Dining out? Here’s a tip…

After a long day at work, when you’ve been on your feet for extended periods of time, with little or no breaks, the last thing anyone should have to do is pay their employer.

It sounds absurd, but this is a reality for many students who work in restaurants and bars.

I have been employed in the food service industry for the past five years as both a bartender and a server. The shifts drag on forever, I wear through shoes faster than you can imagine and multitasking has become a well-honed skill to add to my resume.

Why do I do it? The money can be great and is helping me pay my way through college. But sometimes, it’s quite the opposite.

In many establishments, something called a ‘tip out’ is required of servers and bartenders. This means that based on your sales for the day, you must pay both the kitchen and the bar (and sometimes the house) a percentage of what you’ve sold – regardless of whether you were actually tipped or not.

Here is my concern. If tips are never guaranteed, then why should someone have to pay a set amount based on money they may not even receive?

The consensus is that if you do a good job serving your guests, you will receive a good tip. This makes sense but due to uncontrollable circumstances it is not always the case.

If the kitchen is slow or fails to maintain an acceptable level of quality, your guests aren’t happy. And as the employee on the front line, servers are the ones who suffer. Guests will never come face to face with kitchen staff, so their anger or disappointment can only be put on their server. In more times than none, this will result in little to no tip.

When a guest decides not to tip, the sale is still made and the tip out is still due. This means the server will, in turn, be paying for that table to eat.

In other cases, servers provide outstanding service leaving guests with no complaints and smiles on their faces but they don’t tip. Maybe they can’t afford it, maybe they just don’t understand the concept of gratuity, or maybe they just don’t believe in tipping. Either way, it costs us money out of our own pockets.

On top of everything, individuals like myself in the food service industry receive an hourly wage which is considerably lower than the standard minimum wage. This means that tipping out just a few dollars could result in a wage of less than $5 an hour.

To me, it seems simple. If you can’t afford to tip, then don’t dine in. There are takeout options at most establishments and no one will expect a tip on a takeout order.

After all, would you want to pay for me to eat? Probably not and I’d rather not pay for you to do so either.


  1. It’s quite literally in the job description of servers to “serve” patrons….to expect a tip of any amount is ridiculous.

    Restaurants have a set price for their dining experience, and I select my restaurant based on that price point. Tips are bonuses reflective of service…similar to tipping anybody in the service industry, really.

    Why do we tip the servers who simply bring you your meal vs. the workers at Home Depot who actually know their stuff and take an hour to help you with your project?

    Tips are earned, not owed.

  2. Fellow Student, you make a good point, however the workers at Home Depot make minimum wage whereas servers typically make $2.00 less than minimum/hour.

    Not to mention, customer service employees may be on their feet and helping customers the majority of their shift, but no minimum-wage-paying job compares to the stress levels servers deal with night in and night out. Believe me, I’ve worked as a server and a customer service rep. Serving is by far a bigger responsibility and a lot more tiring.

    Also, tipping is a custom in the serving industry. You’re right – we typically don’t tip those workers helping us at the Home Depot, etc. But the standard for dining in is… tip your server! It’s a well-accepted tradition.

    While I agree tips are earned, I have to disagree with you on your point about tips not being owed. You owe your server something. (Unless your server flew off the handle on you or something.) Yes, servers are there to “serve” you. But they’re not your servants. They leave their bad day at the door and put a smile on for you. If the food wasn’t up to par or the service was slow, they apologize. It’s often out of their hands. You still OWE them something. It’s an unspoken contract you “signed” when you walked through the door as a patron.

    If they were truly awful (which means they’re probably new), you should still give them something. Some amount to help cover the tip-out and make serving worth the time.