Dear Salty: On Father’s Day, we took my dad to one of his favorite restaurants. It is a local place that usually has friendly service and really good Italian food. Being Father’s Day, it was busier than usual.
We got there at that sweet spot between the early birds and the dinner crowd and got a table right away. Our waitress showed right up and dropped off menus and took our drink orders, came back with drinks, and took our food order. Then we waited, and waited, finished our drinks and waited some more. Finally the salads came out but our glasses remained empty. We finished our salads and finally got some refills, but after the salad plates were cleared, we waited some more. When the food finally arrived it was not hot. The cheese on one of our plates was congealed. We sat and waited some more before the bill finally came. Basically, our waitress was a ghost for most of the meal.
I usually tip over 20 percent, but based on the slow/non-existent service, I feel like the food suffered. It looked like there was plenty of staff on-hand as there were other tables being waited on and turned over while we were there.
Is a busy holiday an excuse for so-so service? Should I take into account the holiday when factoring my tip?
Dear Waiting Game,
Servers are people, too. We have bad days; we don’t feel well; my piece-of-shit car wouldn’t start again this morning, etc. So I usually encourage customers to try to have a little bit of empathy when dealing with us, the same you would any other customer-service-type person.
But having a bad day—whether it’s because of a holiday or not—is not an excuse to do crappy work. Servers have a job to do, and they’re responsible for doing it well. Holidays can be busy, sure, and you might want to mentally cut someone some slack for having to work on Fourth Of July or Labor Day or Christmas Eve or whatever. But if your server is totally ghosting, ignoring you, and serving you cold food because of it, no holiday is an excuse.
That said, one man’s “I waited forever!” is another man’s “Eh, it’s a busy holiday.” I wasn’t at dinner with you, so I can’t say for certain whether your server was really MIA or just kinda busy. (I’ll take your word on it, though. The cold cheese is a bad sign.) So assuming the server was really lazy, I don’t think you should ever feel like you have to tip well on crappy service. That’s especially true if there weren’t any mitigating circumstances or apologies offered. If the service had been really good though, I personally would tip a little extra if it’s a holiday or holiday weekend. These servers are working on a busy day, after all, and giving up time with family and friends to do it.
This warms my cold heart: I personally do find that people tend to tip extra on holidays. That’s why I always try to work New Year’s Eve at my restaurant, for example. Not only is the fixed tasting menu pricier than usual—adding up to extra cha-ching for me—but customers tend to be generous and leave a hefty holiday tip. It’s one of our busiest nights of the year, and I count on those tips to cover a big portion of my post-holiday bills.
So yeah, if I rocked your dinner-table world on New Year’s Eve, consider throwing me a holiday bonus. But if I’m ever totally off my game, it’s reasonable to expect that would show up in the tip.
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