Tipping For Counter Service
What do you think?
Yesterday I stopped for a quick lunch at a well known Italian cafe in San Francisco. This place is large, glossy and a copy of the original, famous branch, just over the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin. We had to queue and order our meal, standing at a counter, whilst scanning the menu. Just before Fred paid, I noticed a sign which said that customers would be charged 12.5% for counter service. This made me erupt. "How can you charge us service for standing here and ordering our own food?" Of course, the staff were embarassed by the fact they were required to charge the service and handled the situation perfectly by removing the sign, not charging us the service, explaining it was not their decision and also pointing out that we will be served our food, but that people just weren't leaving any tips.
Fred and I automatically leave a minimum 20% tip just about everywhere we go (including for yesterday's meal). I had a problem with this issue for several reasons, but the more I think about it, the more complicated the solution seems to be. Had we not noticed the sign, Fred might have added 20% on top of the 12.5% which would have been unfair on us. By charging 12.5 % the staff are losing out on the possibility of getting larger tips. The food at this place isn't cheap, and when you pay for your food before you eat, you have no idea how you feel about it or the service. You have no recourse if something isn't to your liking, although I don't really believe in not tipping if something is wrong. As it happens, at this place, they bring you a basket of delicious hot, fresh bread with olive oil and the service is quite charming. They don't clear your plates when you have finished and you might have to go looking for your own salt, pepper or water.
But if the restaurant really wants to operate in this manner, why don't they just incorporate the counter service charge into the price and pay their staff more at times of the day when they wont be getting tips? Or even better still - why don't they just offer full service. The restaurant is fancy enough to make this seem like the natural thing to do. Any other ideas, anyone? I am sure there are some aspects of this problem I am missing.
|Archive Alert! On this date in 2004 reporting on the Lotus of Siam in Las Vegas.|
Food | Dining | Waiter | San Francisco Tipping For Counter Service