Use outings to support restaurant servers

Melissa Parker

I was once told there are three jobs everyone should do once in their life: Dig a ditch, work in fast food and be a server.

While I have not had a paid opportunity to dig a ditch, I have worked in fast food and I was a server for a short time.

Most servers make a measly $2.14 per hour, less than a third of the $7.25 minimum wage paid to most fast-food workers.

Anyone who has ever worked as a server knows the struggles they face each day. Servers often spend long hours on their feet, greeting every customer with a smile, hoping they’ll make enough in tips that day to pay their bills.

They are responsible for making the customers feel special, taking their food orders, keeping drinks full, serving their food, making small talk and, all-in-all, making diners’ experiences pleasant so they’ll want to return. Customers ultimately base their tip amount on the server’s performance.

Tips and whether to leave one, and how much to leave, are topics of many dining discussions. Most people feel they should tip in accordance with the server’s job performance. Did the customer’s drink stay full? Was the server friendly? Other factors, most out of the server’s control, often play into the tipping equation. Was the food hot? Was it good? Did it come out in a timely fashion?

While all of these are important questions to ask, it’s also important to remember that servers are just people. They aren’t superheroes who move at super speed, and contrary to what you believe, they do have other customers to take care of.

Customers, of course, do deserve a pleasant dining experience. They are paying good money for a meal and it should be worth the price.

As someone who has been a server and a customer, I understand both sides. Servers most often rely on tips to support themselves. My daughter has been a server for several years and, most of the time, does well. There have been days some customers have tipped her nearly 50 percent of their bill. There have also been days when some customers didn’t tip at all.

When my family and I go out to eat, I try to remember how hard being a server is. If the server isn’t cheerful, I keep in mind he or she may be having a bad day. If the food isn’t good, I remember the server didn’t prepare it. If a drink happens to go empty, I look around at the other tables this one person is taking care of. And always I try to clean up our table so our server has one less mess to clean up.

Do I tip the usual 20 percent every time? No. But the server has to do a really horrible job before the tip goes below that. Sometimes, I tip more.

Next time you go out to eat, please tip your server. If you can’t afford to tip, don’t go out to eat.