Last night I went to dinner at a local Charlie Brown’s “Steak House” with my family, my brother, his wife and baby, and my mom. We had a party of 5 adults and three kids, one of which was too young to eat anything. At the end of the meal when our check came, the server informed us that she had added 18% tip to our bill.
I’ve worked in restaurants for almost 7 years so I know all about adding tips to checks. It’s there as policy but it’s up to the server’s discretion to use it. I myself never did because frankly, it’s offending and I feel that as long as I do a good job I’ll get the tip to show for it. And if I don’t, I would be upset but ok with the fact that I took a chance and did the best that I could to make them happy. But I do understand there are times where it might be necessary. The rule of thumb is that a tip can be added to a bill for parties of 8 or more at a minimum, but if I HAD to add it, I would not do it unless it was at LEAST 10 people and only in special cases, like a big birthday party, engagement dinner, or something that would take more work. Our server was fine, but not exceptional and we had FIVE adults! we ordered two kids meals for my kids but it looks like she counted each seat including the baby, totaling it a party of 8. This royally pissed me off because we didn’t have a large party – it was a family dinner and I didn’t feel it was necessary to add an 18% tip onto our bill.
It isn’t about the money. I tip 20% at a minimum, up to 25% if they were great. she would have gotten more if she didn’t add the tip, and I said so out loud a little too loudly while she was standing within hearing range. I think it made her feel bad because she stuck around and made small talk after she gave us our card back, and I just kind of brushed her off. Call me mean, but she probably added the tip because we were Asian and Asian’s have a reputation for not tipping well. Also maybe she felt entitled to 18% because our kids were getting restless since the food took a while to come out, and my 1 year old Corin, who is usually awesome at restaurants, cried a couple of times (he was getting over a couple of shots and had diarrhea because I was a bad mommy and let him have cake with buttercream for his birthday even though he’s allergic to dairy) . But she didn’t do anything for us other than to bring out our food and get us some extra napkins, and I even cleaned up the mess that Corin made when he decided he no longer liked broccoli.
Anyway, this lead to a conversation with my brother. He hates going out to eat because eating out with a baby is too stressful and feels self conscious about disturbing other guests. I totally understand where he’s coming from, but I actually prefer to eat out. I think the more you eat out the more they will get used to eating out. Almost three Avery asks us to go out to eat and we usually eat out at least once every weekend. Sure, she doesn’t listen all the time, but I usually bring a coloring book to keep her busy and snacks for both kids… and if all else fails, we always have netflix on our phones. It’s easier for me because it gives me a break from trying to figure out what to feed them all the time, and yes it might get hard sometimes but we do what we can to keep the peace at the table. if they’re having a bad day, it really sucks. but honestly i could care less what the next table has to say about it. Don’t get me wrong – There are certain restaurants that kid should never go to under the age of 5. But this was a CHARLIE BROWNS. they give you coloring books and crayons and it’s supposed to be a family restaurant. We decided to eat out last minute because there was nothing to eat at home and although we first considered ordering takeout, it was too annoying to fill up five take out boxes from their salad bar. So we just packed up and decided to eat there. I don’t think that we should ever be made to feel as if we shouldn’t be there (the server asked us if Corin was tired – he wasn’t – and made a couple of comments about how hard it must be eating out with kids).
This reminded me of a recent Parenthood episode where the couple with a newborn was asked to leave the restaurant because the baby was crying too much. I think being asked to leave the restaurant is horrifying. BUT I felt that the mother should have stepped away from the table with her baby (As I did last night with Corin when he cried). She could have breastfed in the car, or asked a server for a chair to place in the bathroom (I’ve done this) or office if they have one available. And then tip profusely. I guess my point is, if you’re going to eat out, be prepared. Don’t go out and let your kids run a muck and cause a scene. I think that’s just irresponsible and bad parenting. But don’t avoid eating out just because you’re afraid everybody’s gonna hate your kid. It’s not the end of the world, and it CAN still be enjoyable and if you like eating out you don’t have to stop just because you have a baby now. Just pick the right restaurant – our kids love udon so we usually pick Japanese and have had success with Vietnamese, Chinese, or Family American/Italian (Can’t go wrong with Mac and Cheese or Pasta). Don’t take them to a place where there is nothing for them to eat. If you’re in the mood for fois gras, get a babysitter.
And servers, DON’T add tip to checks! it’s insulting to the diner and if you feel you have to fine…but don’t freaking include babies in your headcount!!