whoever is on duty–they don’t rely on tips to make a living, they rely on the base salary.

But anywhere from the greasy spoon diner on any one of a million city corners to the most upscale of steak houses or bistros the waitstaff “earn their own keep”. The food industry is one of the few that actually is legally allowed to pay below minimum wage, and they do. The average waiter in most cities will make a flat salary of $2.13-$2.35 an hour, guaranteed paid from the company. The company is allowed to do this because it is assumed that the waiter’s tips will make up at LEAST enough to bring the hourly up to minimum wage (which is true–a good waiter, even in a horrible restaurant, can make $10-15 an hour, on average, easily, and a great waiter in a great place can make signifigantly more.) If for some strange reason the waiter doesn’t make minimum wage, on average, in a pay period, the restaurant is required to pay them up to minimum/hourly, but honestly a waiter that performs that poorly is one that won’t be employed for long.

Now, there is a little variation here: the two main waiting systems are a single waiter, or “team waiting”. Single is just what it sounds like, one waiter handles a few tables (usually 2-6). In this situation, there are usually a handful of food runners that work for all the waiters and a few people who handle bussing and water refills, etc, for the whole place. Unspoken agreements usually arise where the runners and bussers do the work of the best/highest tipped waiters first, which helps raise that waiter’s tips even more, then the waiter tips out the runners/bussers as they choose, knowing that the higher of a percentage they share out, the better repeated assistance they’ll get. (Bartenders are also tipped out, but that’s usually a flat percentage of sales, or just alcohol sales, and doesn’t depend on the waiter’s tips that night, just teh check totals.) Hostesses may also be tipped out as a “favor” for being given more/better/regular parties and a preference of preferred customers.

“Team waiting” has a little more redundancy, and usually involve up to half again as many runners and bussers being on staff. The teams I worked on had two waiters each, a head waiter and a drinks/desert/miscellany waiter, ( more than a cocktail position, but not a full head waiter position either), a busser, and a runner for each team. The bussers and runners *might* at most support two waiter pairs, but they would ONLY do the duties for the team(s) they were working for. In this situation, there’s usually internal policy dividing the tips. I forget the actual numbers we used, it was some years ago, but something like 10 percent each to bussers and runners, 15% of alcohol sales to the bartender or 7% of all sales depending on the day’s business, then the waiting pair split the rest 55/45. (The assistant waiter positions were usually newer people, trainees, people who had only done cocktail before, etc, and the mroe experience they got they were then put on head waiter shifts at lunches, then eventually got the job at dinner.)

So the two waiters affected one another’s earnings somewhat, and also the extra the bussers/runners got, but at most tips would be split between a team. A good waiter or team can take home two, three, four times as much as a bad waiter or team any given evening. No waiter that’s even halfway decent would work any place that demanded tips be split among the whole waitstaff. That’s incredibly unfair, fiscally, to the really good waiters, and lets the horrible ones coast on the others’ work.

The very short answer of all of that summarised is “there may be a small share-out between people working immediately together, but absolutely NOT a situation where the whole place pools their tips and divvies them up”

Comment by Diana — June 8, 2006 @ 1:58 am

Diana is clearly passionate about the subject because she is/was a waitress in the first place and wants to make the point clear.  That’s great and I’m sure I would’ve done the same thing – well, maybe I am – and that’s the power of a web community.  Everybody communicates and recounts.

UPDATE: Well, waiter himself just published about tipping.  Here you go…

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39 Responses to “Waiter and tips”


  1. 1 Jason 29 June, 2006 at 8:17 am

    You know what, im gonna be the one to say it. I see no point in tiping. Why tip. Unless the girl giving me my food or the guy cutting my hair does somethin that makes me go wow then why should they get a tip. Seriously, is it my fault that the place you work at gets away with paying you less than minimum wage. On top of that I think its really insulting when you add my gratuiy to the bill. There isnt a rule that says I have to tip you, when you add it to the bill its not a tip nemore. Someone explain to me why servers dont get minimum wage. Dont just guess, tell me facts. P.s i used to be a server so I know how it is. Thats why I went into sales.

    • 2 usuck 14 October, 2010 at 6:51 pm

      Jason. you are very rude and you should always tip unless they do something to make you say eww or something. get a grip you butt hole. 😡

    • 3 Server. 19 October, 2010 at 5:29 am

      You tip because a person is walking all over a restaurant for you to enjoy a meal in a nice, peaceful setting. They clean the table before you arrive, memorize the specials, make you drinks, refill your drinks, carry your piping-hot meals, and clean up after you’ve finished so they can repeat the entire process over again. It’s a personal service, like cutting hair. That’s why you tip. The restaurant pays less so that they can save money. Tipping is customary in the USA and it means that our meals cost less than other places that don’t tip as generously (Spain is one example) due to the fact that there is more overhead from server wages.

      Also, servers lose most of that 2.15-2.25 in taxes every year. So, without tips, there is hardly any income. It’s American to tip.

      Also, I hope you use better grammar with your sales clients.

  2. 4 Anders 25 July, 2006 at 3:12 am

    “Why tip.”
    If it helps, think of it this way: You pay two separate things when you come into the restaurant. You pay the restaurant for the food and tax, and you pay me for the service. The restaurant and waiters operate in many ways independently of one another.

    “Seriously, is it my fault that the place you work at gets away with paying you less than minimum wage.”
    No, but its a good system. It means better service for customers, because we have to earn our tips. It means better pay for good waiters. To each according to their ability…It’s the ideal free market.
    “On top of that I think its really insulting when you add my gratuiy to the bill.”
    I don’t add your gratuity to the bill–the restaurant does in certain, clearly marked circumstances (after 9pm, or for large parties). You may choose to eat somewhere else if you don’t agree with this policy.
    “Someone explain to me why servers dont get minimum wage.”
    You have two options. The first is the current system, where you pay us tips for the service we provide. The second is where the restaurant pays us a larger hourly wage, and in turn jacks up the prices on all the meals to compensate for the large expense of paying all the waitstaff, who are now no longer motivated to work hard for their money. If you can’t see by now why the first is the better option, then I don’t know if I can help you.

  3. 6 midgie 6 September, 2006 at 5:15 am

    don’t ask how the food tastes before we pick up our fork and don’t ask what we want to order before we open the menu

  4. 7 May 23 December, 2006 at 2:33 pm

    The place I work, all waiters divide tips equally, the busser and hostess gets a certain percentage. When I first worked, I was really motivated, but these days I don’t bother working hard anymore. (I am still really polite to my regular customers)

    Sometimes I get tipped on the side, where my customer pulls me over and tips me. So, I would like to know whether it is right to share those tips or keep it for myself, even if they tipped for the bill. My boss found out I take those tips and makes me feel guilty about it, but should I? I work hard to provide good service, and I get tipped extra, is it not right for me to keep the tips?

  5. 8 Nicole 20 April, 2007 at 12:12 am

    I have a question for you. I work at a golf course in the club house bartending and waitressing. I have a new boss who wants me to split my tips with everyone who is working during that time, including him. Is this fair? What type of percentage should he recieve? What percentage should the kitch recieve?

  6. 9 Khalil A. 21 April, 2007 at 12:04 am

    Hi Nicole,

    Thanks for stopping by here. I am no waiter myself so I don’t think I can really be of any productive help to you. But you should try emailing the waiterant guy. He always gets back to people amidst quite late sometimes but, hey, at least you’ll be fixed.

    Good luck.

  7. 10 Matt 30 October, 2007 at 9:12 am

    You see no point in tipping? Don’t you realize that by ordering food in any restaurant, you are entering into a WIDELY understood agreement that you will tip your server? Restaurants pay less than half of minimum wage an hour on purpose, and the government endorses that simply because any civilized person knows that he or she is supposed to tip their waiter to make up for that discrepancy. Do you want the waitress to blow you off? Is that what makes a tip worth it?

    So you don’t want to tip. Think about the situation. You come into a restaurant and sit at a table. You tell your waitress to get your a drink. You tell her to get you food. She is subject to your every wish and demand. If you don’t tip her, she is essentially your slave. Yes, your slave. Unless you endorse slavery, you should tip her for being your slave, shouldn’t you? A restaurant is a place you can go to avoid cooking your own food and then ordering a person around. Do you honestly think that ordering a human being to do your wishes deserves no gratitude at all? That telling another human to do whatever you want from them is acceptable with no compensation for treating that person like a robot is ok? How would you like to be ordered around without compensation?

    Servers don’t get a “fair wage” because society, our government, and our corporations have decided that you as a consumer should have the heart to pay the person who slaves over you the minimum of 2 to 3 dollars for doing that to make their hourly wage equal to minimum wage. If you don’t like the system, don’t eat out. Don’t take it out on the server; write your congressman, be political, be an activist. Hurting another human being on a personal level doesn’t solve anything. It’s incompassionate. If you actually think that the wage waiters earn is an injustice, do something proactive, rather than stiff your waiter.

    Enjoy the five bucks you saved by stiffing your waiter. It says a lot about how much you care for helping a fellow human being.

  8. 11 Rebecca 3 May, 2008 at 9:08 am

    I am a server currently and have a lot to say. It is a very demanding job. We run around like chickens with our heads cut off for 8 hours straight for $3 dollars an hour. We obviousely expect to get tipped, or out job would totally not be worth it. My main complaint is that when you require 5 refils and a million extra sides and recooks why can’t you just leave us 5 bucks? We’re doing things to make your experience better! If you want to go into a restaraunt and get minimal service; one refil (maybe), no recooks or added condiments, minimal napkins, and very time consuming experiences then we will gladly accept minimum wage. When people get pissed about things that are clearly out of our control such as parking, food quality, food prices/options, management choices, etc., this is exactly why we should recieve a tip! We take the blame for multiple things that are out of our control for $3 dollars an our, and yet you still go out to eat. If you don’t want to eat, don’t go to a restaraunt, grocery stores and fast food exist for this reason. You would expect to be compensated for your work at your job, so why would you go somewhere and run someone around like crazy and not expect to compensate them for it? Please someone answer this question?

  9. 12 Adam 19 June, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Anybody who doesn’t tip a decent server is disgraceful. There is a comedian named Daniel Tosh who talks about waiters and says somthing to the effect of “I think everyone should be forced to wait tables for a couple months so they realize their ranch is not that ******* important”. While forcing people to wait tables is quite extreme, people need to realize how demanding the job really is. You pay your bill for the food with taxes and then you leave a tip (somewhere between 10%-20% and up) to pay for the many demands that you dish out. Not tipping your waiter is ridiculous. I personally have never left a tip less than 15%. I know how much these waiters have to do and how much they depend on the generosity of their demanding customers. Next time you stiff your waiter (which should never happen), think about all the things you told them to do; to run back and forth, get you re-fills, food, and condiments all with a smile on their face, and know that you didn’t have the heart to pay for their services. If you stiff your waiter regularly at the same restaurant, know that the whole staff knows who you are and they don’t want to wait your table. Know that they will talk about you as “the guy/lady who doesn’t tip” and you will have a stain on your name. If you frequently stiff because you feel like you have bad service, the bad service is probably a result of you stiffing your waiter. They know who you are. Never stiff your waiter or don’t eat out. Do the running around, drink filling, and whatnot by yourself. Don’t subject servers to your demands without compensation for them.

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  11. 14 lisa 2 June, 2010 at 4:02 am

    I’m a waitress with over 20 yrs experience, and pride myself on doing a great job. After 10 months at my present job, my boss now wants me to split my tips 50/50 with far less experienced servers, plus tip 25% to the house. He thinks this will improve service, having us all split tips. I feel very angry about it, because I don’t feel I should bust my butt and get good tips, while the newbies skate, and then have to split things equally. I have no issue tipping the back of the house, but I do not feel I should carry the kids working with me! My tips are earned by good service and meant for me, not another server who can’t even keep up with her own tables.

  12. 15 An 16 November, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    I’ve just been to New York on holiday with three friends and was wondering ever since I got back, what waiters did with the tips.

    I work as a waiter myself, in Europe, and tipping is not customary here (although we do recieve tips for excellent service when customers are extremely satisfied). We get paid around 13 USD an hour. Much more than you guys, but..
    A very very cautious estimate: You’ll have at least 3 tables an hour, on avarage 4 people per table, that eat/drink for around 15 USD each. This makes around 15% of 180 USD that you earn an hour… a lot more than what I get. Of course life is probably more expensive (but tips are in fact 18% instead of 15, and really, three tables an hour? and only 15$ pp?).. I WISH I got tipped like that, I would come work for free.. so there must be a catch? The sharing with the kitchen staff/barttenders/..?
    I don’t feel bossed around by the customers.. when you accept a job as waiter, you are well aware of the fact that you will have to get people beverages and salt and extra mayo and a refill.. djeez, that is in the jobdescription, isn’t it?

    What irritated me most was that at some places it’s so obviously a routine job were you get your cheque even before you asked for it.. we NEVER do that in Europe! It’s like saying: you ordered, you ate, now you pay and make way! (Since there is no longer something in it for me, your devoted waiter). Totally annoying. Adding gratuity to the cheque automatically.. ow yeah, they do that, and not only under certain circumstances. (we once had a 20% tip added to the total bill (so price of the food + the taxes)).. and then they add a smiley as if that makes it okay.
    I want to tip when I feel I got good service, not by general rule. After all, it takes the exact same amount of effort to bring me a 9.99$ plate of food then to bring me a 32$ plate of food, doesn’t it. So why would I have to pay 3,3$ extra just because I ordered more expensive food? Because I can?
    We had one night in a fancy restaurant were we spent 450 USD.. so we should tip 81 USD?? that’s an utterly ridiculous amount of money.. (I don’t even make that kind of money in one day, let alone in one evening/two hours.. must quit my job and become a full-time waiter!) There is the flaw in your theory. It shouldn’t dependent on the amount you spend in that restaurant, but on the amount of effort your waiter had to put in. Which is subjective of course.

  13. 16 nick k 21 July, 2011 at 2:06 am

    This comment is actually coming from 1989 not any other year…waiter work is wonderful, base pay plus tips should range from $15 pr. hr. to $50 pr. hr. . Save your money—10% interest at CHASE after pulling in $300,000.00 gives you $30,000 a year in free spending money. Try to lock on a 20 year savings plan, you don’t want to make any less than 10% interest—GOD forbid if the rates go lower. P.S. don’t split tips to the bar tender or anyone else but the busser (30% usually ). GOOD LUCK in years to come.

  14. 17 nick k 21 July, 2011 at 2:08 am

    This comment is actually coming from 1989 not any other year…waiter work is wonderful, base pay plus tips should range from $15 pr. hr. to $50 pr. hr. . Save your money—10% interest at CHASE after pulling in $300,000.00 gives you $30,000 a year in free spending money. Try to lock on a 20 year savings plan, you don’t want to make any less than 10% interest—GOD forbid if the rates go lower. P.S. don’t split tips to the bartender or anyone else but the busser (30% usually ). GOOD LUCK in years to come.

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